Monday, July 30, 2007

Placebo Effect

There are two types of people: The optimists and the pessimists. Some might call them the naive and the sceptics. Depends on your point of view.

A new study shows how to market to the optimist group: Describe in detail the product experience people will have. Go in detail about your store, your product, the ingredients, give them a taste of what they are going to experience when they purchase your product. These positive enhancers can be found in the group that reacts to a placebo pill and they are also more interested in taking chances to win money. Actually, chances were 50/50 to win or lose money. But the positive enhancers were just excited about the possibility to win money.
The basic rule for this happy audience: Make sure not to contradict their expected experience: If you market the solitude of First Class flying, don't bother them with filled lounges or rowdy bars on-board. If you market a performance vehicle, make sure the product experience is not that of a lame duck.

The big questions remains: How to market to the sceptics? Just through facts and information? Does this ever work in marketing? Don't think so.

I believe things are much more complicated than the study indicates. Each of us is a pessimist and optimist, depending on your day, your mood, your perception of a brand, your perception of the world that day. Generally, I would put myself in the skeptics group. But not always: When I got my iPhone, I didn't have any pessimistic/skeptical feelings about this purchase. It didnt' even cross my mind that the iPhone would not live up to the hype.
I checked out Bacardi's Mojito site a few days days ago and immediately imagined myself on a hot summer day drinking this refreshening cocktail. Images of South Beach, hammocks and sunsets floated through my mind. I completely forgot that my homemade mojitos never taste that great and they will never be as good as the ones in the Delano. Ok, I didnt' buy Bacardi this weekend but I'm still thinking about it.

In the end, marketing only works when you are in this open/positive mood. Certain brands stimulate positiveness: Apple, Virgin, Nike. Most of the other brands have to work harder: They have to build experiences that allow people to become open to new ideas, new products, new ideas. This can be done through a delighting site, a surprising product experience, a heart-warming encounter with a company rep. It's about opening hearts. And minds.

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