Conceptual Consumption: Expectations

Imagine yourself in a drug store. You are about to buy medicine for your long-lasting cold. Between a sniffle and a sneeze, you look at two alternatives. One is sold by ordinary price. Next to it, you see a similar one, for a reduced price. They look almost the same, they contain the same ingredients and both of them are accepted and tested by the medicines control authority.

Which one would you choose? If you should be rational, you should definitely pick the reduced one. But, what if it affects your expectations on the medicine. What if the price will also affect the efficiency of the medicine?! Expectations is one kind of conceptual consumption. In my last post, you could read about the role of expectations on the taste of beer. Now, we will look at another example of conceptual consumption of expectations.

In a field-study, the researchers wanted to examine how expectations can affect the recovery from illness. The scenario was exactly the same as you could read in the beginning of this post. People who suffered from a cold could make a decision between a medicine of full price, and a medicine of reduced price. When the researchers compared the efficiency of the medicine, they could draw a fascinating conclusion: the price you pay for a medicine also affects the efficiency of it!

The ones who bought the full-price medicine recovered faster than the people who bought the discounted medicine. The conclusion that follows is that your expectations on the medicine are reduced when the price is reduced. The lower expectations results in a negative placebo-effect, sometimes reffered to as nocebo. The expectations affects the experience of health, more than the ingredients in the pill. If you want to design products, services or campaigns for people, you need to know the concept of conceptual consumption.

In my next post, you will learn about the role of goals for consumption, and how it can make a huge difference in purchase. Don’t miss it out!  


Reference: Ariely, Dan., Carmon, Ziv., Shiv, Baba., (2005) Placebo Effects of Marketing Actions: Consumers May Get What They Pay For Journal of Marketing Research. Vol. 42. 383-393.

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