Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Power Balance Bracelet

I doubt there is a single person reading this whose lives haven’t been touched by what I consider the single most brilliant marketing strategy of the past decade: The Power Balance Bracelet. For the uninitiated, this fashion accessory consists of a rubber (Chinese manufactured) wrist-band adorned with a holographic pendant. According to the company, it is this pendant that provides their accoutrement with the ability to increase agility, balance, and overall athletic performance. Its effect is apparently so powerful that just having it within three inches of your body will provide the same enhancement as wearing it.

So what gives this miraculous pendant its powers?  Siamese Magnets?  Chipotle Ostrich testicles? Gary Busey? To find out, I visited the FAQ section of the website where all was made clear:

 “The thin polyester film hologram is programmed through a proprietary process, which is designed to mimic Eastern philosophies that have been around for hundreds of years. The founders of Power Balance™ have always believed in the benefits of various holistic practices and Eastern philosophies and set out to develop a product to more easily and affordably embody these beliefs.”

The company compensates several professional athletes (Drew Brees, Shaquille O’ Neal) who claim that the product deserves credit for at least some of their success. Professional Volleyball Player Casey Patterson takes it a step further insisting, “It was not until I started wearing a Power Balance wristband that I won my first AVP Championship!” Tennis star Mardy Fish admitted that "in March of 2010, I was ranked outside of the top 100 on the ATP Tour. I began wearing Power Balance around that same time, and I don't see a coincidence that my ranking has now improved to Top 20.”

Power Balance LTD has also invested in a sizable number of infomercials consisting of “scientific tests” that clearly demonstrate that they are not selling a rubber bracelet with a holographic sticker for a gigantic markup. The most prevalent involves the subject assuming the “crane position” from Karate Kid while the host attempts to knock them over by placing pressure on one of their arms. Miraculously, once they are wearing the bracelet, the subject that just moments before had exhibited the equilibrium of Gerald Ford was impossible to push off balance.

The company faced a setback in 2010 when the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) required the company provide a scientific basis for their claims before continuing their marketing in Australia. Instead the company issued a statement admitting that “there is no credible scientific basis for the claims and therefore no reasonable grounds for making representations about the benefits of the product” and offered full refunds to customers who had purchased the products. The Australian distributor of the Power Balance gear has since filed for bankruptcy.

In October of last year, professional gymnast and Olympic Gold-Medalist Dominique Dawes commissioned a double-blind study to test the Power Balance bracelet. The format consisted of sixteen athletes running through various obstacle courses and completing various strength tests. Each of the participants completed the identical courses and tests four separate times while wearing four different bracelets. Once contained the real Power Balance pendant, two contained a fake, and one contained Pez candy but neither the participants nor the scoring judges knew which bracelets were real. Sadly, neither the “power hologram” nor the Pez produced different results than the plain Chinese-manufactured rubber bracelets.

Despite the findings, the company continues to expand and interested athletes can purchase silicone wristbands for $29.95, silicone necklaces for $34.95, or for a night out on the town they offer a sterling silver pendant necklace for $99. Those wishing to harness the pendant’s power without the prefabricated jewelry can purchase just the hologram stickers for $10 each ($100 for a pack of ten).
Personally, I am envious of what I believe to be the single least-informative FAQ section on the Internet. Look at their explanation one more time:

“The thin polyester film hologram is programmed through a proprietary process, which is designed to mimic Eastern philosophies”

What does that even mean? How does one go about “programming” a sticker and are there really so many competing methodologies for doing so that yours must be proprietary? Exactly which Eastern philosophies are they “mimicking?” Inexpensive manufacturing? The explanation is sheer brilliance but the athlete testimonials are the icing on the cake.  Here are guys like Mardy Fish and Casey Patterson who have spent their entire lives training and conditioning in order to compete at the highest levels of physical competition; and yet they are willing to admit that all of their hard work would be in vain had someone not thought to place a hologram on a bracelet and sell it to them because God himself was unable to infuse them with the capabilities of operating at their peak.

The other key is the cause and effect inference contained in the testimonials. Two incidents occur within a certain time table and the reader is free to draw the logical conclusion.
  • I started wearing the Power Bracelet in January / In June I was NOT stabbed by a Canadian stripper.
  • Last year I started wearing my Power Balance pendant every day / This year I lost 20lbs and won a Buik LeSabre at a Denny’s in Cool Springs.
  •  I got my Power Balance bracelet last year for my 14th birthday. / I am now 36.
  • My brother gave me a Power Balance in February / In March I received a tattoo from my dentist.
  • I put the holograms stickers on my car bumper on St. Patrick’s Day. / On Christmas Eve I committed a hate-crime.
  • I just bought a Power Balance silver pendant for my girlfriend. / I need a date for a wedding.


  1. As W. C. Fields said - There's a sucker born every minute !

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