BrandArena: 4 reasons brand stakeholders don't experience brand activities as you may believe

Thursday 17 August 2023

4 reasons brand stakeholders don't experience brand activities as you may believe

By Samuel Sokale

"Perception is reality" is a common expression in the brand and corporate communications universe that establishes an understanding of how stakeholders form perception from brand activities, and how such perception influences their belief then behaviour toward the brand. 

Despite long-term industry clutch and widespread usage, this aphorism is ignorant and myopic of some human truths therefore inaccurate and flawed.

A principal flaw is how its premise oversimplifies and perfects the idea of perception by implicitly suggesting that perception is straightforward, understood, and done with. This suggestion is a brash contrast to, and dismissal of the long-existing "hard problem of perception."

"Hard problem of perception" comes from a philosophy of perception that has committed cognitive science and neuroscience worlds to continued research attempts at a richer understanding of what constitutes "perception," and how it works with reality.

This commitment and ambition are driven by the empirical ideology that, if it's naturally possible for man to commit the error of perceptual illusions and hallucinations, then perceptions formed from physical experiences like brand activities, cannot and should not be characterized or treated as "ordinary" and/or "perfect."

This ideology and its intention also seek to make sense of human recognition dynamics, a complimentary puzzle to the "hard problem of perception" used to evaluate the effectiveness of brand activity.

Indirectly implied in this ideology and efforts is how much about perception is unknown, elusive, and understood. These blind spots expose and challenge the flaws and inaccuracy of any expression, like "perception is reality," which treats perception as simple, straightforward, and perfect.

A follow-up issue with the "perception is reality" aphorism is its neglect of how our brains naturally involve themselves in how we sense and process experiences. The human brain modifies a range of realities, including brand activities, to fit into our cognitive processes, making our perception of reality tampered with and inaccurate.

Decades of Gestalt psychology findings, led by Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Köhler, and Kurt Koffka on perception, suggest that our brains adjust our sensory organs for light, distance, and depth while experiencing an object or action in context. For example, a naturally bright object/stimulus is darker than we sense, and a darker object/stimulus is brighter relative to other things.

This natural cognitive interference with physical experience weakens the premise that perception and reality maintain a simple, straightforward, and perfect relationship. Against the obvious suggestion of "perception is reality", perception alone doesn't create and influence our reality. It relies on and collaborates with other mental phenomena such as attention and memory on this job.

 A substantial part of the science of memory, as partly captured by Johnston and Heinz's "multimode model of attention theory," 1978, claims that the Inability to form new memories (anterograde amnesia) and/or hold sensory memories directly affects our abilities to perceive (brand) activities, process, store and recall them.
Samuel Sokale

Put simply, the state and functionality of our attention and memory directly impact what and how we form perceptions of brand activities regardless of planning and executing impeccably. To then attribute our reality to perceptive efforts alone is ignorant of this cognitive collaboration, and by extension, flawed and inaccurate.

A more obvious shortcoming is how this statement relegates competing cultural and environmental factors that likely influence individual understanding and expectation of brand activities. We don't make sense of realities in isolation. We do that alongside other disruptive elements that mostly impact our experiences-this is the basis of Cognitive Memory Interference principles in and application to marketing.

An extensive body of empirical work in the philosophy and science of perception, human cognition and neuroscience suggests perception is an outcome of complex and dynamic interactions of cognitive, environmental, and cultural elements that are mostly out of our control and complete understanding.

This grand suggestion highlights "perception is reality" weaknesses in the face of existing empirical human truths and presents some learnings to consider for keep. Most obvious and immediate is the need for marketing professionals to review their understanding of perception and how it works in this light. Then, adjust their philosophies and approach to planning, designing, integrating and evaluating "phygital" (quick buzzword for the culture) brand activities to accommodate fundamental and natural human dynamics and truths.

A more important takeaway, however, is the need for marketing professionals to be more philosophical about marketing, inherited principles in contemporary times, and their usefulness from empirical human, cultural and environmental perspectives considering their non-negotiable influence on the effectiveness of marketing/brand interventions.

Samuel Sokale does marketing and innovation strategy by day and other things at night. Connect with him on Linkedin: Samuel Sokale, Twitter & Instagram: @o_proz.

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