I'll start with an apology. A reader contacted me about an inaccuracy in my Know Your Audience, and Reach It column. The Chevy Nova anecdote I included is a myth. First, many thanks to the reader who pointed my mistake out to me. Making mistakes is so important to me that NextStage references mistake making in our Company Principles 6, 7 and 22.
Myths play a very important role in society. Businesses need to understand how myths apply to marketing and branding. You see, those businesses that can take a myth they didn't start and use it for their own purposes are ahead of the game. A recent example is Target's Parlez vous Paul & Joe TV spots. I've heard people refer to Target negatively as "Targèt" for several years now. Congratulations to Target's marketing department for taking a negative and making hay with it!
The question remains though, how come myths persist in the face of evidence to the contrary? The answer is because myths are truer than the truth...
- Myths are true if everyone believes they're true
The reader's email arrived during a discussion of cultural marketing with several individuals at NextStage's Mississauga, ON, offices. During a break, I asked if anyone knew the Chevy Nova story. Two-thirds thought the story true, one-third hadn't heard the story and most im-portantly no one knew the story was false. That surprised me, as there was about forty years of marketing experience in the room. Those who hadn't heard the story chuckled when they heard it because it so obviously had to be true. It was the type of mistake a big U.S. car company was likely to make. Though it is indeed a false story, what rings true is that, as Progress Software's Laureen Martel once told me, "perception is reality."
- Myths are true if no one wants to know they're not true
I've met executives who openly admitted they wouldn't accept results that didn't fit with their present beliefs. Eric Peterson, Visual Sciences' vice president of strategic services and author of several books on web analytics, and I exchanged notes on this phenomenon for his up-coming Emetrics Summit presentation. We've both witnessed in-stances in which it didn't matter that the data was well documented and externally validated-- all that mattered was that it didn't fit with what management chose to believe, therefore the data was not true and their myths were.
Next: Facts about myths, and how to leverage them.