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    Perception vs. Reality

    By Justin Goldsborough | January 27, 2010


    I may have written this post before. But thanks to Audi, I’m writing it again.

    If you’ve been to Danny Brown’s place today, then you’ve heard the story about Audi’s integration of the Green Police — a name first adopted by the Nazi’s during the Holocaust — into it’s Super Bowl advertising campaign promotion efforts. At best, as many people commented on Danny’s post, somebody didn’t do their research.

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    But at worst, Audi knew about the Green Police connotation and thought, as one commenter named Seth wrote: “Nobody needs a protest anymore to remind us that slavery and Nazis are bad.”

    It’s not that Seth’s point isn’t true on the surface. But there’s a difference between reality and the way the public will actually react to a situation — perception. And if Audi’s top executives really sat in a room and said to themselves, “you know, almost a half century has passed and green is about the environment these days; people will know what we were getting at,” then they need to take a step outside their offices and into the real world every now and then. Or maybe just sit in front of a computer for a while and surf the Web.

    Executives have got to stop relying on a sense of “corporate reality” to make decisions that can so significantly impact the brands they represent and the people whom they are supposed to be leading. At this point in the progression of social media, it’s really inexcusable. Do a focus group, ask a family member, bounce the idea off a manager-level employee, type the proposed name of your campaign into this newfangled search thingie that’s all the rage these days. I think it’s called Google.

    It only takes one. One person with a computer and some influence who takes the time to provide commentary on a decision one of the old guys in suits who sit in the executive row with the mahogany office furniture, expensive artwork and plush carpets makes. Too many execs still underestimate the intelligence of the online social community — or just don’t care to take it into account. Why don’t you ask Motrin or United Airlines how that worked out for them.

    Maybe execs have trouble relating because it’s hard to connect the dots on how a mistake like this impacts the bottom line. Affects reputation, sure. But no one can put that into dollar figures…can they? Well,  I think we’re getting closer. This week a colleague shared some results with me from a WOM study Dell conducted recently. Based on the research quoted in the presentation — which I’ll admit, I’m still trying to get my hands on — Dell was able to quantify that its average detractor costs the company $57 and it’s average promoter generates $32.

    If we can figure that value for Dell, than any company is fair game. And if Audi was Dell and we were to factor Danny Brown’s post, according to my calculations, Audi would have just lost $1,386 ((26 detractor comments multiplied by $57) minus (3 promote comments multiplied by $32) — rest I rated neutral).

    Now obviously Dell isn’t Audi. But the idea that we can assign a dollar value to the average promoter and detractor is universal across brands. And maybe it’s enough to get the Audi execs — and many of their peers — to look past their false sense of “corporate reality” to how the decisions they make for the brands they represent are actually being perceived by the people that matter…their customers and employees.

    Do you know any companies that have fallen victim to “corporate reality?’ Or how about examples of brands that go out of their way to consider the public perception. Would appreciate hearing your thoughts in the comments.

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