Charles Nelson Riley, Love, and a Coke
All things possess certain definable intrinsic values. Charles Nelson Riley, Love, and a brand new can of ice-cold Coca-Cola all hold certain values that can only be attributed to those things. These qualities exist in and of themselves, outside of the world of perception. If a Coke is opened in a forest, and no one is there to drink it, it will still make that sound.
Perception, on the other hand, is that malleable conglomeration of values that we attribute to that object or person. One person’s appreciation for Charles Nelson Riley, Love, or an ice-cold can of Coke is subjective, and can change. The amalgamation of those perceptions will change the popularity of that object, or person, but not the intrinsic values of that object, itself.
Celebrity is evidence of this. The amount of financial backing that a movie can command is based upon how hot the proposed star for that property is, at that very second. Charlie Sheen was hot last month, now he can’t, figuratively, get arrested. Next month, who knows?
The art world is the same way. One minute Warhol is perceived to be most valuable, and the next it’s Monet. Tomorrow, it’s neither a Monet nor a Warhol painting that is the more coveted commodity, it’s a Basquiat that is more desirable. The paintings themselves haven’t changed. The value of those paintings didn’t rise or fall based on the laws of supply, there are a finite number of works from each of those artists, only popular perceptions had shifted.
We, as marketers, are often concerned with changing perceptions, because changing the actual intrinsic qualities of a product is more complicated than writing a script for a new TV spot, or updating a website, but when you can affect the intrinsic qualities of a product, that is when you can often make a greater difference.
There was a time when the snooze button didn’t exist. Your alarm would go off, and you would just go back to sleep, waking up four hours later. One good thing about this was that you had a real excuse for being late for work. “I overslept,” you could say to your boss, and he would reply, “Don’t let it happen again.” You would feel bad for about a minute, but the next day he would oversleep, so there was empathy. But then, one day, Robert Downey Jr. and Alan Arkin invented the snooze button (it’s a fact – see the movie EROS), and all that changed. It was a major change in the intrinsic nature of the product. You no longer had any excuses. Added to the long series of intrinsic attributes that an alarm clock could possess, you could now add “the snooze.” The snooze was huge.
Sometimes, we can change perception best, by changing reality.
- Mike Gambino