In the early ’80s, Pepsi ran a marketing campaign where they touted the success of their product over Coca-Cola in blind taste tests. They called this the Pepsi Challenge. Psychologists had already determined you choose your favorite products often not by their inherent value, but because the marketing campaigns and logos and such have cast a spell over you called brand awareness. You start to identify yourself with one marketing campaign over another. That’s what happened in the all the taste tests up until the Pepsi Challenge. People liked Coca-Cola’s advertising more than Pepsi’s, so even though they tasted pretty much the same, when they saw that bright red can with a white ribbon people chose Coke. So for the Pepsi Challenge, they removed the logos. At first, the researchers thought they should put some sort of label on the glasses. So, they went with M and Q. People said they liked Pepsi, labeled M, better than Coke, labeled Q. Irritated by this, Coca-Cola did their own study and put Coke in both glasses. Again, M won the contest. It turned out it wasn’t the soda; people just liked the letter M better than the letter Q.
from Why We Can’t Tell Good Wine From Bad.
The rest of the article is pretty interesting too: it reinforces my expectation that expectations strongly shape perceptions.
I often say that white hairs are the best teaching aid I ever had: my student evaluations shot up once I got a bit of salt-and-pepper.