A flawed theory of marketing is that we are fighting a battle of who’s product is the best in the market. Hence, the product is the main hero of the campaign, and win or lose is dependent on the merits of the product. In 1985, what happened with Coca-Cola is the perfect example of why product quality matters less in the success of the campaign.
In 1985, Coca-cola changed the formula for the first time in 99 years. It has introduced New Coke. The company tested the product with 200,000 consumers and it was well-received. The “results” would show that the new product will be a huge success and perhaps help the company regain back the market share in the Cola industry. But that did not happen.
Instead, they received a negative reaction from the public. Consumers were not happy when they received New Coke to their house, some started hoarding up $1000 worth of old Coca Colas out of fear that the company will stop their production. People wrote songs to honor the old taste and protesters came out with signs sayings “We want the real thing” and “Our children will never know true refreshment.”
Why despite the results showing that New Coke tasted much better than Old Coke, people still preferred the Old Coke? The perception was key in influencing that decision. Perception is the way consumers see a product. No matter the quality or taste, if the perceived value of the product is greater, then consumers would prefer that over competitor products. People were attached to the previous taste, even if it wasn’t good. It meant more to them than just a bottle of coke.
Marketing is not a battle of products. It’s a battle of perceptions.
Each of us looks at the world through different pair of eyes. If there is a confirmed truth out there, how would we know about it? How can we measure it? Our belief about it is different from another pair of eyes. If both of us see the truth differently, is there a truth in the first place? Truth is nothing more than one expert’s perception, where the expert is someone who is believed to be an expert in the mind of somebody else.
What makes the battle difficult is more than likely, an individual’s perceptions are influenced by another person’s perceptions. Hence, they base their buying decisions on the other person’s perception of reality. This is referred to as the “everybody knows” principle.
Everybody knows Japanese cars are well built than American cars. Which car would you likely buy? In the US, everybody knows Heinz soup tastes best. In the UK however, everybody knows Campbell Soup is the best. Is it true? Does Heinz actually taste better in the US than in the UK? Do you believe it? In the end, it hardly matters. Marketing is not a battle of products. It’s a battle of perceptions.
Marketing is the management of consumer perceptions. How consumers perceive you influence your marketing campaign.