I’ve been thinking a lot about perception recently. One of the more profound things that an executive coach said to me one time was this:
“Have you ever sat there talking to someone and explaining your side of a position until you’re blue in the face and you think to yourself ‘God, this guy just doesn’t get it!‘ Well let me tell you – it’s not his fault.”
Sometimes it’s amazing to me how different two people’s perception of something can be. And this applies to everything – from arguments to religion – and can cause some pretty intense issues of miscommunication. And in marketing, miscommunication can kill you.
I was reading an article recently about Lands’ End’s attempt at thanking loyal customers by providing them with a free issue of GQ. When the gift was delivered, however, there was a massive backlash from conservative customers who were concerned that their kids were going to see the “strategically covered” model on the cover of the magazine in their mailboxes. They took to Lands’ End’s Facebook page calling it it offensive, obscene and, in the worst cases, pornographic.
Now I wouldn’t have had an issue with this magazine (you can see an image of the cover here, though you it may be considered inappropriate in some workplaces) landing in my mailbox but, then again, I don’t have kids, I don’t shop at Lands’ End and I don’t consider myself particularly conservative (although I’m sure my more liberal friends would disagree with me on that). And because of that, I’m not the one who gets to make the choice whether it’s offensive or not. I would not, however, deliver that magazine to my mom.
Perspective really is reality and, when it comes to marketing, it’s all powerful. Whether you’re trying to thank your loyal customers, develop a website or design a logo, making sure that you’re aware of how your audience is likely to respond is more than wise – sometimes it’s the difference between being seen as a pornographer and a gracious company.