In Reply to Power Balance’s Statement that They’re Not Actually Frauds

Power Balance has released a statement, concerning their wristbands. Please read it in full here.

I will now proceed to tear it apart, piece by piece.

Nonsense on Wrists

  • Power Balance stands by our products

Wouldn’t be much of a business if they didn’t.

  • Millions of people around the globe are wearing Power Balance products and are thrilled with the results.

Argumentum ad populum – the fallacy appealing to numbers to justify itself. “Millions of people can’t be wrong!” seems to be the implication. But a mistake or lie doesn’t become true the more times you say it or believe it. Many believed the earth was flat. Belief does not alter the planet’s shape.

Truth is not yelled into existence, reality is not made on the hot air of stridency. All that Power Balance indicates here is the amount of people it’s duped into believing its unfounded claims.

  • Dozens of high profile professional athletes swear by the results they’ve experienced from wearing our products.

Another version of the argumentum ad populum. The Fallacy Navigator, linked above, calls this “Snob Appeal” which is “the fallacy of attempting to prove a conclusion by appealing to what an elite or a select few (but not necessarily an authority) in a society thinks or believes.” Sportspeople are not (necessarily) scientists. So what if they “swear” by it? Power Balance’s claims remain unfounded.

If “dozens of high profile professional athletes” said they could fly, had wings made of rainbows and were all from planet Zog, would we believe them?

We may be justified if they were, say, physicians or biologists who found these results after testing the wristbands. But these “high profile professional athletes” are simply the higher-paid, more famous victims duped by Power Balance.

  • CNBC recently named Power Balance as the “Sports Product of the Year for 2010.” Our bracelet was also one of Amazon’s “Top 5 Best Sellers” during the recent holiday shopping season.

Based probably on sales, since most of us sceptical of Power Balance have been seeking evidence for their claims. It is unlikely CNBC and Amazon gave it for scientific credibility and biological breakthrough – in fact, considering Power Balance’s claims, if Power Balance were serious, they would be announcing their winning the Nobel Prize for Physics not Amazon’s Top 5 best-sellers.

They’re also not saying much when Amazon also had Dan Brown and Twilight in their top products, too.

  • We are the clear leader in the market for performance technology accessories and we owe it all to our customers who wear and believe in the product.

“Technology”? No, no. This sentence is incorrect. It should say: “We are the clear leader in the market for performance placebos and we owe it all to our customers who wear and believe in the product”.

Also, either the tech works or it doesn’t. A lightbulb doesn’t work based on your or your friends’ belief. It doesn’t work even if Shaquille O’Neal told you he believes your broken, shattered lightbulb will work.

To get an understanding, imagine getting a lightbulb box that says: “Believe in our product”. Imagine “believe in our product” under any other piece of technology: iPads, computers, televisions, microwaves, etc. If you claim it’s a piece of technology, why do you need belief?

  • However, there has been some negative press about our products coming out of Australia recently. In addition, we have recently been subject to several class action lawsuits in the United States. That said, we wanted to set the record straight.

They say “negative press”, we say “asking for evidence like anything else”. Instead of writing about belief and making fallacious claims, why not give us some evidence that it works. And, no, testimony doesn’t work since anecdotal evidence is not good scientific evidence.

  • Contrary to recent assertions in the Australian press, Power Balance has not made a statement that our product is ineffective. This is simply untrue. The truth is that, apparently, some of our previous marketing claims in Australia were not up to ACCC standards – changes were made and approved, and the issues were believed to have been resolved.

“Ineffective” is not the same as “scientifically credible”, which they admitted themselves of not being. As they said “We admit that there is no credible scientific evidence that supports our claims”.

“Ineffective” implies it does not have an effect. There is an effect; after all, people “swear by” them. The effect in this case is the placebo effect, not being energised like a Power Ranger to perform impressive physical feats.

