Ethical placebos (stunning, but not actually surprising)

A recent study found that placebos work even if the patient is told by the doctor that the drug they're taking has no 'real' medicine in it.


We've come to understand that the placebo effect is real. If we believe we're going to get better, perform better, make the sale, etc., it often occurs that we do. That's because the brain is the single best marketing agent when it comes to selling ourselves something. If we think we're going to get better, we're much more likely to actually get better.

So then why do clearly labeled placebos work?

Because of the process. The ritual. The steps we go through to remember to take them, to open the bottle, to get the water, to swallow. Over time, we don't remind ourselves so much about what's in the pill and remind ourselves a lot that we're taking significant action.

This is one reason Disney makes you wait on line for a ride even if the park is empty. Why a full restaurant is more fun than an empty one, even if you know the food is precisely the same.

Marketers ostensibly know this, but it seems as though most organizations still act as though they're selling pencils to accountants.

We're complicated. I hope that's okay with you, because like it or not, you're not going to make people simple.