Dressing for Success Pays Off

“Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Fake it until you make it. Look good, feel good, do good,” offers Lindsay Friedman with Entrepreneur. Most of us have been given this advice before, from parents or friends or a business mentor. But there’s a lot of truth to it, as Seth Porges with Bloomberg Business points out “…You feel better about yourself, and your talents, when you slap on some brand names. If you’ve ever felt like you give better presentation when wearing an expensive designer suit, it might not be your imagination.

As a recent study showed, "using brand-name gear can provide a noticeable placebo effect that could boost performance,” states Porges. Researchers from Penn State, Notre Dame and the University of Kentucky discovered that in two separate instances: once when subjects were told they were using a Nike golf putter over a no-name brand, and again when subjects wearing earplugs while taking a math quiz were told they were wearing top-of-the-line 3M earplugs. In each case, participants’ performance increased by roughly 20 percent.

“Some people have a power suit that they put on for important presentations, or they have some special cufflink that they put on to bring them luck,” said Frank Germann, Ph.D., an assistant professor of marketing at Notre Dame University’s Mendoza College of Business who worked on the study. “I think our research would suggest that engaging in that kind of behavior might actually work.”

Germann and fellow collaborator Aaron Garvey (University of Kentucky) and Lisa Bolton (Penn State University) say that brand-name gear has the ability to bolster users’ confidence and reduce performance anxiety. “When you think that you have this performance brand, you have higher-state self-esteem,” Germann says. “As a result, you feel better and your self-confidence is elevated at a certain task. In turn, you're less anxious, and because of that, you're performing better.”

One 2008 study published in the Journal of Marketing Research and another published in 2011 in the Journal of Consumer Psychology posted similar results: when we are exposed to popular, well-known logos, our behavior changes and tends to mimic traits we associate with a brand’s corporate identity.

As Porges says, the “bottom line [is] the placebo effect is real. And just as a sugar pill may magically make your headache go away, surrounding yourself with brands that have positive connotations may actually boost your performance and creativity.”

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