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5 September 2015


Tag(s): Marketing
“Perception is all there is”                                              Tom Peters. “The Tom Peters Experience”
“Humankind cannot bear very much reality.”                                        T.S. Eliot in ‘Four Quartets’.
Like most of us, I’m sure, I try to be generous in my charitable giving whether it be in cash or in-kind with my time. But I have something of a prejudice against the type of charitable giving where individuals or groups seek to raise money for their chosen charity by performing some feat of endurance and asking for so-called ‘sponsorship’. I feel that this is often self-indulgent and the effort that is expended by the fund raiser has no practical purpose. I read recently that President Jimmy Carter, who is now 91 and has lived longer after his presidency than any other president in US history, still spends one week each year with his wife building homes for old people. That seems a better use of one’s time.
My prejudice was reinforced by an article in The Times this week by Matthew Parris. He quoted a piece of analysis into a particular piece of fundraising based on two parachute centres. Charity jumps had raised £120,000. After the parachute centres’ fees the actual sum raised for charity was £45,000. First time jumpers suffered 163 injuries of which 103 required hospitalisation with an average stay in hospital of nine days. The total cost of this medical treatment was £610,000. Thus for every £1 raised for charity the NHS spent £13.55. The perception of the donors and the fundraisers would have been that their collective efforts had been thoroughly worthwhile. The reality at the wider level of society was entirely different.
I wrote on the subject of Perception in Marketing in my book The 20 Ps of Marketing. Here is an extract:
“Perception is the act of recognition or comprehension by the observer. It may come through the senses or the mind. It may not be correct but it is what matters. How a customer Perceives the Product or service she is being invited to buy is all important. The good Marketer understands that it is not the message but what is received that counts. This is not only about communication but about all the ways in which a Product is presented to the Market. In today’s world of instant feedback on Twitter and Facebook it is even more important because carefully crafted communication strategies can fall at the first hurdle if a different Perception develops in the Market.
 Facts are secondary to Perception. As has been said many times by many commentators Perception is reality. As Oscar Wilde said “Believe nothing of what you hear and absolutely nothing of what you see.” Here are a few facts that may surprise.
  • In Italy, until recently, it was not possible to get a haircut on a Monday.
  • Rents in Central Manchester are 40% higher than in Central Manhattan.
  • 24% of the world’s construction cranes are operating in Dubai.
  • Lauren Bacall and Shimon Peres are first cousins.
  • There are half a million semi-automatic machine guns in Swiss homes.
  • The percentage of Nigerians living on less than a dollar a day has risen from 32% in 1985 to 71% today.
  • A study of the 101 known suicide bombers in Iraq from March 2003 to February 2006 found that only seven were from Iraq. Eight were from Italy.
  • More Ethiopian doctors are practising in Chicago than in Ethiopia.
  • Seven of America’s founding fathers denied the divinity of Jesus.
  • Israelis own 10% of the private land on the moon.
  • The British rail system receives almost £5bn a year in public subsidy - almost four times as much as it did when it was privatised in 1994.
  • One in every 3400 Americans is an Elvis impersonator.
  • More than half of the London underground network is overground.
  • Britain has 13 times as many chartered accountants per capita as Germany.
  • When Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, his army used more horses in total, and more per soldier, than did Napoleon’s over 100 years earlier.
  • More houses in China have a DVD player than running hot and cold water.
 Take a common Perception that foreigners have of Britain. Britain is a rainy country. It always rains there. In fact annual rainfall is higher in Istanbul, Rome and Sydney than in London. This is not so much a factor of climate change but a factor of what lies behind a Perception. If the Perception was that Britain is a cloudy country that would be accurate because there are fewer hours of sunshine in London than Istanbul, Rome and Sydney but when it rains in those cities the rain is heavier and so adds to the depth of annual rainfall that is measured.
 Fairy Liquid is a Product developed by Procter & Gamble to help with washing the dishes which I used to sell in my time there. It has been brand leader for many years but has been sold on a twin strategy of appealing both to emotions and to reason. The emotional appeal is that Fairy Liquid is formulated to be “kind to hands” that by implication will be coarsened by using other brands of harshly formulated detergent. It is worth remembering that prior to the creation of this category housewives would do the washing up with a sprinkle of the laundry detergent which probably was harsh in usage. The fact that the housewife can protect herself with rubber gloves is almost irrelevant here as many can’t be bothered to do this. The rational appeal is that although Fairy Liquid is more expensive than most other brands it is concentrated and less is required to do the same amount of washing up. For many years the British film actress Nanette Newman would demonstrate this in TV commercials by showing many table loads of dishes washed in Fairy Liquid compared with just a few tables covered in dishes washed in Brand X. Consistent advertising over many years has built a Perception that Fairy Liquid is both safe to use and economical despite its higher shelf Price. These are the Perceptions that are lodged in many consumers’ minds. The facts may now be different. Other brands may have adopted safe formulations. Other brands may offer concentrated detergents that are even more economical than Fairy. But that Powerful Perception is hard to dislodge particularly if the brand values are maintained, the communication has remained consistent and the customer does not experience any dilution in the brand experience.
 A more recent example of the same phenomenon is the iPod. Introduced by Apple in 2001 the iPod gave the consumer a chance to store recorded music in a compressed way using MP3 technology and listen to this on the move much as previous generations had enjoyed the Sony Walkman, but just accessing one tape at a time. The iPod also was linked to an innovative method of accessing music tracks over the internet called iTunes and downloading these to the iPod to add to the store of music. It took off as a global craze and quickly outsold all its rivals. But there were many of these and some of them had features that might have been seen to be superior. Some, for example, had significantly more memory and could store thousands more tracks than the iPod, while many others were considerably cheaper. But the design of the iPod marked it out as the must-have accessory and the Market Perception was that it was superior in every way.”
That was the opening to Chapter 15 of my book The 20 Ps of Marketing available from Kogan Page via a link on the home page of this website.
Copyright David C Pearson 2015 All rights reserved

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