Perception becomes reality

You simply won't believe what you see

Most people are familiar with the timeless saying, “seeing is believing.” But what you might not realize is that this quip is only half of the original quote: Seeing is believing, but feeling is the truth. That second clause completely changes the message. Instead of pushing us to validate beliefs through proof, it instead encourages us to lean into our feelings as the source of truth. 

As humans, we’re pretty terrible at navigating conflicting facts and emotions. We don’t like to be wrong, and when facts contradict our feelings, we’re apt to jump through hoops to dismiss facts in favor of feelings. The result? People no longer believe what they see. Instead, they want to see what they believe.

Swapping logic-based perception for emotional validation poses a big problem for brands trying to market themselves. How can brands discern the difference between authentic consumer preferences and manufactured sentiments? How can consumers relate to a message that doesn’t resonate with their lifestyle? There’s a growing opaqueness that’s making it more and more difficult to establish common ground. 

Home is where the echo chamber is

We live in the era of echo chambers. Almost every aspect of life is engineered around the subtle art of confirmation bias: from the posts in our social feeds, to our Google results, to ads for the products we buy. It’s all about external validation of our internal emotions. 

When we gravitate to messaging that affirms our feelings and aligns with our perception of the world, we effectively insulate ourselves from the unknown, uncertain or unwanted. Everything we see affirms our feelings, which creates the perception that our feelings represent truth. It’s a major part of why we’ve got such a problem with misinformation today, and it’s a primary contributor to the mounting struggles brands face in targeting consumers. 

Consider trying to sell life insurance to a new parent who believes that insurance is a scam. There’s logical value in this win-win solution, being met with an illogical response that results in a net-negative for both parties. A salesperson can lay out a thousand rational reasons why it makes sense to buy insurance, but their appeal is likely to fall flat against an unwavering belief that’s continually reinforced by everyday echo chambers. 

Insurance is just one example. Brands across the spectrum are running up against consumers who aren’t buying what they’re selling, largely because it doesn’t resonate with what they’re feeling. 

Pay no attention to the consumer behind the curtain

There’s another big problem brands face in trying to persuade skeptical consumers: authenticity. Consumers are putting up façades, which makes it difficult for brands to understand what they like and dislike, want and need, accept or reject. In trying to appeal to target consumer groups, brands often send mixed messages, which leaves them looking inauthentic. 

Does cool guy Joe really like snowboarding, or does he like it because his peer group likes it? Will influencer Suzie pay for new luxury goods or does she get them on consignment? Does car buyer Leslie prefer a particular model because it fits her lifestyle or because it’s what she can afford? It’s difficult to segment customers, and it’s getting even more difficult to segment them using reliable data points and attributes. 

Customers are more apt to show us who they think they are, as opposed to who they truly are. This puts brands in a precarious situation. Do you appeal to a customer’s belief in who they are, or market to how they’re likely to behave? Choose the former and you could find yourself targeting a group that might not buy into the messaging. Choose the latter and you’ll get tuned out because your message doesn’t resonate with their internal monologue. 

Too many brands aren’t sure how to preach their message: to the head or to the heart. Too often, they target both—and too often, the message falls flat.

Avoid paralysis by way of dissonance

Customers no longer believe what they see; they see what they believe. This inverse statement gives us the foundation for what we need when it comes to connecting with consumers. It’s a shift from logical to emotional, and clear delivery of value through messaging. 

Brands don’t need to break into echo chambers or try to untangle outward vs. inward personas. Instead, they should remain authentic and seek to attract consumers with similar philosophies—people inclined to see their own beliefs manifest in the messaging. Look at Apple’s push for digital privacy. Look at Patagonia’s commitment to sustainability. These mega brands aren’t worried about how their messaging will land with customers—they know it’ll land positively with those inclined to care about topics like digital privacy or sustainability. 

Companies still need to meet customers where they are in the buying journey and provide them with solutions to specific problems. That said, you can’t persuade everyone—nor should you try. Let JXM help you deliver a meaningful message, and the true believers will see it for what it is: truth.