Saturday, August 27, 2005

Is perception reality?

As I straddle the fence between the advertising world and a search for knowledge of the universe, this question plagues me quite often. The first thing I learned in Principle of PR, my third class of my first year at Chapman University is that your customer's perception is your reality.

But does perception really constitute reality? Some philosophers think so.

Some have argued that there is no absolute truth, but rather, truth is in the mind of the beholder. If this is the case, than truth really has no "truth" to it at all. If that is the case, than marketers needn't worry about being misunderstood. There are no misunderstandings. Rather, how their brand is viewed is how it is.

That may not harm any markers psyche, but it turns the stomach of the philosopher in me.

Let us say, just for a moment, that perception does constitute reality, and, by that measure, what is believed to be true by any individual is true. That would mean that if a marketer, or product planner were to associate Japanese Rice Wine Sake with the Great Wall of China, they would be relaying to their customer actual fact.

Even the PR genius that lets Tom Cruise open his mouth in public can see that, at least for brands, belief-system based reality is a one way street. I have never heard "well, they may have mixed up my heritege with another's, but, if its true for the executives at Old Navy, then it is good enough for me" from a disgruntled Old Navy or A&F shopper.

The fancies (and fallacies) of consumers should be paid mind, no doubt about that. But that doesn't mean that reality is anyone's to distort. With that said, it is much easier to manage perception if your brand is not lying.


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