Perceived Value: An important factor when buying a car?

Seriously….if the population in general thought more critically about advertising, commercials like one that for a car dealership that assaults my ears every morning while I’m trying to get ready for work would cause the dealership,  and maybe the manufacturer itself to go out of business.

Its one of those silly commercials that off-handedly derides people for driving other cars.

“What’s your car a 3, 4, 6?”

Now here’s the line that would have every thinking person whose on the market for a new car avoid this company’s  like the plague.

The commercial touts this particular make as being…..get this…


#1…yes…the best,  something I’ve talked about before 

What is this make of car #1 in according to this commercial?


I’ve listened to this commercial carefully because the word is sort of mumbled, but I’m pretty sure I got it right.

Perceived….. Anyone familiar with an old song by the band The Northern Pikes  “She ain’t pretty, she just looks that way?”

I listen to advertising carefully and read labels and manufacturer’s ad text and claims carefully,  looking for word games and weasel words.

Its interesting that the commercial came on when it did this morning as I happened to be thinking that maybe I should be looking for another car.

I can tell you (and I’m not being sarcastic)  is that I will not even consider this make, or that dealership.

Why?   Am I trying to punish some copy writer?

Nope, not directly.  But here’s the thing…

If a business is paying for expensive morning show air time,  why are they telling me about perceived value and not ACTUAL value?

In my mind, there can only be one reason…. their product has no actual value!

The problem with things like being “#1 in Perceived Value” is similar to the issues I raise in my “Simply the Best” blog that I linked to earlier.

If I was a lawyer I would be pointing out that as both perception and value are not defined in the commercial it could mean pretty much anything.  A completely hypothetical scenario for how this commercial came to be could be a conversation like this one:

Ad Guy:  So, this is the car you’re trying to sell?

Car Guy: Yep

Ad Guy: What’s great about this car?

Car Guy: Well, its red and shiny, but other than that its a total piece of crap

Ad Guy: Okay, no problem, I can work with that…one sec.

The Ad Guy goes and parks a 1973 Ford Pinto beside the shiny red car.

Car Guy: Ummm…we’re going to include a 1973 Ford Pinto with each purchase?

Ad Guy: Good idea, but no…

The Ad Guy then goes out and brings in employees of the car dealership and,  after engaging the boss in a short conversation (ensuring that the employee is aware that he’s there),  then pointing to the only two cars around asks, “If I told you that both those cars cost $50K,  which would you perceive as having the most value?”.

So yeah, the shiny red car will come out on top.

Ford Pinto runabout from 1973
1973 Ford Pinto Image via Wikipedia

While this may not have happened,  the way the commercial is put out,  there’s nothing saying that it didn’t.   Of course, we, as a society are trained to think that ambiguity in advertising should benefit the product or service being advertised.

While we’re attracted to the bright, shiny and beautiful parts of ads, we neglect what our eyes write off as “filler”  which is actually the important stuff.

Now,  I’ve been suckered by this…I bought a house once through a builder.   I was very proud of my yet to be built house,  and wasn’t worried because the builder had a #1 in Customer Satisfaction badge on their website,  as well as some certification by home building organizations.

If I ever buy another house,  it will not be from a builder.   I learned in the military that adversity forges strong friendships and it was no different on Sproule Drive.   Mine was a townhouse in a row of about 8.  We all moved in practically the same weekend and grew to be a very tight knight neighbourhood.  But every conversation usually involved exchanging stories about things that had gone wrong in our homes and the difficulty we had getting them fixed.  Adversity forges friendships when dealing with a negligent home builder too.

It was then that I learned the importance of researching “Certifications” and “Awards” posted on websites.   I looked at the organizations issuing these ratings and certifications and the criteria required to achieve them.  When you dove down into the text,  what they were saying is that so long as you weren’t convicted for building related fraud and made an attempt to resolve customer complaints that you could get a certification.     Your rating was unaffected by the number of complaints, but by how many were left unresolved  (an issue was deemed resolved if the customer didn’t end up successfully suing).

Advertising is a game, and while there are plenty of honest brokers out there you have to look for the sleight of hand that goes on.   The big flashy things like, “Joe S.”  dropped 180lbs in 2 weeks while using our program!!!”    can make you miss the small print that says “Joe S. is an astronaut,  weightloss was only experienced while in zero gravity”

See they can get away with this by adding one word to their big bold print.   WHILE

I once had an epiphany while having breakfast at Joe’s Diner on how to accomplish something in my integration engine that had been giving me fits.  So, using that Joe could put in his ads “David R. got a burst of the programmer mojo while enjoying a breakfast club at Joe’s Diner!!!”   Of course that would be 100% accurate,  but the inference is that it was the breakfast club that did it and not the fact that my brain was in neutral so all that awesome processing power was working on background processes.

You know, if people started paying attention to what advertising really said,  eventually you could rely on advertising to give you a clear idea of the quality of the product being peddled.

But then I would have nothing to rage about on the advertising front!


Post-script:  Its been about a week since I started this article.   I don’t listen to the radio a lot so this commercial may have had its run.



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