Tag Archives: Media

The Guardian Weighs in on the Placebo effect

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An excellent article in The Guardian on the placebo effect.

‘There is now evidence showing some people, known as “placebo responders”, do feel or get better after unwittingly, or even wittingly, taking a placebo – and it’s not just psychosomatic. Several studies are pointing to a biological basis for the placebo effect, with the latest research focused on a region of the brain known as the mid-frontal gyrus, which runs along the frontal lobes just above the eyes.’

Does branding have a placebo effect?

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Image: James Merry

It seems that using an esteemed name-brand piece of sporting equipment actually generates stronger results.

“Our results indicate that strong performance brands can cause an effect that is akin to a placebo effect,” researcher Frank Germann of the Department of Marketing at the University of Notre Dame said in a press release. “Our results also suggest that the use of a strong performance brand causes participants to feel better about themselves when undertaking a task—that is, to have greater task-specific self-esteem. This higher self-esteem lowers their performance anxiety which, in turn, leads to the better performance outcomes.”

Read more here. And here.

Nature RX: Nature as Placebo

Set in the world of a spoofed prescription drug commercial, Nature Rx offers a hearty dose of laughs and the outdoors – two timeless prescriptions for whatever ails you. Side effects may include confidence, authenticity, remembering you have a body, and being in a good mood for no apparent reason.

More from Seth Godin on placebos and marketing

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We’ve published his work here before, but it’s time for some more truisms on the placebo effect from marketing guru Seth Godin, one of the godfathers of ‘viral marketing’ (in Crucial Elements for the placebo effect). Seth’s really into placebos!

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Placebos, used ethically, are powerful tools. They can cure diseases, make food taste better and dramatically increase the perceived quality of art. They can improve the way teachers teach, students learn and we judge our own safety.

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They do best when they improve something that is difficult to measure objectively.

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Argue all you want about whether or not you want to be buying or selling placebos, but it’s quite likely that the right placebo with the right story can dramatically increase certain outcomes.

If you want to improve performance, the right placebo is often the safest and cheapest way to do so. The opportunity is to find one that’s likely to work, and to market it in a way that’s ethical and effective.

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If you like Seth’s style, he has another blog post on the placebo effect in marketing here (Marketing of the placebo: Everyone gets their own belief) and a whole downloadable essay/course here (Placebos) which contains some keen – and entertaining! – thinking on the placebo effect as it relates to marketing (which to Godin, is critical to more in our lives than we imagine!)

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Facing a long plane trip with a nasty cold, I headed over to the health food store.

“Excuse me, do you have any placebos? I have a really horrible cold… I’ll take the strongest one you’ve got.”

She looked at me with pity. “A placebo?”

“Yes, please.”

“Do you know which company makes that? I don’t think we have any placebos?”

I waited for a second, thinking hard about what was happening.

“Hey Sylvia,” she yelled, “there’s a guy out here who wants some placebo, but he doesn’t know who makes it. Do we carry that?”

Sylvia didn’t know.

“When effective drugs do exist, placebo effects can enhance their impact.”

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More research from Ted Kaptchuk, in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“Placebos don’t necessarily provide cures, but they provide relief. In medical situations in which no cure is available, supportive and attentive health care can help patients to feel better, and when effective drugs do exist, placebo effects can enhance their impact.”

And …

“A significant body of research has resulted in a shift from thinking of placebos as just ‘dummy’ treatments to recognizing that placebo effects encompass numerous aspects of the health care experience and are central to medicine and patient care. Recent scientific advances have enabled us to identify a trove of neurotransmitters and detect relevant neural brain pathways as well as genetic markers that help explain the biology of the placebo effect.”

More reviews of the research here and here.