In Marketing Communication Perception is Truth

The Value and Importance of Perceptions versus Facts

One of the major issues marketers need to keep in focus is the (increasing) reliance of consumers and prospects on overall perceptions rather than just facts when they make purchasing decisions.  Simply put, prospects are basing most of their purchasing decisions on what they perceive to be important or true or what they think is right or correct rather than on rationally derived information.

This has always been true but evidence suggests that it is becoming more important

This increasing consumer reliance on perceptions or the gathering of small bits of information about a product  (particularly via the internet and social media) will be a growing challenge to marketers.  As consumers decide they have enough product information on which to make a purchase decision, they naturally will tend to ignore more information or data that conflict with what they already know.  To the consumer, perception is truth.  A perception may not be correct but it is what they know, and what they know is all they need to know.

This new “sound bite or Tweet ” approach to gathering marketing information demands that a marketer’s statements about products must be clear, consistent, and comprehensible.  In the fast-paced, information-overloaded marketplace of toda, integrated marketing communications on behalf of a product will be vital.

If perceptions are reality to consumers, then the perceptions which the marketer delivers must be consistent through all forms of communication or the consumer will simply ignore them.

Understanding Information Processing

The real reason integrated marketing communications programs are needed is the result of what we have learned and what we are still learning about how humans select, take in, process, -and store information and experiences and then how they use this information in making future purchasing decisions.  This process has a number of names but for simplicity we will call it information processing.

There are two major factors in the broad process of information processing.  The first is the concept of perception; how we select, process, and store information in memory.  The second is directly related and has to do with how we access, add to, and use the information that we have previously stored.  While the two are almost indistinguishable in use, we will separate them for purposes of explaining the process.

Perception, or What We Put into Our Heads

To understand communication and why integrated marketing communications is such a critical issue in today’s marketplace, we must first understand how people select from the sights, sounds, sensations, and experiences constantly bombarding them from their environment.  We must also understand how what is selected is stored, and then how it is categorised and retrieved from the mind.  This process is generally called perception

The process of perception is an active system.  Every waking second we are actively selecting from all the sights, sounds, sensations, activities, and impressions that surround us.  From the myriad of choices, we pick those things we either want to or must process and consider those that, for some reason, get our attention.

Because the number of sensations in our environment is so much greater than our ability to process them, we select only those things that we perceive to be important and we ignore those that aren’t.  Thus, we limit our span of perception.

To help us handle all these bits and pieces of data we use a system called transformation and categorisation.  This helps us to simplify and classify items and aids in the selection and storage process.  In other words, we transform the sights, sounds, and sensations around us and put them into a sort of sensible form we call a concept.  These concepts can then be stored in our memory.

Thus, a very complex human product like the jet plane may be simplified into one or only a few concepts for mental storage.  Concepts may have much detail attached or related to them.  For ease of storage and retrieval, we compact the bits and pieces of information into a singular concept that can be stored in the mind.

From these concepts, we then create categories.  The categories enable us to further classify and store information.  For example, the category of travel may contain multiple concepts such as a vehicle, lodging, meals, sights, other people’s cultures, and so on.

Through the transformation and categorisation process, we are able to store relatively large amounts of data and information in our minds with only a few concepts and categories.  The categorisation scheme allows us to function in our very complex environment.

Based on the concepts we have stored and the categories we have created, we are able to make assumptions and inferences about things when we have a new experience or when we consider stored concepts and categories.  For example, when confronted with the category of “school,” we call up several concepts about “schools” that we have stored away.  We may have categorised schools into kindergartens, primary, secondary, or high schools, or colleges and universities.

Thus the storage of the simplified categories and concepts allows us to keep a vast amount of information in a limited amount of storage.

The process of perception is basic in understanding the need for integrated marketing communications.  The transformation and categorisation process that people use to select, take in, process and store information is very limited, given the sensations and stimuli that surround us.  Information processing is taking place at all times.  Because we have such a limited ability to process and store information, we can quickly see why, if the sales message from a marketer is to be selected and processed, it must:

1   consist of sights, sounds, and experiences that can be transformed easily into concepts and then be categorised in the mind,

2·  be clearly identifiable and categorisable, and

3·  fit into the categories that people have already created.

Marketing communications messages that are not recognisable, are not related to each other, conflict with what has already been stored, or are simply unrelated or unimportant to the person simply will not be processed.  As the world become more complex and as people spend more time selecting information that will help them with the important task of living, there will be less time and space for information, data, or concepts about the marketer’s product .  The marketer must therefore provide reasons for the person to process his or her information.

Brian Monger

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2 thoughts on “In Marketing Communication Perception is Truth

  1. Pingback: Consumer Behavior PART TWO: Consumer Perception in Social Media | Boomtown Internet Group

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