Chris Moerdyk

Reality is all about perception

2012-07-23 08:01

Chris Moerdyk

I was taking part in a small business workshop a few weeks ago, when it dawned on me that far too many people still concern themselves only with realities and take no notice at all of perceptions.

Frankly, one of the most important factors in any business is clearly understanding how customers perceive what you are doing and selling.

Remember that great story about the bloke who started a salmon canning plant? Somewhere near Seattle, I think it was.

The poor guy was driven to distraction because his canned salmon just didn't look right, let alone appeal to the taste buds. He ploughed millions into research and development but to no avail. His darn salmon remained grey, dull and boring.

Nobody but nobody wanted to eat grey salmon.

Then, along came an advertising whizzkid who designed a new label.

In big bold letters was the promise; "GUARANTEED NOT TO TURN PINK IN THE CAN.

His salmon sold like hotcakes after that.

Here's another example:

Sometime in the 1950s the Kenwood Food Mixer company in the UK decided to test the taste of the US consumer with a trial consignment of food mixers. California was chosen as the test market not necessarily because of the discerning nature of consumers in the Golden State but because they were known to fork out fortunes for anything new - useful or otherwise.

Kenwood pitched their pricing below that of the two big American brands, Hamilton Beach and Sunbeam.

Not a single Kenwood moved. Californians, it seemed, were far too patriotic to use anything but American products. Kenwood decided to bring the consignment back to England.

Then came an advertising whizzkid. Quite possibly the same fellow who came up with the "guaranteed not to turn pink in the can" strategy.

 "Hang on," he said. "Before you go to the expense of shipping the whole bangshoot back to Britain, why don't you just jack up the prices to way above what Hamilton Beach and Sunbeam sell for?"

 Like many American marketers, his penchant was for sales and not the niceties of grammar.

Anyway, jack up the prices they did and Kenwood never looked back. The whole Californian consignment was sold out in days as consumers rushed to buy the import which, they figured, "must be pretty darn special if it's so expensive".

So remember, if you want to succeed in business, don't just consider reality but give a lot of thought to perception. It's actually a lot easier by the way, because while you can't ever change reality you can do whatever you like with perception including create perceptions among consumers that they never perceived in the first place.

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