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I've long thought the role of a marketer was to illuminate all the best qualities of the good being offered for sale. However, research reported in The Economist suggests that a good marketer can actually make food taste better, clothes look better, music sound better.

Antonio Rangel of Cal Tech and colleagues found, via a series of experiments, that when people are told they are drinking an expensive wine it tastes better to them than when they are told the same wine is inexpensive. By scanning their subject's brain during this experiment they were able to distinguish different brain activity as they sipped the supposedly pricey wine vs. supposedly cheap wine. Apparently, what I'd always written off as snobbery is in fact a real physical manifestation based on expectation.

If expectations actually enhance the quality of our experience, I can at long last understand the success of heavily-promoted but (to my taste) jejune products such as Budweiser, the Hummer, and Las Vegas. I simply haven't been exposed to enough marketing to shape my expectations. If I watched more NASCAR, reality shows and poker playoffs, these products would not just seem more appealing, they would in fact be more satisfying.

And woe-be the lonely, excellent product (hey, Firefly!) that is insufficiently marketed. If we aren't told over and over that we are going to love it, we probably won't.

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