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The Reality of Perception

07/15/2013

BessBlogPicture_PerceptionIsReality2Perception is reality.

Just ask those protesting outside the Sanford Florida courthouse when they learned that George Zimmerman had been acquitted of charges relating to the death of Treyvon Martin. Those outside had not heard a single word during the trial but were convinced Zimmerman ‘should have gotten something’.

The same holds true for your brand. Consumers, competitors and employees have a brand perception that may their reality but not yours.

Branding is about identifying who you are, then supporting that identification with consistency in message, image and experience.

In today’s mobile driven, social media infused world of non-stop conversation it is easy to see how consumers’ perception of your brand can deviate from the reality of what you’ve worked to create.

Just ask returning JCPenney CEO Myron Ullman.

After slumping sales and falling stock prices, retailer JCPenney dropped CEO Ron Johnson several months ago. Brand perception data from BrandIndex shows that over the course of Johnson’s tenure, J.C. Penney’s brand perception has gradually sunk in comparison with competitor Kohl’s.  While JCPenney began 2012 with a higher perception score than Kohl’s, its score now stands below that of its rival.

Ironically Johnson envisioned an elevated brand perception for JCPenney. Unfortunately Johnson initiated a message, image and experience that neither convinced consumers of Penney’s move nor resonated with Penney’s existing customer base. The result? Disaster.

While the Johnson situation was completely avoidable – it was, after all, 100% self-inflicted – it does illustrate the power of perception. Consumers’ perceived that Johnson was raising prices at JCPenney. Eliminating ‘sales’ eliminated low-price perception.

Protect your brand’s perceived reality with vigor. A shift in perception can spell the end of any brand.

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