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Branding and Perception: The Mademoiselle Noir Effect

A couple of years back I stumbled on an interesting song called “Mademoiselle Noir.”

The whole premise is the same as Rapunzel, except instead of being viewed as virtuous and lovely, the townspeople think she is evil and fear her.

This isn’t the first time a classic story has been retold with a drastically different slant. There seem to be a lot of tales that are being retold from an alternate viewpoint. (An example being the hit Broadway show “Wicked” which cast the Witch of the West as the heroine/protagonist.) These stories often make you sympathize with the “villain” and root against the “hero” – at least as they were structured in the original telling.

This highlights just how important perspective is. Substance is important. It actually is the single most important thing when you are a practitioner of any craft. But substance without the corresponding perception of substance is useless for a small business owner.

How could we be hurting ourselves in this regard? Well, consider the following scenarios with people’s vehicles:

  • A financial advisor who drives a $1,000 jalopy
  • A mechanic whose car is appears in disrepair and often breaks down
  • A construction professional who drives out to bid jobs in a tiny Miata

Be honest, how good do you think any of those people are at their jobs? Why can’t the financial manager afford something better for himself; why would a mechanic not be able to fix his own car; and what kind of serious construction company exec has a car the size of a coffee table?

In truth, there might be plausible reasons for all of these situations:

  • The financial advisor has 8 kids and takes care of his parents (and knows that cars are lousy investments!)
  • The mechanic’s car has sentimental value and the mechanic keeps it despite its fundamental problems
  • The car is on loan from a friend while the F350 pickup truck is in the shop

But did you as the consumer know that? Would you have thought that? Or did you do what is natural in human nature and question their abilities? Chances are you would have.

That is why it’s important for us as business owners to take careful stock of our image. Are we perceived in the way that we want to be perceived? Are we projecting to the customer the value that we know we have?

If we aren’t, we need to correct this. Sometimes it costs money to do so. But we can’t ignore the problem because things are difficult. We have to take careful stock of what it costs us not to fix it (in terms of lost revenues, referrals, etc.) Tennis great Andre Agassi was famously cast in a commercial in which he stated “image is everything.” It’s not everything in business – since no amount of image polishing makes up for lack of quality or expertise – but an image that properly creates the desired impression and customer perception is certainly not an irrelevant afterthought either.

If you think this might be an area for improvement in your company give me a call so we can discuss what can be done.

Any accounting, business, or tax advice contained in this communication, including attachments and enclosures, is not intended as a thorough, in-depth analysis of specific issues, nor a substitute for a formal opinion, nor is it sufficient to avoid tax-related penalties.