In the previous article we discussed how placebos are excellent problem solving tools. They are ideas that are planted in our minds. When these ideas stick, they trigger beliefs. And beliefs trigger change. In a sense they hack our brains.As instruments of change, placebos have an important role to play in medicine, marketing, product development, religion etc.
It doesn’t really matter what the facts are but belief in the potency of a weird tasting energy drink, military flags and uniforms, homeopathy, a swoosh sign or some female beauty exotic potion have led to creation of large companies, institutions and brands. These ideas or brands are long-lasting since they trigger a significant positive change in their consumers or followers.
Placebos, in the field of medicine, have helped alleviate chronic pain, depression, rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure, angina, asthma, ulcers,Parkinson’s disease and even cancer.Placebos in medical terms are ‘pharmacologically inert medications’.Medically speaking, placebos can be a pill or an injection.In a non-medical world the placebos could also be ideas or brands, a good-luck charm, a ritual, a perfume that we wear on a first date.
In this article we explore the thesis that powerful brands are not any abstract, obtuse constructs. Good brands are effective placebos. Brands work because placebos do. In this article we explore instances of how brands work as placebos. We also give a preview to how the brands harness the phenomenon of placebo effect to trigger a set of beliefs in their consumers.
The ‘Real Thing’ is not so real after all
For those who swear by their brand of cola (it’s unique taste, flavour etc.) it is pertinent to ask whether ‘the taste’ is really such a big deal. Do you actually ‘taste the thunder’ or ‘taste the feeling’? Or is it all in the mind, a placebo. The effect of a brand as a placebo was proven when Baba Shiv and team proved that a cola tastes very differently when the respondent knows that it is the ‘real thing’ (a Coke) versus the same cola being labeled as a generic brand. Subsequent researches by other researchers showed that if the image of Coke was shown the perceived impact of the taste was higher.
Are you having a ‘branded headache’?
Another study done on women respondents in the UK, regularly suffering from headaches by Daniel E. Moerman highlighted the impact of branding on efficacy of analgesic pills.Women respondents were given four options- a branded analgesic (of a widely advertised and known brand), generic analgesic, branded placebo, generic placebo. The branded analgesic was perceived to be more effective than the generic analgesic, similarly the branded placebo was more effective than generic placebo. The branding of the pill enhanced the perceived effectiveness of both the active and the inert drug. Thankfully, the active drug was perceived as more effective than the placebo inert drug. Thank God, for small mercies.
Is the money spent on expensive branded shoes worth it?
Similarly a study by Frank Germann answered the question whether you will golf better with a branded putter? In other words it poses a question that all of us want an answer to – whether all the money that we have spent in buying expensive shoes or sport gear is worth it. And the answer is ‘Mostly Yes’.
In the Germann study the participants were tasked to complete putts on a putting green using an identical quality of putter. Half of the golfers were told that they were using a Nike putter, and the other half were not told the brand name of the putter. On an average participants who thought they were using the Nike golf putter needed fewer putts to sink the golf ball.