Last Thursday, the Internet was in a heated debate over whether a dress was #WhiteAndGold or #BlackAndBlue. When Caitlin McNeill and her friends could not agree upon the color of a dress, she posted a photo on Tumblr to seek out the opinion of others. Buzzfeed got ahold of this and posted an article asking the world to settle the debate. By the next day, it seemed that every person, including my mother, was talking about the dress.
But the biggest marketing lesson to be learned are not about how it became viral, or the benefits of Buzzfeed or even audience engagement through social media. The lesson is how perception equals reality.
Everyone who looked that photo saw something different. It had nothing to do with intelligence, experience or even fashion sense. (Although most people agreed the dress was hideous in style.) It was about our eyes taking the information in front of us, our brains processing it and giving us an answer that may or may not be correct. Our brains are colored with cognitive biases that affect how we gather, evaluate and retain information. We even see patterns that are not even there. But because the information came from our brain we assumed that it was the right answer. People were insistent on what they were seeing because it was what they were actually seeing.
This is also true with the audience of a brand. The decision of what a brand is, is how the person is going to choose to see it, based on their biases. Each person perceives their own reality. This strongly impacts likeability. So it is important for marketers to accept that not everyone will see a brand in the same way and take that into consideration when developing campaigns.