Perception vs. Reality

Going through the blogs on the Fast Co site, I was particularly struck by the insights contained in a blog entitled: Fish on Friday: Two Dramatic Statistics Bracket Today’s Sweet & Sour Economy.

The writer, Charles Fishman explains:


“Earlier this week, Whole Foods Market, which runs the nation’s most entrancing and most expensive grocery stores, reported its quarter at $1.5 million in total profit.” Doing the math Mr. Fishman has figured out that those numbers, based on number stores etc….. deliver $6.40 an hour in profit, if the store is open 10 hours.”

And he goes on;

“Yes, Whole Foods’ quarter included some one-time charges, but the next time you’re in your local Whole Foods, pondering both the prices and the experience; remember that the whole place could be earning the company less than minimum wage. And if you spend enough, you could easily provide the profit for the hour.”

In the old school of the Design and Brand business it was often said – perception is reality. In other words, how something appeals to consumers will determine its success or failure just as much as how much it costs or performs.

In the new school of design thinking, there’s a shift: the consumer experience determines success or failure. Whole Foods is undeniably a great shopping experience. It is also sometimes referred to tongue in cheek as “Whole Paycheck”.

The fate of this canary will be interesting too watch with the turn in the U.S and Global economy. Will the mandate of design as consumer experience run into the re-emergence of Don Draper and his ilk? My guess is that the dip will pick off a few high flyers but that due to the way that consumers are informed today the shift is here to stay. One hopes a great experience like Whole Foods can ride the wave Also, on a larger note, that enough traction has been gained to encourage companies headed down the “Design is Consumer Experience” path to stay the course.


About the author

Mark Dziersk is Managing Director of LUNAR in Chicago. LUNAR is one of the world’s top strategic design, engineering and branding firms.