It was 1969 and I was 9 years old. I remember it as if it were yesterday. I was sitting in my bedroom reading one of my favorite comic books and then I saw it! The deal of a lifetime was right before my eyes (actual advertisement below)!
I could have my very own nuclear submarine for $6.98! Wow, I couldn’t believe it. A submarine that was over 7 feet long, seated two, complete with periscope and the ability to explore beneath the water surface! I was so excited that day. I remember selling my mother on the idea and getting her help to purchase this spectacular deal. I told her my ideas of parking this sub in the pond behind our home. As composed as possible, my mother did her best to temper my expectations but I was beyond return.
I remember mailing my order and waiting and waiting and waiting for my submarine to come in the mail. As I waited, I gathered in one corner of my bedroom all the the things I wanted to bring on the submarine, such as my books and baseball cards.
Finally seven weeks later, an eternity, the day arrived and the postman delivered a box that was my submarine! My initial thought is there must be more boxes. I was wrong, that small box was my submarine. I remember how hurt I was opening this cardboard box that contained a grey fold out cardboard submarine with two batteries, cardboard seats, and a plastic control panel that did nothing but flash a small red light.
It was from this personal experience that I learned that things are not always as perceived.
In our increasingly experience-driven world consumers crave what’s authentic more than ever. Because the buzz word today is “experience”, many companies claim they are offering “experiences” without actually staging experiences. In the book, Authenticity by James H. Gilmore and Jospeh Pine II they say, “This alone contributes greatly to being perceived as fake, and actually drives demand for experiences people deem authentic.”
Now more than ever, the authentic is what consumers really want. Companies today must learn to understand, manage, and excel at rendering authenticity. To be blunt, when consumers want what’s real, the management of the customer perception becomes the primary new source of competitive advantage.
What is the customer’s perception of your business? Is it real? Is the experience well planned and designed? If not, you are quickly sinking, just like a fake cardboard submarine!