"Just Do It."
"We Must Protect The House!"
Certain brands can create an image of dominance, superiority, and elitism. All of those characteristics, in sports or any kind of competition, are elements many would like to harbor to get the edge on the task or against the competitor.
A study being published in the Journal of Consumer Research wonders if that type of positioning would actually improve the performance of the individual using it. In fact,they went one step further: The researchers wanted to see if the branding could create a placebo effect; if simply telling the subjects the product was from company X would improve performance.
They conducted two experiments. One group was split in two to in order to use a putter, and another group was split in two to use earplugs for a test.
In the putting scenario, the test group was told that the putter was Nike, while the other group was told either it was a regular putter or a Gucci putter. In the earplug scenario, the test group was told that the earplugs were designed by 3M to eliminate distractions and improve performance.
The results were interesting.
Those subjects who considered themselves beginners or novices did significantly better at putting when told it was a Nike instrument versus the group not told. The Nike group also excelled over the Gucci group, telling the story that luxury brands do not carry the same weight as a perceived performance brand.
Even more interesting, those who considered themselves experts showed little to no improvement on their abilities. The results would indicate that the branding works better on novices and beginners because the “knowledge” that they are working with a performance brand helps "reduce performance anxiety."
The researchers suggest that brands need to continue explaining how their products improve or maintain high performance, even though the consumer may not readily give credit to the brand for helping them excel.
Advice for brands? This study shows that creating a brand image is very important. Of course, many of us knew that, but science can always help brand managers tell a good story to their supervisors.
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.