Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Shaping Your Company's Perception

Here's an excellent article by Matt Michel of the
Service Roundtable.



I was discussing a couple of different local
businesses with a friend.

It was amazing how differently we perceived the two
businesses. We had diametrically opposed experiences
with each of the businesses. Since our perceptions
were based on personal experience, they were rock
and unlikely to change. But what about a business
where neither of us has a base of personal knowledge
and experience?

When personal experience is lacking, perception is
driven by marketing absent word-of-mouth. Even with
word-of-mouth, perception may be drive by marketing.
If someone talked with me and my friend, our
recommendations would counter each other, leaving the
consumer confused.

Perceptions vary widely, depending upon what is
revealed. This is one of the worst hurricane seasons
in years. I remember getting zapped by Hurricane Erin
a few years ago. We were forced to evacuate our
family’s condo on Pensacola Beach. When we finally
got back on the island, there were two or three homes
with severe damage and two or three thousand with
minor damage or no damage whatsoever. All in all,
Erin was a
relatively mild hurricane, but that’s not the message
the nation received.

Guess where all of the television cameras were
clustered? You got it.

They were pointed at the most damaged building on
Santa Rosa Island. While Erin was a tragedy for the
owners of a few homes, it was an inconvenience for
most of us. But that wasn’t the perception.

Perception shifts based on presentation, sometimes
dramatically. It’s not merely accentuating the
negative, but the positive, a uniqueness, or anything
else you want.

Like a video guy once told me, “It’s not what it is,
but what it seems to be.” Let me illustrate…

We all now that actors like Danny Devito and Michael J
Fox are short, but maybe not how short. Devito is 5’
tall. That’s it. Five feet. Sixty inches. By
comparison, Michael J Fox is a towering 5’ 4”. But
then, we knew they were vertically challenged. What
about some of the other actors?

Wait! If you’re vertically challenged and easily
offended, my advice is to stop reading now, or at
least wait until the end before you flame me. There
is a marketing message in here.

Back to the actors. Burt Reynolds is average size,
right? Uh, guess again. Old Burt is only 5’ 7”. I
wonder if that is with or without the toupee?

By Hollywood standards Burt might be average. He’s
the same height as Sylvester “Rambo” Stallone, Tom
Cruise, and Martin Sheen (though Martin Sheen’s claims
to be 5’ 10” – purportedly confirmed by Dan Rather and
various CBS experts).

What about some real tough guys? Jean-Claude Van
Damme and Mel Gibson are 5’ 8”.

Tall, dark, and handsome Antonio Banderas is 5’ 9”.
Tall, dark, and handsome? Maybe if you round up.

Banderas actually is the average male height, though
I’m starting to suspect the average was computed by
another CBS expert source who, er, came up a little
short. Other “average” height actors include Matt
“Bourne” Damon, Michael “Romancing the Stone” Douglas,
Morgan “Alex Cross” Freeman, Paul “Cool Hand” Newman,
and Robert “The Natural” Redford.

As someone who’s a very average 6’ 2” (actually, I’m a
little short for my weight), I would consider all of
those guys short, but that’s not how they appear on
film. I don’t know if they wear lifts or just make
sure their leading ladies are even shorter, but it
seems to me that every one of these actors seems
taller. In fact, if someone would have told me they
were all 6 foot, it would have been plausible.

Perception can cause people to perceive a short actor
to be a tall.

That’s a far harder task than creating a perception of
expertise in certain areas, a perception of superior
service, a perception of trustworthiness, and so on.

Here’s the main point. You can shape the public
perception of your company. You can do it through the
way you present your company with your trucks, in your
ads, through your uniforms, in your literature, with
your direct mail, and so on.

So far, so good. Just remember that at some point
consumers will actually encounter your company. And
then, the reality better match the perception. Just
like it would be impossible for Martin Sheen to hide
the fact he’s a short guy with a big mouth and even
bigger ego if you met him in person, it will be
impossible for your company to hide the fact that your
service is short of the perception you’ve created.

Fortunately, most of us will never meet Martin Sheen.
Even more fortunately, lots of people will meet your

Make sure you never come up short.

© 2004 Matt Michel

Celebrity Heights

5’ 0”
Danny Devito
Paul Williams

5’ 3”
Elton John

5’ 4”
Frankie Muniz
Michael J. Fox

5’ 5”
Sean Astin

5’ 7”
Burt Reynolds
Martin Sheen
Sylvester Stallone
Tom Cruise

5’ 8”
Humphrey Bogart
James Dean
Jean-Claude Van Damme
Marlon Brando
Mel Gibson
Robert Conrad
Robin Williams

5’ 9”
Antonio Banderas
Bill Pullman
Jack Nicholson
Matt Damon
Michael Douglas
Morgan J. Freeman
Paul Newman
Richard Burton
Robert De Niro
Robert Downey Jr
Robert Redford

5’ 10”
Kiefer Sutherland
Wesley Snipes

5’ 11”
Brad Pitt
Kurt Russell

6’ 0”
Dan Aykroyd
Leonardo DiCaprio

6’ 2”
Gene Hackman
John Goodman

6’ 4”
Clint Eastwood
John Wayne
Tom Selleck

6’ 5”
Chuck Connors
Forrest Tucker
Jon Voight
Lou Ferrigno
Raymond Burr

6’ 6”
Hulk Hogan

How many of these were a surprise? Try this one…

Politician Heights

5’ 3”
Nikita Khrushchev

5’ 6”
Joseph Stalin
Martin Luther King
Winston Churchill

5’ 8”
Adolf Hitler
Joe Lieberman

5’ 9”
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Jimmy Carter

5’ 10”
Wesley Clark

5’ 11”
George W. Bush

6’ 0”
John Edwards
John F. Kennedy
Tony Blair

6’ 1”
Al Gore
Lloyd Bentsen
Ronald Reagan

6’ 2”
Bill Clinton
Gerald Ford
Saddam Hussein

6’ 4”
John Kerry

6’ 5”
Bill Bradley

Beware short totalitarians.


Source: Comanche Marketing. Reprinted by permission.
Free subscriptions are available at: -- click on the Comanche
Marketing tab

Copyright © 2004 Matt Michel



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