Why Perception Matters More Than Reality

Perception is important.  I think it’s safe to say perception is even more important than reality.  In business and with personal affairs, how you are viewed can be more important than what you really are.

We’ve seen it in electronics retailing time and again.  Have Intel processors always been better than AMD in terms of computing power?  You’d need to contact an engineer for a scientific answer, but sales and stock prices would tell you Intel is the clear winner in the eyes of customers.  Same could be said for the iPhone.  It doesn’t matter if the components inside an iPhone truly are better than the items inside other mobile devices.  Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t.  Buying habits would indicate the iPhone is perceived to be the better device.

I always felt creating or identifying, and then promoting, a ‘marketable difference’ to be key to successful radio programming.  Every city (or market) has several radio stations, even the smallest markets.  The fact you play a specific type of music is great, but folks can get music from other sources.  What attracts them to your radio station, as opposed to other media or other stations in town?  Winning stations can definitively answer this question.  Sure, promos, music, and other elements flow seamlessly with rotations that maximize listener exposure, but that doesn’t necessarily lead you to the top.  Those are internal processes and have nothing to do with how you’re viewed in the marketplace.  You have to identify (to the listener) what separates you from the cross-town competitor.  Turn on any local TV channel and you’ll see news promos doing just that.  It doesn’t matter what you do, if you know your core customer and what’s important to them, you should be promoting a message that appeals to their needs.

Creative ad campaigns have always been about creating a perception.  Successful ads don’t bombard you with a laundry list of facts, instead they typically try to conceptualize something that triggers you to want the product.  Many pundits have credited the outcome of the recent presidential election, at least in part, to the masterful job done by the Obama campaign of creating a perception of challenger Mitt Romney.  The political tie-in is a good reminder to make a final point: make sure you don’t confuse perception with deception.  You don’t want to deliberately mislead your customers, that’s never good for business.

Your product or service may be better than alternatives in the marketplace, but it doesn’t matter if your customers have the wrong perception.

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