Perception is Reality

“Imagination is the one weapon in the war against reality.”
— Jules de Gaultier

Marketers deal in perception. Great marketers meld perception and reality.

gallup-consumer-ratings-us-sectors-industriesThe fact is that people perceive what they want to believe. This explains much about politics, religion and brand loyalty. People perceive value in things – concepts, communities, tribes, brands – and either admire or despise them accordingly. A lot of money has been made by creating a brand and charging people for the brand as opposed to the product. You can spend $3,500 for a Saint Laurent handbag which has a manufacturing cost of maybe $10, holds no more than a Walmart handbag, and arguably is a sterile design devoid of individualism. And many people do.

One of marketing’s jobs is to decide on the perception the public should have of a product or a brand. This is driven largely by the target audiences and their belief systems. The internalized perceptions that appeal to those buying Saint Laurent handbags are vastly different than those buying chrome headers for their 1937 Harley Davidson knucklehead mill. Different tribes, different concepts of value, different motivations.

The similarity is that the value each tribe cherishes is largely perception, and (hopeful) perception of themselves. A woman who spends the equivalent of a quarter’s college tuition on a handbag has a hopeful self-perception of having achieved a minimal level of financial security, social position and refinement (apparently at the cost of sanity). The hog rider has hopeful self-perceptions of a life lived freer, closer to gritty reality and with barely restrained wildness (despite his day job as a CPA).

It is within that self-perception that marketers can thrive but rarely do. All too often there is insufficient time for anthropological exploration of the target audience to learn the tribe’s aggregate belief systems. More often, the brand and the tribe coevolve over extended periods of time. Yet really powerful brands, such as Apple, decide on a brand and get people to believe it is part of their hopeful self-perception. Sitting in a long line, in the pouring rain, days in advance of the release of a new iPhone was for those buyers a statement of self-perception.

Either choose and study your audience carefully, or nurture them over an extended period of time. In either case, know that your brand has to reflect their self-perception before it will be loved.


Speak up! What are your thoughts?

Your email address will not be published.