Posted by: kwbrand | August 11, 2009

Brand Perception and Reality


There are several stages of pregnancy as it pertains to a woman’s image. There’s the first stage wherein the pregnant woman feels every bit as pregnant as she is, but looks pretty normal…if a bit tired and queasy. There’s the second stage where she typically feels more normal and is seen to be “adorable.” This stage can last from 4 to 7 months. And then there’s the final stage, which I like to call the “God bless you stage” wherein a woman feels slow and gigantic and is frequently met with annoying looks of compassion that either tacitly or overtly declare: “Oh God bless your heart! How much time do you have left?”

I’m in that final stage now.

As much as I’m grateful that my pregnancy has gone well, it has afforded me the opportunity to consider the difference in the way I see myself and the way I am perceived. Anyone who knows me well knows I would never, in a million years, aspire to be “adorable.” Nor am I likely to feel good about slack-jawed sympathy for the way I look. I like to think of myself as active, energetic and—when I make the extra effort—even a little hip. This is how I’ve come to see myself over the many more years that I’ve not been pregnant than over the past year that I have been pregnant. Imagine my surprise when my I catch a glimpse of my girth in a window reflection and am confronted with the reality that I look anything but lithe.

The disparity has reminded me of breakdowns in perception that I’ve seen in business contexts.

  • Sometimes there’s a disconnection between what an organization thinks it knows about its primary customers and what it actually knows. It might start with the phrase: Oh, we know what our customers______ (“want,” “think,” “care about.”) This sentiment typically comes from organizations that have been serving their industry for a long time and over that time have developed a sense of what works. What they may not realize is that what used to work is no longer working as well as it should or could. Or, they might blithely continue to use “what works,” unaware that their approach really only works for a small portion of the available market. They become frustrated when they (rightly) sense that growth opportunities exist, but they aren’t sure how to tap them.
  • Interestingly, I’ve also witnessed the downside of humility as it pertains to an organizational self-concept.  I have seen organizations down-play the very things that customers find compelling and distinctive. This tends to happen when an organization has a natural strength that comes to it easily such as its beautiful location or the relaxed and open give and take among employees and customers. But, because it’s just part of who they are and therefore “easy,” it tends to be internally discounted as lacking in value. They may work really hard to promote run of the mill attributes and offerings and ignore the very strengths that set them apart.
  • Sometimes too, there is a discrepancy in the way an organization sees itself in light of its competitive set.  The organization likes to believe it’s the “best kept secret” in the industry when in truth, it resides in the market dregs because it’s the secret no one just has to tell.

The painful solution to these disparities is to look in the mirror…or out the window and get the reality-check necessary to balance the one-sided perception of self. KW Brand has developed and uses a research-based, systems approach to provide organizations with this reality check.

I’d love to find out from you; what organizational self-image discrepancies have you encountered and what did it take to provide the company with a shot of reality?

Kyndra Wilson, KW Brand Translation

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