Sunday, June 05, 2005

The Placebo Affect*

Seth Godin has created the term "Placebo Affect" to describe something that Marketers do - they sometimes manage to take any old product and give it caché‚ by interweaving it with a story, an idea, that catches on and inspires. He says:

"We don’t like to admit that we tell stories, that we’re in the placebo business. Instead, we tell ourselves about features and benefits as a way to rationalize our desire to to help our customers by allowing them to lie to themselves."

As a firm believer in the Placebo Effect, my feeling is that Seth Godin has perverted a fine concept. Placebo pills help people to harness their bodies' natural healing abilities. Godin's "Placebo Affect" helps people to believe that yet another same-tasting vodka is really special. There's more difference than similarity here. Much more.

(Here's a web site discussing the placebo effect in some detail. But it approvingly mentions the Danish study that basically added 114 placebo studies together, and concluded that there is no such effect. Other placebo studies have shown that some ills are affected by placebos and other kind sof ills are not. By adding placebo studies of both kinds together, the Danish study produced a statistically meaningless total that fails to debunk the placebo effect.)

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