What Placebos and Mexican Coke Teach Us about Customer Expectations

The power of placebos continues to confound the medical community. How is it possible in double blind clinical trials that sugar pills provide as good or better treatment results than actual medications?  A lot of it has to do human biology and how our brains perceive the benefits of a product or service – even before we use it.

Creating self-fulfilling prophecies first starts with understanding customer expectations. Dr. Gary Small, Director of UCLA’s Longevity Center and co-author of The Alzheimer’s Prevention Program cites research confirming how our brain neural circuitry drives our choices based on prior experience and expectations. The frontal lobe or “thinking brain” as it’s sometimes called seems to determine these perceptions he says.

What we expect to happen often actually does. And that’s why marketing is so darn important in identifying customer expectations and then designing a plan to deliver or exceed those very expectations.  Read Inc Magazine article



  1. This is very interesting. The fear I have is that people who need legitimate medicine or medical treatment will instead be given a placebo which could result in their unlawful death or injury. Thus, I advocate more rigorous scientific testing on products distributed to the general public. Those guilty of false advertising or flat out lying should be closed down by the government. They should also be forced to give a significant amount of their profits to help pay the assorted bills that came from the use of their product. Great post.

  2. Tafacory, thank you for commenting! There are plenty of people – who for ethical reasons such as you suggest – resist placebo testing for flu shots and the like. A consequence of not allowing double blind testing however, is that we really don’t know how effective flu shots actually are. I really appreciate that you took time to read this column and please comment anytime!

  3. Paul, I agree. It’s necessary but we need to be cautious as to what we do with the knowledge that comes from double blind tests such as these. Looking forward to reading your future posts.


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