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Annals of Marketing
A Question of Balance
Friday, 1st July, 2011  - David Farmer

I wish I had dreamed up the Power Band. A wrist band that helps keep your balance would come in handy when I rise from the table after a long lunch. I also cannot understand the motives of those who seek to expose this incredible toy as a fraud. Some were even incensed that it did not work.

Humans seem genetically tuned to embrace fraudulent devices and they pop up all the time. A magic pill that can be tossed in the petrol tank to add hundreds of extra kilometres of travel, or a cunning engine adaption to make a car run on water. These devices appear regularly in the wine business, with promises of turning average wine into a masterpiece if it's poured through a magnetic ring or young wine being aged to perfection when bombarded with sonic waves. Then again as shown by the number of intelligent wine people who sneak out at night to bury cow horns to make their wines 'organic' our abilities for self deception are limitless, but they do little harm, at least until real money is involved.

In the annals of marketing though few come better than the Power Band and Larissa Ham, The Age, September 8th, 2010, takes up the story in 'A Question of Balance.'

"Power Band's US website claims the band's mylar holograms are embedded with naturally occurring frequencies designed to work with the body's natural energy field for improved balance, strength and flexibility."

"O'Dowd [the local promoter] says he remained highly sceptical until he tried a series of balance tests on his mother, aged in her 80s, without and then with the band, which he believed showed a dramatic improvement." "That was a freaky moment for me," O'Dowd said.

"One year later, the business, based in Melbourne, is turning over millions of dollars, and the band is being worn by some of the world's famous sportspeople."

"He says about half of all AFL players are using the band, along with surfers including Andy Irons and Mick Fanning, soccer star David Beckham and "over two-thirds" of the Tour de France peleton this year. Power Balance Australia pays about a dozen athletes to wear the band, including footballer Brendan Fevola, the NRL's Benji Marshall, basketballer Andrew Bogut and The Biggest Loser trainer Shannan Ponton."

"The only thing that's dented our growth has been the growth of the market in selling counterfeit product," says O'Dowd, who says there are hundreds a day advertised on sites such as eBay. O'Dowd and his nephew approach their jobs like any other entrepreneurs, and take the criticism to heart. O'Dowd says most of it comes from people who haven't tried the band".

It's tough when others using eBay push in on your scam, showing no respect for fellow professionals. The Power Band at the most generous is a fine example of the placebo effect; if you wish to believe - it will indeed work. This brings me back to wine, as few pleasures employ the placebo effect as usefully as the wine trade. If you believe, you will pay 1000 a bottle for Bordeaux and the superior taste is immediately apparent - and at the odd times when it is not apparent, well it means the wine is temporarily out of balance.

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