Perception vs. Reality

I love talking about "truth in advertising" with my marketing students. We explore the concept, and occasional disconnect, between what advertisers tell consumers and reality. As consumers, we hear claims like "preferred," "best," "fastest," and "lowest price," daily. But is it true?

The reality is that it doesn't matter. What does matter is our perception as consumers. So, if a product tells me it's "the most effective," I might believe it. Until I no longer do. That's where things get tricky. If the promise made by the company does not align with my experience, consumer behavior research shows that I'm far less likely to ever go back to that product. It makes sense; I might feel as though the company/brand/product has lied to me.

As consumers, we've become desensitized to product claims created in marketing offices. True, there are truth in advertising regulations, but if your product tells me that it's "preferred," I'm more likely to take the claim at face value, until it becomes incongruent with my experience.

So what does that mean to businesses? You'd better be able to back it up. If you decide to tell consumers that your service is the fastest, for example, you'd better take steps to ensure that your service is indeed very fast. In reality, it's a simple step toward customer retention. Once you've convinced a customer to try your business/brand/product by telling them your service is the fastest, keep them coming back by actually delivering on that promise.

Jennifer Korfiatis