the placebo effect

looks refreshing, so must be refreshing

Just finished reading Dan Ariely’s  Predictably Irrational, which talks about making better decisions and the mistakes we make without realizing. It’s on the field of behavioral economics and I love this stuff. The placebo effect in particular got me thinking.

Dan talks about surgeries that weren’t performed, yet the patients felt no pain as they were told they had surgery done. Simply being told by a doctor that something was fixed and thus they didn’t feel any pain! THIS IS NUTS.  This reminded me of the book Born To Run, that discusses everything doesn’t need to be fixed.  New running shoes don’t make you better at running. But they do an excellent job in making you feel like it will!

Obviously this whole placebo effect is quite effective in marketing products.  For example, when you pick up Vitamin Water,  you may read the label because it describes all the effects of the vitamins and minerals in such a manner that you just can’t wait to quench your thirst!  You’ve just convinced yourself that its gonna make you feel like super man. See I love that! I want to believe it will make me super healthy!

But the same thing doesn’t sit well with me when similar marketing is used for the sham that is bottled water. Watch the Story of Bottled Water by Annie Leonard to know why. Lots of people in Canada believe bottled water is better for you, more healthy, sadly in a country that has the best tap water in the world. Dan Ariely mentions there is ” blurry boundary between beliefs and reality.” This is the moral dilemma of placebos.  Marketers want to create perceived value, but should be wary of stretching the truth or outright lying. Not sure who makes the decisions of what crosses the line.

Highly recommend this book if your curious to learn more about human behaviour.

We Are Running People

I almost didn’t pick up this book because it shares the same title of that cheesy 70’s tune sung by Bruce Springsteen. Thank God I did because one of the highest compliments I believe you can give a book is it persuades you to take action. That’s exactly what happened. I’ve started running quite a few times this past week and its all based on this exciting tell all tale about running called Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.

Now this book is much more than simply about running. There are so many life philosophies that can be taken away from this. But what initially got me was I couldn’t stop reading  – I was 40 pages into it and laughing my ass off. The quirky characters the author encounters just to learn about running are  mixed in with compelling science and a bit of mystery. This is why this book has become a national best seller – that is a lethal combination. It throws all conventional wisdom out the window.  Like there are times when reading this that it just felt like propaganda – but the science and results don’t lie – humans are born to run and the modern shoe doesn’t seem to be helping.

Thats how the book starts. The author questions why his feet are hurting. Then he goes into how important feet are, ie your feet are full of sensory neurons that rocket straight to your brain. After your hand and lips, your feet are the most sensitive part of your body. He then comes across this native tribe in Mexico that are known for running. This society doesn’t have crime, no war, no disease, no greed, and no obesity. What’s the reason behind this? They love running. They love it to the point that Tarahumara tribesmen have been reported to have showed up as far north as Siberia. Wearing sandals. That wasn’t a typo.

Another super interesting aspect of this book is his attack on Nike and its powerful marketing. The basic conclusion? They have created a 20 billion dollar industry based on NOTHING. Lets just say my jaw dropped when I got to this bit. One Spoiler? Don’t buy expensive running shoes. Read this article if your really curious. Oh and check out these shoes.

“It wasn’t art, it was a business, a hard-nosed quid pro quo. No wonder so many people hated running: if you thought it was only a means to an end – an investment in becoming faster, skinnier, richer – then why stick with it if you weren’t getting enough quo for your quid? “

You don’t dance because you ll become skinnier, you do it because you just wanna dance, you cant’ help it when there blasting MJ from the DJ booth. Right? This story is essentially about passion and how powerful self-belief can be.

Another one of the conclusions I took from this book is people become attached to whatever they believe in.  Your  doing something wrong, your told you need to buy something to fix it – ie a running shoe. I am almost feel scared to ever buy a running shoe again. I am gonna use my current ones till they fall apart. Support an area, it gets weaker. Use it extensively, it gets stronger.

PS : Want the endurance food of the Tarahumara tribe? Get Chia seeds. I just ordered a bag.

Move from Abundance

Tyler Durdens words of wisdom:

First of all, every minute of this movie has something to teach you, so please go and watch it if you haven’t already. Its based on the novel of the same name, Fight Club.

Now the message? Anti-consumerism! No that isn’t exactly what I’m addressing. But what I can safely say is just about any kind of material good is now available in about any place in North America. Go to any climate controlled shopping centre and you will find entire sections of the mall devoted to home theater equipment, or 30 varieties of cell phones, or 14 different doggie biscuits. You want it? you got it!

And for some reason we’ve gotten so used to this that it doesn’t seem so remarkable anymore. If you told about this world to your grandparents back in the day they would be awestruck. They lived in a world of scarcity, but changes in modern life has resulted in a world of abundance.

Daniel Pink discusses this issue in his book —- A Whole New Mind.

In one of his countless examples he notes that we have so much stuff that an entire industry has been created to cater to this “extra stuff”. Self storage has become a 17 billion annual industry in the US! What does this all mean?

In pop culture, in movies and television shows like Heroes, there is this overwhelming trend of people needing transcendance and meaning in there lives. Were getting richer, better standard of living, but  hasn’t increased our happiness. Exotic practices such as yoga and meditation once thought as very niche subjects in North America have now gone completely main stream.

What does this mean for marketing? This spiritual war that Tyler Durden addresses – this constant consumerism – isn’t going to satisfy the need for meaning. We now desire more. This abundance has resulted in push for more beauty and meaning in the products we buy and companies need to know this to continue.  Its not enough anymore to create a functional product.

Recently I bought a box of Maynards candy and each box bought  goes toward a brick in constructing a school in Africa. I love it!  Not only am I rotting my teeth but its helping people improve there lives. Now I bought the box of candy cos I love the candy, but when I read that its going towards something greater that made me feel good.   A company that promotes this form of social entrepreneurship creates a story that there consumers will share with one another.

I want to purchase shoes from TOMS one day, not only because they make quality shoes, but because the company has meaning. And isn’t this an idea thats worth spreading? In a world of material plenty, we now have more significant desires. Companies who know this will have a huge advantage.

a lesson from cialdini

Kings of influence: Muhammad Ali and The Beatles

Robert Cialdini speaks about Commitment and Consistency in his book Influence: The Power of Persuasion.

There’s a story there about a study conducted on people placing bets at the horse racing track. People were interviewed about their chances on winning – both immediately before, and immediately after placing a bet.

What the researchers found was immediately after they placed their bet, people were more confident in their chances of winning – even though nothing about the race itself had changed.

Why? Because they made the initial commitment. People will go to great lengths to behave consistently with previous actions they have taken.

So whats the practical use of this?  Well ask clients for their feedback on their previous purchase and as soon as possible. This is when customers are most committed to their decision, and it’s the easiest way to get ten star testimonials. Ask while its still fresh in the mind – when they remember how good it felt to get the product from you. Not a few months later when they have possibly forgotten about your product. Booyah.