The Placebo Effect in Marketing

The brilliant book, How Consumers Think, has a very interesting insight on the power of placebos that connects with the book’s theme on the impact of unconscious thinking on consumer behavior.

The Placebo Effect, which is typically used in a medical context, also has very profound marketing implications. Our perceptions, expectations, and beliefs have a major impact on our experiences. For instance if one believes that Titleist golf clubs are superior to Nike based on their perceptions and expectations of the brand, they will likely believe they are experiencing a better performance, even if the actual performance of the two brands is very similar. Whatever we expect from a brand often becomes our reality.

“This discussion of placebo effects demonstrates the power of the unconscious mind to produce very powerful and beneficial experiences over and above those expected from the technical merits of the product. Consider the extra experience that people have when they know that they’re consuming their favorite brand compared to the lesser experience of their brand in a blind taste test.” -How Customers Think

The Placebo Effect can help explain how strong branding increases the value of products and services and is an interesting metaphor for branding to think about.