Reversing the Placebo: Performance-Branded Experiences Can Undermine Consumer Performance

Forthcoming, Journal of Consumer Psychology

58 Pages Posted: 31 Jul 2019 Last revised: 14 Oct 2019

See all articles by Sachin Banker

Sachin Banker

University of Utah - David Eccles School of Business

Renee Gosline

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management

Jeffrey K. Lee

American University - Kogod School of Business

Date Written: July 25, 2019

Abstract

Products bearing premium brand labels are known to increase perceptions of efficacy and improve objective consumer performance relative to lesser-branded equivalents, in what is traditionally described as a marketing placebo effect. In this paper, we suggest that experiences bearing these highly-regarded brand labels can lead to a reverse effect, such that consumer performance actually declines with their use. Our findings demonstrate across domains of improving mental acuity, learning a new language, and developing financial analysis skills that completing performance-branded training experiences impairs objective performance in related tasks, relative to lower-performance branded or unbranded counterparts. We posit that branded training experiences can evoke a brand-as-master relationship in which consumers take on a subservient role relative to the brand. As a consequence, higher-performance brands may impose greater demands upon consumers, increasing performance-anxiety and interfering with an individual’s ability to perform effectively. These results document an important ramification of applying branding to learning experiences and identify contexts in which traditionally positive marketing actions can backfire for consumers.

Keywords: marketing placebo, branding, experiential products, co-creation, brand relationships

Suggested Citation

Banker, Sachin and Gosline, Renee and Lee, Jeffrey K., Reversing the Placebo: Performance-Branded Experiences Can Undermine Consumer Performance (July 25, 2019). Forthcoming, Journal of Consumer Psychology, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3426701 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3426701

Sachin Banker (Contact Author)

University of Utah - David Eccles School of Business ( email )

1645 E Campus Center Dr
Salt Lake City, UT 84112-9303
United States

Renee Gosline

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )

100 Main Street
E62-416
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

Jeffrey K. Lee

American University - Kogod School of Business ( email )

4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20816-8044
United States

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