Marketing and events for customer engagement.

Weeklies

Putting, Branding and Placebos

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At 54 we love working in the golf business, and we love playing the game—as much, if not more. But when it’s time to putt, the game can change from athletic endeavor to an exercise in physics, potentially wiping out a great drive and approach.

That’s why earlier this year a sidebar article in the trade magazine Golfdom stood out. It covered that most perplexing part of the game along with a dose of branding insight. The headline read “Study Reveals Putter Brand Can Cause Placebo Effect.”

Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business conducted a study inviting people to take part in market research for a new putter. Participants were shown three points on a green and told to make each putt—however many attempts needed—with a completely unbranded prototype club. Half of the group was told the putter was from Nike. The brand of the club was not mentioned to the other half. All participants used the same putter. Those that thought it was a Nike putter needed significantly fewer attempts, on average, to make the putt.

What’s the takeaway? Brand perception and awareness can have a powerful effect. Even though Nike recently withdrew from the golf equipment market, the fact remains they had invested lots of time and effort over decades to elevate themselves as a performance brand. Had the participants been given a brand name they had never heard of—regardless of its actual quality—it’s doubtful the placebo effect would have been the same.

Brands matter to consumers, sometimes more than they realize. Taking good care of your brand’s reputation is critical. If you don’t, it may not matter how good your product is. Currently we are busy working on how to present a client’s brand at the upcoming PGA Merchandise Show in January. More than 40,000 people come to Orlando to walk the aisles of this event. It’s not easy to create a space that delivers attention-grabbing power yet also presents the company in a dignified way that’s reflective of a top brand in golf. But we like a good challenge. It’s why we work so hard at 54 to make sure our clients’ brands are seen by the right people, at the right time, in the right way.

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