The Psychological Effects of Branding

May 22, 2023

Key Takeaways

Brands have certain psychological effects. They can improve an individual's self-concept, they can reduce anxiety in situations that produce performance anxiety, and they can cause individuals to perform better. 

No adult among us should ever underestimate the potential impacts of a middle school science fair. In the case of Aaron Garvey, now in his fifth year on the faculty of the University of Kentucky’s Gatton College of Business and Economics, a project he worked on when he was 14 years old helped inspire him to pursue a career as a university professor.

Garvey, an assistant professor of marketing in the Gatton College, wanted to test a textbook theory he read for determining the trajectory of objects. His project, examining how far a baseball would travel based on its peak height, made it all the way to an international science fair.

“That was my first exposure to research,” said Garvey. “I've always liked hearing other people's ideas and developing my own ideas, but ultimately, I want to see it proven for myself. I want to see it tested for myself. I want to know if it's real.”

Garvey’s curiosity and scientific spirit is alive and well these days as he researches consumer behavior and teaches both undergraduate and graduate students at UK.

A recent research study led by Garvey reveals that brands of sports equipment can improve human performance through purely psychological means that are unrelated to functional differences in a branded product’s materials, craftsmanship, or design.

This article was originally published on UKNOW

Garvey's research was featured on NPR's "Morning Edition" and The Today Show. 

Performance Brand Placebos: How Brands Improve Performance and Consumers Take the Credit


Aaron M. Garvey, Associate Professor & Ashland Oil Research Professor of Marketing, Gatton College of Business and Economics at the University of Kentucky 
Frank Germann, University of Notre Dame
Lisa Bolton, Pennsylvania State University


Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 42, Issue 6, pages 931-951, April 2016

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