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.

- Follow Chris on Twitter.

Send your comments to Chris

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

  • henrileriche - 2012-07-23 10:26

    Same can be said in politics: "Bulls1t baffles brains"

  • JohncarlosBiza - 2012-07-23 10:34

    Not sure I want to abuse consumers' shortcomings like that. I've always had an issue with the way we ho about capitalism, despite it being my bread and butter.

  • mike.bundy.73 - 2012-07-23 10:59

    Interesting point but the examples given are not real.

      franco.ciman - 2012-07-24 07:45

      Are you sure Mike? I'm not doubting you, just disappointed cause I've often referred to those examples myself as real. There's another one about pushing up toothpaste sales by increasing the diameter of the tube nozzle - please don't tell me that's also a myth :(

  • jpstrauss - 2012-07-23 12:51

    Modern man is conditioned to attach a value to an item directly related to how much he paid for it. You can test the accuracy of my statement by reading it out loud to someone and watching their knee-jerk reaction of going "well, duh". But the fact is that an item is only worth something if it servers a purpose or fulfills a need. My car cost R80 000 brand new and it is worth exactly as much to me as the new Opel Astra which sells for around 3 to 4 times as much. I can go to the same places, load a roughly equal amount of stuff into both and their fuel economies are similar. In fact, because my car's parts are MUCH cheaper, it is actually worth more to me because my expenses are so much less. And again my golden rule: something is worth exactly as much as someone else is willing to pay you for it. If you buy a Kenwood blender for R500 and no-one is willing to buy it from you for more than R300, guess what: you got suckered!

  • micheal.moolman - 2012-07-23 18:50

    Right on the mark Chris. The strategy works!

  • craig.r.moodie - 2012-07-24 18:31


  • craig.r.moodie - 2012-07-24 18:31

    awesome,so true!

  • ishmael.mona - 2012-07-31 16:52

    practicing perception rather than reality is an adverse of feeding people their naive stereotype about an idea they have concluded to be true to them and that truth is the absolute truth. Great column. I should try some perception to make money!!

  • pages:
  • 1