Perception is reality — this is a statement that one hears quite often. What it means is that perceptions can be so well entrenched and deep rooted that people tend to take them as gospel truth, even if they have just a grain of truth in them. Let’s talk about a couple of real life perceptions before moving to the world of marketing, and how perceptions can affect brands.
“People from the North are more aggressive than those in the South”. Now, this is a popular perception, irrespective of its truthfulness. We form opinions of people based on these perceptions and even make decisions on the strength of these perceptions.
Perception in the world of marketing
Now, let’s move on to the world of marketing. “Chinese goods are of poor quality”: This is a fairly common perception in India, for instance, and is also something that can hurt the brands in question. Whilst some countries like Japan or Germany flaunt themselves as “countries of origin” of some brands, the Chinese may not. Let’s look at the advertising of a famous brand like Haier, which is originally from China. Watch their advertisement here .
While it is an interesting product concept and a truly Indian execution, notice that nowhere is the brand talking about its origin country. It probably has its reasons, but my suspicion is that it does not wish to talk about it, instead choosing to portray itself as a truly global brand, that adapts itself wonderfully to India and its customs.
German engineering, on the other hand, is something that has been the basis of many of top cars of the world and as a race, they are justifiably proud of their engineering ability. Brands like Mercedes Benz, BMW, Volkswagen and Audi come to mind. But not all perceptions about Germans are positive, as I discovered in my own personal experience. However, I am not here to talk about an isolated experience but about Lufthansa.
German airline surprises Indian flyers
Lufthansa is a popular German airline, the largest in Europe that I have travelled several times by in the past. Although now, I do not do so. The reason? I find the food and service, not to mention the prices, much better in other airlines like Emirates and Etihad. My own experience was that it was a cold, if clinically efficient airline. I found the food indifferent and the entertainment programs minimal. But it did take me to Frankfurt and the US later on time. Now, with the emergence of several competing brands, Lufthansa has this new commercial and press ad. Watch it here .
Before I comment on this, let’s take a look at the press ad, as it makes a point too. Not surprisingly, it says punctuality and precision are expected and delivered, whilst everything else, like the customer service, is unexpected as they exceed expectations.
Let’s move on the commercial now. Grandchildren have unquestioned faith on their doting grandparents and often see the world through their grandparents’ eyes, as this commercial depicts. The grandpa tells the grandson that they are going to New York to meet the boy’s dad and the child is, obviously, excited. The grandfather goes on to tell him they are going by Lufthansa, a German airline. He speaks of Germans in a slightly deprecatory tone. He says they are different, thereby implying that they are difficult to understand. They don’t know Bollywood, he says derisively, and their food is not worth speaking about. The day of travel comes and as the two enter the plane, an Indian stewardess welcomes them warmly with a ‘namaste’. The boy gives a slightly surprised look, which turns even greater when the stewardess brings him a full course Indian meal, prompting the child to say “Grandpa we are in the wrong plane!” The grandfather, smiling benignly, says that everything is fine, as it actually is.
All about preception
Clearly, research has thrown up certain negative perceptions about the brand and Germans as a race, and this communication attempts to address it. Will one commercial address all this? Certainly not, but the brand’s ability to accept that it may have a problem and that India and its customers matter to it, is the point to be noted here. And that certainly works in its favour. Customers will continue to watch the brand and see if these are mere advertising claims or if the brand actually means what it says.
So when you get into your jobs, worry about your brands, consumers and perceptions. See that they don’t hurt you.
To read more from the author of the Third Umpire, click here .