What comes to mind when you think about Coca-Cola? The sweet, refreshing drink you enjoy with a nice hot meal or a snack? Maybe it’s your fear of consuming too much sugar. Whatever it is, it is safe to say that it was created by both truth and perception. How does truth and perception affect our view of companies and brands? If you think about it for a moment, you’ll realise that it starts with how the human mind perceives things.
How we perceive things
As humans, we have five senses. They are the sense of sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. The information we receive through those senses affects our perception. You may have watched Coca-cola ads showing young people or families partying and enjoying themselves with good food and some coke. Those mental images stay with you and influence your thoughts about the brand.
The music and stories used in the ads are carefully chosen to leave you with a certain feeling about the brand. The more you see them, the stronger the perception that is created. From time to time, we may hear one or two bad things about the brands we love but as soon as a press release clears up everything, we go back to trusting the company.
This happens partly because the company has invested a lot of money into building a certain perception that is hard to destroy. It also happens because we are so used to company that it is difficult to boycott them. Our minds tell us that since we've been doing fine with them for decades, there is no need to switch to another brand. In circumstances like these, the mind does not like change. Old habits are easier to live with. But there is an unpleasant truth behind it all.
The truth behind it all
Coke has little or no nutritional value. That is the truth. It can be useful for those who need sugar as an instant energy source though. At the same time, it is refreshing to drink when it’s cold and the weather is hot and you’re thirsty. But all the association with music and parties is made by advertising and the way people choose to use the product.
Pepsi signing popular Nigerian musicians as brand ambassadors is a way to get the fans of those singers to direct some of their feelings about the musicians towards the Pepsi brand. Concerts featuring these performers are held. TV and billboard ads are created showing them. All of this makes you ignore that nagging feeling that drinking Pepsi and Coca-cola may not be good for your health.
Small businesses who don’t do a lot of advertising usually don’t create a perception that is very different from the truth about them. A company like Transita, for example, is all about helping people get from one city to another within Nigeria in a way that is easy, quick, and affordable. There is no real focus on building a perception.
No matter what the truth is about a business, our perception will always colour our understanding of that truth. That is the power of marketing and advertising. Understanding this is the key to business success.