The Power Of Suggestion

26 Feb

Decision overload! So glad to see one of them is labeled “premium”- it must be better! (Chicago, 2011)

Imagine you’re shopping for jam and can’t decide which brand to buy. One jar says “fresh strawberry preserves.” The other jar says “premium strawberry preserves.” Does that “premium” impact your decision at all? Or are you more swayed by the word “fresh?” Do you bother to compare ingredients, google the brands, look at price? Or do you just assume that if one says premium, it must be better than the one that doesn’t claim to be premium?

The power of suggestion is a much-used  tool because it implants ideas in our heads in a very subtle way. The way that packaging is worded and ads are written helps create perceptions of the strengths of specific products. I’ve written before about the wonders of packaging and won’t get too far into it today, but I want you to think for a second about just how much wording impacts your opinions. Are you inclined to believe what you hear? Or do you dig through and try to figure out if the claims are supported by fact? And remember, this isn’t just limited to marketing and physical products: your political beliefs, ideas about society, etc, can all be swayed by how people paint things to look.

A few months ago, Jimmy Kimmel posted a hilarious segment where he took to the streets and had passerby taste test a new line of Starbucks coffee. This new line was so fancy, it cost $7 a cup to buy in the store. Jimmy wanted to see whether the average consumer could actually taste the difference between the fancy-pants cup and a usual cup of coffee. So he gave the passerby two cups each, and had them pick out which cup was the premium blend. Sort of like the Pepsi Challenge, but with blends.

The catch was… he didn’t actually give anyone the premium blend. He TOLD them he did, but both cups had the same, average cup of Joe in them. So every person who declared a cup a winner was simply playing off the power of suggestions. They were TOLD that one cup was better, so they had to declare one of the cups the winner- even though the cups were exactly the same.

Take a look at the video for a good giggle. And then the next time someone tells you that their product is extra this or their idea  is the right one- think a little harder.


One Response to “The Power Of Suggestion”


  1. It’s Free? I’ll Take Two! | Culture Cookies - April 14, 2013

    […] Interested in the behavioral economics of a cup of coffee? Check out  The Power of Suggestion […]


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