Performance Brand Placebos: How Brands Improve Performance and Consumers Take the Credit

66 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2017

See all articles by Aaron Garvey

Aaron Garvey

University of Kentucky

Frank Germann

University of Notre Dame

Lisa Bolton

Pennsylvania State University

Date Written: April 1, 2016

Abstract

This research examines how consumption of a performance branded product systematically improves objective outcomes in a variety of contexts. Five field and laboratory studies demonstrate that this performance brand effect emerges through psychological mechanisms unrelated to functional product differences, consistent with a placebo. Furthermore, whereas this effect emerges only when there is an expectation that the performance branded product affects outcomes, consumers attribute gains to themselves. The performance brand placebo is due to a lowering of task induced anxiety, driven by heightened state self-esteem. Several theoretically relevant boundaries are revealed. Stress mindset moderates the effect, strengthening with the belief that stress is debilitating and weakening (to the point of reversal) with the belief that stress is enhancing. Moreover, those consumers lower in preexisting domain self-efficacy beliefs exhibit more substantial performance gains, whereas for those particularly high in domain self-efficacy, the placebo is mitigated.

Keywords: brands, placebo, performance anxiety, stress mindset

Suggested Citation

Garvey, Aaron and Germann, Frank and Bolton, Lisa, Performance Brand Placebos: How Brands Improve Performance and Consumers Take the Credit (April 1, 2016). Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 42, No. 6, 2016, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2942933

Aaron Garvey (Contact Author)

University of Kentucky ( email )

Lexington, KY 40506
United States

Frank Germann

University of Notre Dame ( email )

361 Mendoza College of Business
Notre Dame, IN 46556-5646
United States

Lisa Bolton

Pennsylvania State University ( email )

University Park
State College, PA 16802
United States

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