Today I want to discuss something that really burns me when I hear about it. It’s such a labelling of a boatload of misinformation and bad information, and that is this expression: “Perception equals reality.” Come on. Get a life.
I’d like to say it stems from some of the newer things that happened today where people are basically having some bad teaching, schooling, etc., but this stems way back. It goes back into probably the ’70s or ’80s even, where this was breeding, this kind of information from—yes—MBA programs.
Why is it even important? Because in order to market well and also to interpret well what’s going on in the world around you and when you’re seeing products, you need to know this and you need to know the fine differences between perception, bias, reality, and personal preference. Let me explain each of those.
It probably doesn’t surprise me, particularly today. I just heard today, something about 10% of college graduates who were interviewed, these were recently graduating seniors from college, thought that Judge Judy was on the Supreme Court. You’ve heard things about them being surveyed, they didn’t know who George Washington was, they didn’t know who the first president was, (which is George Washington, in case you haven’t heard), and a whole bunch of other things.
Part of it happens from the idea, the assumption that you do research, you get facts, and that means you’re right. No, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re right, because if I do some research and I think of something, and you do some research on the same topic, you have something else – that doesn’t make either one of us necessarily right or wrong. When we start talking, we may find a better solution, but it doesn’t mean: I’m right, you’re wrong.
What I’ll be discussing here is that there are really two parts. One is actually born in the idea of bias, and the other part is personal preference. Those two are very critical and very important if you have any product or service that you want to supply or sell, as well as if you’re a consumer. But people think that somehow they’re better perceiving or judging than somebody else, that’s why everybody thinks that their way is the right way; they are in the right and somebody else is in the wrong.
What really happens, there? It actually reminds me a little bit of something a little bit off on a tangent as an analogy. I saw this in a book one time, and it talked about how almost everybody, if they think they’re honest, if they’re honest, almost everybody will say: “Yes, I am.” Then ask them the question: “How many people do you know that you believe are truly honest?” And they’ll say: “Very few.” So, what has happened, there? Yes, it’s a difference between what they think and what their rules are, but it’s an abstract idea. Reality is a combination of perception (what you see) and the error, that is what mistakes, bias, or other things that you’re making as a mistake.
For example, you go and measure something, they say: “Measure twice, cut once.” Why do they do that? Because you’re liable to make an error. If you’re doing anything, you want to eliminate the error or the lack of information. Some error is just because you don’t have as much information so far. The missing information doesn’t mean that what you’re perceiving is reality. It just means you don’t have all your questions answered and all the perceptions proper. The error is a combination of missing information, bias, and just absolute mistakes.
To consider that your perception is reality and ignore those three things means that you’re not going to seek a better solution. I’ll get to why this is important for your customer shortly if you have any product or service. Your perception is based or focused on your past experience, your understanding, and the interpretation you have of everything around you. But be careful of mistakes or misinterpretations.
For example, and I’m actually taking some stuff out of some very high-profile marketing “expert professors” to show you some of the fallacies. For example, one conclusion that was drawn was they looked and they saw early on that the perception of Honda as a car was better in the United States, but in Japan because it was a motorcycle there first, they were perceived better as really a motorcycle company and not a car company. That’s true, but what has happened over time? Toyota is now much bigger, stronger in the United States than Honda. Yes, part of it is that perception, and it’s an initial impression that happened in Japan. But over time, people in the United States learned more about Honda and Toyota, and saw Toyota as a much more global and a solid company. Part of the interpretation in Japan, of course, was Toyota, is it’s a lot to do with the industrial complex in Japan. Toyota was a much more encompassing car company, it had so much buried into all areas of Japan in production, sales, part suppliers, etc. There’s more to the story than just simply one person looks at the two. Yes, there is that bias that occurred early on with Honda in Japan. That bias didn’t exist in the United States, but over time, Toyota overtook it for a variety of reasons that have to do with the economics and the marketing of the two companies.
The same thing can happen when you see one of my own experiences that I used to see… Not today. BMW has some really great cars today, but 20 years ago, it was funny, everybody that owned a BMW, it was supposed to be the best car in the world, it was wonderful, there was nothing ever wrong with it. Yet, every friend and literally everyone that I ever got into their car that owned a BMW, there was some problem with the car. The air conditioners, first of all, in the ’90s and late ’80s weren’t that good and strong, so if you’re in Florida, that was not a great thing. Then also, there would always be something. One or two things broken. You go to ask them: “Oh, well, I meant to get that fixed,” but they still thought the car was wonderful. That was their preference to have that vehicle that had this image, but it doesn’t make it necessarily a better car. What was it? It was their perception. Not necessarily a reality, but their perception of that vehicle.
Unfortunately, sometimes what people do is they base their own perceptions on other people’s perceptions. One of the expressions and actually I’m going to quote something from somebody, they just said: “It’s an illusion. There is no objective reality.” There’s a confusion, there, a tremendous confusion because they’re confusing personal preference, like that BMW, with whether the car has certain things right or wrong with it. Personal preference, don’t confuse it with reality or bias or lack of information, because your product satisfaction is based on your preferences. That person who owned that BMW, their preferences had to deal with factors that were important to them, much of an image, versus preferences that might have been mine; air conditioning in Florida, or a radio that worked, or something else that worked.
Another quote I’ve heard: “The only reality you can rely on is your own perceptions.” Okay, so we have school today, and Johnny goes to school and the teacher asks him: “What’s 2 + 2, Johnny?” Johnny says, “5!” So the teacher says, “Great job, Johnny”? Is that his perceptions? Does that make it true or correct, or is there a reality there?
It’s critical that we understand these, as I said, for marketing mistakes that stem from assumptions that you make. One of the things is they say: “You’re really fighting a battle rooted in reality.” They say that’s where mistakes are made. No it’s not. You have to understand, and there’s a great deal of confusion between “objective reality” is what they like to call it, and personal preference. You decide what you’re selling, and you realize some customers will like certain things and other customers will like something else. That’s okay. That doesn’t change reality. That’s personal preference. It’s very important to note and understand that. That’s everything from how you segment the market to how you market your products.
Think of it in terms of that marketing is really a battle of not only perception—sure, perception is crucial—but it’s really personal preference. The reason that’s important is: What happens if the perception does not equal reality, and the customer finally realizes it? If it’s your product, that customer is going to wonder whether you did that on purpose, that is you deceived them, or whether it was an accident and you might be forgiven. There’s two parts, bias and personal preference. Bias can be eliminated or reduced by not having bad introductions and bad information. Personal preference is what you’re seeking. What does the customer truly need and want? And that want is absolutely crucial, that’s where the demand is derived.
Keep in mind and keep clear that we’re not talking about perception. Perception, yes, is important, but it’s important to make sure that the perception is as close to reality as possible to really build a customer base that’s solid. At any point that you have deceived the customer or they think that they have been misinterpreting your product, you may lose them forever.