The Placebo Effect and Marketing

dan aPlacebos are a fascinating and incredible phenomenon that demonstrates the power of our minds to shape how we perceive reality. A patient who is given a sugar pill instead of an actual pain reliever can feel the same decrease in pain as if they were to receive a medication with chemicals that block the pain receptors at the cellular level. One explanation of the placebo effect is that we tend to experience what we expect. If you expect to hate a new restaurant, you probably will. If a friend hints that the movie you are about to enter received great reviews, you will probably enjoy it. Our expectations can be so strong, they can create feelings that contradict the actual reality.

An example of this contradiction occurred during a study performed by MIT professor Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational. He asked people to rate how they liked two beers, one was a Sam Adams and the other was a Sam Adams with balsamic vinegar. Most people preferred the Sam Adams with the balsamic vinegar. However when he told people beforehand that one contained balsamic vinegar, most people hated it.

Marketers can take this knowledge and use it to improve the real experiences of consumers by creating an environment of positive expectations. This can be visually appealing packaging- high quality wine glasses or an aesthetically designed box. Or by helping raving customers share their satisfaction through social channels like web forums or Twitter. It can be hinting to a prospect that your company was awarded for great customer satisfaction.

Now that you know the power of expectations to shape perceptions of customer’s experience, what will you do to improve customer experience?

Articles about Placebos

The Placebo Affect Seth’s Blog

Marketing and the Placebo Effect Nueromarketing

How the Placebo Effect Works HowStuffWorks

Article reposted with permission from The Executive Marketing Blog.