James Bell, executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book, recently commented about Toyota’s latest not-so-favorable media attention:
“It’s not really a product problem, it’s an image problem. These statistically small problems have taken on a very large perspective.”
Technically, he’s correct. Statistically speaking, Toyota’s ‘quality issues’ are not as big as they might seem.
But, herein lies the difference in how an analyst views a product vs. how a marketer views a product. Toyota’s problem right now is an ‘image problem’ (you can substitute ‘image’ with ‘brand’ here) and every brander and marketer knows that the brand perception is absolutely critical to how one describes their experience with the actual ‘product.’
You see, a brand perception provides consumers with a ‘frame.’ A ‘frame’ is like a window. You might look through a window from one building and see a beautiful city park. You could also look through a different window from a different building at the very same park. However, from this other window, you can now see drug dealers lurking and instead of a ‘beautiful city park, you now see a dangerous, drug-trafficking environment. Same park, different perceptions.
(I suggest you read further on the psychology that takes place here. Google or find books on ‘psychology of framing’.)
Your ‘brand perception’ is absolutely critical in the outcome of how people will describe their satisfaction and experience with the actual ‘product.’ Perceptions taint realities. And you should be tenacious about helping people see your products through the right ‘frame.’
Of course, Toyota, may actually have a serious product problem. And, they may not. Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter. People now have the perception that they do.