In marketing, in valuation and in brand history, once a perception is casted, it can be hard to turn it around because the filter has been created.
Look at the picture that accompanies this column. Look at it. Stare at it (many have probably seen this already). Do you see legs with white paint or do you see oily legs? Keep looking. Wait for it. Wait for it. And when it changes—when you finally see it—try going back.
There. The filter has been applied.
In marketing, in valuation and in brand history, once a perception is casted, it’s hard to turn it around because the filter has been created.
Our recent Presidential election will forever be an interesting case study. There are many marketing positions created with the election. No matter who you voted for, the study remains one to watch.
First, there’s the perception of Hillary Clinton. Surrounding Hillary in her lifetime in politics are opinions and filters—both good and bad. Each filter—her email scandal, Benghazi, Bill—created opinions. Some were really sticky and some were not.
Then there’s the perception of Donald Trump. Filters built around sexual misconduct, “The Apprentice,” his billionaire businessman persona, bankruptcy and wives all created perceptions.
If the filter was permanent, Trump would have lost big time. He would have fallen under the statement that filters are created and cannot be removed. However, something amazing happened in his marketing campaign—he created even more filters for Clinton with his successful attacks.
Now, the filter on him is not completely removed. A greater majority of the popular vote was not pleased with the country’s decision to elect him as President. But, he removed enough filter to instill the promise of change in enough people to win him the presidency.
While it may have not been calculated, to remove the perception from his reality, his campaign focused on defined behaviors of us as human beings. We, for the most part, care about ‘ole No. 1 (ourselves) more than anything else—and then the President.
Take the two campaigns. Both focused on changing the status quo against amazing odds. Clinton as the potential first female President and Trump as the first since FDR to have no political background. Both monumental against the norm.
From a campaign standpoint, Trump’s was “Make America Great Again” and Hillary’s was “I’m With Her.” Trump’s was for a collective group in meaning (America), Hillary’s was "I'm With Her" (solo). Right or wrong in positioning, Trump capitalized on this to distract from the perceptions being placed on him. He also pulled an Obama and positioned Hillary into the 1 percent and somehow convinced everyone else that he was in the 99 percent. How? He marketed against the perceptions with a filter that she is one of those failed Washington-ites who cares only about herself.
The other thing he did was play the bully card. Every time the media took a swing at him (even when backed up with truth), he crushed their filter, painting them as the bully.
Regardless of the outcome, the marketing study is quite interesting. Trump successfully removed a filter much worse on paper than his opponent and maximized her flaws all while speaking to the 99 percent (rather, the enough percent to get by).
For many brands and people, once a perception or opinion is defined, it creates a filter around all options and perceptions about that brand and person going forward. Look at Chipotle (their food prep issues) or even Wendy’s (fingers in their chili). Things can change. With a great strategy, marketing plan and persistence, you too can turn painted white legs into oily shiny legs. Just follow the case study that we just watched in real time, disbelief and ultimately, awe.