Remember that game at Halloween where you stuck your hand into a bag of brains that turned out to be spaghetti or eyeballs that were actually grapes? Well some researchers from Australia, Nashville and France have been playing similar games with adults.
They found that those believing that meat-eating is a status symbol found vegeterian burgers much better-tasting than the real meat burgers if, before tasting, they were told that the vegeterian burger was actually a meat burger, and conversely that the meat burger was vegeterian. The powers of belief altered perceptions so thoroughly that Woolworth cola tasted better than Pepsi even to Pepsi-devotees.
This is similar to the study we cited in a February post noting that the same wine tasted far better when said to originate from California than from North Dakota.
This power of belief is what brand marketers strive for. But can beliefs persist despite reality?
Marketers from Bank of America seem to believe that they can continually lower the bar for service if they simply exaggerate their virtues. In the meantime Wells Fargo, known more for being at the forefront of new fees than customer care, has been making steady efforts to improve their customer service. These changes have become so noticeable that now I hear clients talking about the decline of B of A and the rise of Wells Fargo.
This change in brand perception will produce results similar to the studies above. If we think we’re going to receive good service, we’ll look for the facts that support the presumption, and tend to ignore those that do not. Once our beliefs have changed, it is much harder to convince us otherwise. B of A, beware.