Perception Marketing has become big business and until recently I had applied little thought to the question of perception versus reality.
People apparently now build entire careers around Perception Management, they are not involved in Product Development and Product Improvement, their mission in life involves changing us! Changing our Consumer Perception!
My regular readers are familiar with my commitment to Peter Drucker as the essential marketing guru. His definition of marketing is: – “to take something useful and turn it into something desirable”. I believed I understood this, yet recently I have encountered some surprising and strangely lasting, examples of perception marketing driven desirability.
A couple of weeks ago I was having a product discussion with my son, the CEO of a US based FINTEC company, and I offered the opinion that the product (under discussion) was crap! He answered promptly, “I know that, you know that, but the market perception is different and the market perception is reality”.
At first I was disturbed by this, isn’t it wrong to sell a substandard product, even if the customer is satisfied? Well let’s think again before we decide.
New Scientist magazine recently published an article describing how researchers at Harvard tested a new painkilling drug as well as placebos on migraine sufferers. The placebos, despite their lack of real painkilling ingredients, were remarkably effective. “The placebo… accounted for more than 50% of the drug effect,” the scientists found.
To most of us this is hardly news; drug trials routinely incorporate control groups who are given placebos to assist in identifying results that are outside the standard placebo effect. Other drug trials have shown that tiny placebo pills can have stronger effects than large ones because they are perceived as especially potent. Placebo colour can make a difference, too.
I had to ask myself are placebos “my crap” or “market reality”?
The lesson for marketers is that our experiences are shaped by our expectations
Do we have other examples of “placebo marketing”?
Until recently we had a substantial investment in the wine industry. Wine is the ideal product to illustrate how marketing perception affects consumer experience.
Most of us and even those within the industry don’t have the honed palate of a master of wine, and how we enjoy wine is heavily influenced by what we think we know about the wine.
Perception marketing experiments showed that the same wine thought by a taster to cost $45.00 rated better than when it was thought to cost $5.00. Not only was this a win for the perception marketers, it actually lit up a wider area within the pleasure centre of the taster’s brains. In other words the perception became reality, it really did taste better to them.
It’s an example of consumers really believing “You Get What You Pay For” – yet again Marketing Perception has trumped reality.
This brings me back to Peter Drucker’s quote. Desirability may not be a product of quality but of expectation.