“What is real? How do you define real? If you’re talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.”
This is a famous quote from the character Morpheus of one of my favourite movies of all time, The Matrix. In this part of the movie, Morpheus is helping Neo to realize that the world he once believed to be his reality was no more than a computer simulation. Yet for everyone else stuck in the “matrix”, this simulation was as real as anything.
After watching The Matrix for the first time, I remember randomly asking myself: How do I know this world I’m in is real? I know I can hear my own thoughts, but how can I know for sure that everything around me is real? My family and friends seem real, but without being able to hear their thoughts, how can I know for sure?
But because I can perceive all of the world around me, I believe it to be real. Because I can smell roses, I believe them to be real. Because I can hear my brother speak, I believe he is real. In order to live in my reality, I have to rely on the notion that my perceptions are interpreting a true reality.
Marketing: Delivering a Perception You Want Customers to Adopt
Marketing takes advantage of this very same concept. In marketing, you’re not just promoting a product – you are also promoting a specific image or idea about that product. Essentially, marketers present a certain perception of their product that they want customers to have. And for potential customers, that perception is often interpreted as reality.
For instance, take the famous brand name paper towel product: Bounty – “the Quicker Picker-Upper”. Their television commercials portray Bounty as a superior paper towel that is able to absorb moisture much better than its competitors. Most of us don’t and will probably never know if Bounty is even among the best paper towel products, but due to the perception their company has created for their product, many of us who have seen the commercial probably believe that Bounty is indeed the best paper towel in the market.
The fact of the matter is what we only know what we’re told. That is, unless someone else comes along and tells us that Bounty isn’t the best paper towel, we see no reason to believe otherwise. I mean, seriously, when is the last time you researched studies for the best paper towels? Or the most durable shoe on the market?
By nature, humans are quite lazy in that sense. We don’t like working for information – we would much prefer that the information to come to us. The problem with this mindset is that by allowing other people to control the information that is “marketed” to us, we are essentially allowing other people to dictate our perceptions, and subsequently our realities.
Marketing Yourself: Creating the Image You Want
When I was in Grade 7, I was selected to represent Toronto at the Ontario Mathematics Olympics. Because of the size of our city, Toronto was allowed to send three teams to the competition. Each team was composed of one Gr. 8 girl, one Gr. 8 boy, one Gr. 7 girl and one Gr. 7 boy.
After the initial 12 students were selected, a single preparation day was held before the actual event for the students to go through some practice problems. In addition, the coordinators of Team Toronto would use this day to do a bit more evaluation of the students and try and make the best teams possible. Because of the difficulty of the competition, it would make sense for the coordinators to put all of the best students on the same team, thus maximizing the chances for Team Toronto to be victorious. There was one student was clearly the best mathematics student there by far, and it made sense for the coordinators to try and build the best possible team around him.
On the actual preparation day, I was just myself. But for those of you that know me, that meant just doing what I was told, not answering questions unless someone asked me, etc. On the other hand, I noticed a few students who were more talkative and participated more in the activities – these students ended up being on the “best” team with that exceptional student I mentioned earlier. Led by that student, this team ended up placing an excellent 5th in the province.
Nothing motivates me more than losing, so when I made Team Toronto again the following year, I was determined to be a part of the “best” team. Recalling the previous year, I realized that the coordinators probably assumed that whoever participated the most in the preparation day were probably the strongest students. That was their perception of ability, and in all fairness, the only real evidence they could go by. I mean if you think about it, if only certain students answer your questions, you can’t assume the other students even knew the answers. Maybe this logic isn’t the best, but I believe this is what the coordinators went by.
So when I was in Gr. 8, I went to that preparation day determined to be outspoken, answer questions, and generally participate as much as possible. My suspicions turned out to be correct when I ended up being on the same team as the other students I believed to have been the strongest. I definitely was not the strongest Gr. 8 male math student there (I am sure one of my other friends was), but I ended up on the better team because I projected the exact image the coordinators were looking for.
They believed I was the strongest candidate because they perceived me to be the strongest.
You Are Whoever You Say You Are
This is essentially the same concept I am talking about whenever I say that it isn’t necessarily the best candidate who gets rewarded, but rather, the candidate who the judges perceive to be the best – because perception is reality.
No one can know how great of a person you are unless you project that image. That’s why knowing how to market yourself properly on applications and interviews is extremely important.
Whether you are taking part in a job interview, applying for a grant, or anything else where you need to impress someone else, you’re not going to be successful unless you sell yourself as the best candidate.
If you look at any of my articles or videos about interviews or applications, you’ll realize the central theme to all of them is marketing. I think about the factors that could affect the judge’s perception of you, and try and highlight the specific factors that are good for you.
That being said, in the end, it comes down to you.
No one can market yourself except you!