The problem is the mistaken connection consumers make. They, firstly, assume they are improving in their performance. They might feel they are, but objectively they might not be. And we can be our own worst assessors, as Kaye and Gruneberg highlight in their brilliant assessment of PB’s claims.

Secondly, if their performance is improving, it is because of expectation and, therefore, as the statement indicates: belief. Remember technology does not depend on belief but efficacy and scientific credibility. A psychic’s readings are effective, as we notice with their clients’ tears; creationists’ claims might be so effective they get evolution textbooks banned. But none of these effects are good or true.

PB is confusing effect with scientific credibility, when they are two different things. Though naturally there are effects tested by science. But we don’t need to get into that discussion for now.

  • We remain committed to bringing our products to every athlete in the world, from professional to amateur to recreational.

Once again, we expect no less from a business.

  • We are also confident that the future will be even brighter for Power Balance. A preliminary study, conducted by an independent third-party, was recently commissioned to determine the different performance variables of the product and the findings have determined that wearing the product does in fact provide a “statistically significant” result on the wearer’s performance.

There is no link to this study. Consumer advocate group, CHOICE, said in October: “The band was tested at CHOICE under controlled lab conditions which showed it did little else than empty purchasers’ wallets.”

As I say, I am genuinely interested in the scientific findings. Indeed, I imagine most scientists would be. Why then are they not freely showing us these so-called findings? Naturally, we would find it doesn’t work better than a placebo, that people are paying for self-assurance and confidence – which can be obtained elsewhere like good friends, good coaching and deep-breathing.

Also, “statistically significant” doesn’t remove the placebo effect. And one test does not cut it (there are other tests from Australia that found the same).

  • We are committed to further evaluating the performance parameters of wearing the product so that we can continue to provide products that enhance the wearer’s lifestyle.

Good. Let us know when you have continued your evaluation and provide us with the results, methodology and research.

  • Power Balance will do whatever it takes to make our products available to every consumer around the world appropriately, and with honor and integrity.

And reasonable people will continue to call you out as unscientific frauds, your products as gimmicky ho-hum, based on sciency-sounding terms like energy and vibrations, and a hip-sounding Eastern mystical nonsense.

Run along now but don’t fall over.

UPDATE: This comic is just brilliant.


9 thoughts on “In Reply to Power Balance’s Statement that They’re Not Actually Frauds

  1. Oh but it must work! I heard a DJ saying that the last four or five times she’s got on her bicycle wearing the bracelet she hasn’t fallen off! How do you argue with that?!

  2. “We admit that there is no credible scientific evidence that supports our claims” – implying, of course, to the New-Age initiated, that it’s *only* poor old science that failed. How else could those dull, nay-saying, close-minded scientists have missed “the thrilling results”?

    Sometimes one just wants to hide under the desk and weep. Poor world.

  3. Sorry, Tauriq, this is witty, but I’m not sure what you’ve accomplished here. I don’t think this company is confused just because it uses deliberately ambiguous language to describe its product. If anything it’s extremely judicious. They’re just selling us a lifestyle product, like everything else we buy from bottled water to Prius cars to magazine subscriptions to vegan food. I think it’s called a free economy.

    • I did not say the company was confused, I am deliberately tackling the arguments they have presented on their page. It wasn’t meant to be witty – but thank you for saying so – it was meant to be a line by line (or par. by par.) analysis on what I think is faulty thinking. It might be a free economy and no where am I asking for Power Balance to be banned. My point is simply to analyse and critique the arguments they officially presented in reply to their own admission at having no scientific credibility. (You’ll be pleased to know that selling Placebo Bands has allowed them to buy an entire sports’ stadium, I’ve heard).

      And this is not like any other lifestyle product, since I would have a problem with any product that has no scientific basis in evidence for its scientific claims (see homeopathy, traditional-healing, etc.). I tackled this issue because the society I’m part of (FSI) is officially demanding its admission of no scientific credibility here in South Africa, too – after submitting an official statement to our advertising authority.

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