Remember the buzz about Apple purposely slowing down iPhones before the release of the new iPhone 8? According to an article published last year, Harvard researchers found evidence that iPhones were performing unnaturally slow before the release of the new iPhone 8. The media went nuts. Thousands of people were taking to social media to share their own stories about slow phones and dozens more articles on “planned obsolescence” popped up on the web.

But now that the furor’s died down, was the article actually accurate? Did the iPhones’ performance really slow down before the release of a new phone? Or could marketing psychology be responsible?

Let’s break it down.



what really happened

Technically, it wasn’t a study on iPhone performance—it was a test on whether searches like “slow iPhone” were trending on Google in the weeks leading up to the release. And it wasn’t even a study! It was a single experiment by a Harvard student (really, something anybody could have done with an SEO keyword tool.) As it turns out, there’s no real evidence that Apple’s done anything to previous models in anticipation of a new release.

So, the only thing the story proved was that people thought their iPhones were performing slower before the release of the iPhone 8. That’s definitely not as serious as a 600 billion-dollar corporation conspiring to increase sales. But it begs the question: what would cause so many people to think their phones were running slowly?


The Ricochet Effect – the reverse psychology of brands

The Ricochet Effect, a term coined by Dr. Doron Malka, founder and president of the award-winning branding and advertising agency, Ameba Marketing, is a phenomenon in which the unattained deep desire for one brand or product and the belief in its superior performance results in a sudden negative perception or the experience of an inferior performance from a competing brand or product that’s currently in use. In simpler terms, the consumer’s desire for another brand is so powerful that they start thinking badly of whatever product they have. In this case, consumers wanted the new iPhone 8 so badly that they started experiencing real problems with their current model.


Ricochet Effect in Marketing

The Ricochet Effect is more than just a consumer’s perception of a product—it can affect actual product performance, too. In a clever experiment, Dr. Doron Malka timed 200 schoolchildren in a 50-meter run wearing Nikes disguised as an off-brand shoe. Following an unveiling of the Nike shoe and a conditioning demonstration of its superior qualities and performance, Dr. Malka separated the kids into two groups: one group now wearing the coveted Nikes, while the other group still wearing Nikes disguised as an off-brand shoe, and had both groups run again. Astonishingly, he found that after the demonstration (“conditioning,” in psychology terms), the group wearing Nikes ran significantly faster than they had before. The desire for that Nike shoe, he concluded, resulted in a placebo effect that impacted their actual performance.

But, that’s not all!

The disguised group’s time measurably worsened! It was as if watching their peers run with the “real” Nikes made this group of students believe that they were running with an inferior brand. In other words, the desire for the Nike brand had a positive effect on the group that was able to satisfy that desire — the placebo effect — and a negative effect on those who were not able to satisfy it — the ricochet effect.



To learn more about the Ricochet Effect, the Placebo Effect of Brands, and Malka’s innovative brand-building model check out his new acclaimed new book, BRANDcebo – The Powerful Placebo Effect of Brands and Its Impact on our Behavior and Performance.