Perception governs reality

The absurd still exists. Truth has never been true for all. Truth is a relative concept. And success often comes to people who understand these things. It all comes from the principle of perception: perception governs reality.

There is a tribe living in a deep cave, they rely on fire, they do not know the sunlight above the ground. Fire to them is like the sun. One day one of the tribesmen climbed to the ground. A life is different from the dark life in the cave, he realizes. And his miraculous discovery is about the sun. The light of the sun is what gives life. Not a photo of a fire flaring in a deep cave.

Overflowing with excitement, he went back to the cave and told about the miracles he saw. Unexpectedly, the whole tribe got angry when he said that life on the ground was beautiful and full of light. Dark acquaintances have their own conceptions. Their perception is hurt by the truth story about light. They relieve this damage by killing the guy who tells the truth above.


Above is Plato Cave Story. The famous story above tells about an important law in philosophy: The notion of man determines truth.

Plato Cave Story

According to Plato, Perception of human beings precedes Reality. In the perception of those living in the deep cave, light is brought on by fire. They don’t know the concept of the sun. This is eternal truth. They don’t accept the opposite.

The lost tribe of the night tribe in the above story has two choices: Describe the sun as flames or describe the sun as it is. The first choice is great for the crowd. They want to hear the familiar thing they think is the truth. The second option is as we have seen. It is against the crowd even though it is true. Immediately the crowd was angry and killed the person who dared to contradict what they thought. The power of perception obscures a cosmic truth.

Cognitive flip-flops govern reality we can see a lot in everyday life, in politics, in business and in branding theories. Let me take a common rule of brand positioning as an example.


Brand Positioning. Now in Vietnam, most businesses and marketers know this concept. However, between know and application there is always a huge gap. This gap is only filled by experiences. Valuable experiences help us to clarify just one word: Do we really know what we consider for ourselves?

Brand positioning was introduced by famous brand strategist Jack Trout in an article in the magazine “Industrial Marketing” in 1969. Then this concept was assigned by Jack and his colleague Al Ries. complete analysis and presentation with many interesting examples in the book “Positioning – The battle for your mind” (Mc Graw-Hill 1981). Since then, brand positioning theory has been widely applied in brand strategy building by brands around the world.

Brand positioning

Brand positioning is not about creating new things but optimizing what already exists in the minds of customers. Al Ries and Jack Trout use a phrase “Manipulate what’s already up there in the mind” to describe the target of the locator.

The essence of positioning is an Outside-in approach. Brands should know to accept customer perceptions as a fact from which to create a desired (differentiating) position. Al Ries and Jack Trout use the phrase “accept the perception as reality” to describe the nature of positioning.

New Coke’s classic failure (a stale example) shows the brand’s unsuccessful attempt to alter pre-existing perceptions of consumers.


In 1985, Coca-Cola spent $ 4 million to conduct a flavor test for New Coke products with the participation of 200,000 people in major US cities. Accordingly, participants will be allowed to try new Coke cans (New Coke) with no product name on the blind test. Research shows that consumers prefer this new product over the old Coke and Pepsi because New Coke is sweeter. With this positive response, New Coke has been introduced to the market to replace the old Coke in the hope of marking a new milestone for Coca-Cola. However, shortly after the launch of New Coke, the headquarters of Coca-Cola received about 6,000 phone calls a day complaining from customers that they were not interested in New Coke and wanted to drink the old Coke. tradition before. Sales plummeted and as a result, all New Coke products were recalled after just two months. Americans see Coca-Cola as a symbolic product of American culture, not tangible mechanical values ​​like sweetness instead of another characteristic. They believe in this intangible value and feel “betrayed” when the brand is engrossed in finding a new value.

Public trust is an unchanging constant. Don’t expect the change in vain. As the Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho said: “Don’t waste your time explaining differently from what the crowd thinks. They just want to hear what they want to hear ”.

What a person calls himself to know is perception. What they know is true is not reality. Why can the majority of people, from consumers to scholars today, sometimes behave against objective reality? Although living in the 4.0 era, it seems that modern people and ancient people still have the same thing: perception governs reality.

Brand positioning focuses on exploiting customer perception (availability) not based on brand reality (Al Ries).

This rule is not in dispute. But as mentioned at the beginning of the article, the truth is never true for all. I think there are still cases of brand positioning against Al Ries’ point of view: brands can still dominate consumer perception & drive perceptions. However, the group of brands that can do this is only a handful and often the brands that are at the forefront of leading new industries.

* Source: BrandDance


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