Perceptual Value: Everyone’s unclaimed gold


Perceptual value is very real, although intangible. It has a relationship to intrinsic value, but is not necessarily married to it. so what THE HECK is it and why should i care?

We’ve all seen it, heard it, tasted it, and maybe have even dropped it into third gear just to feel “it” roar into life like a piece of highly-tuned, quality engineering. Many of the things, experiences, or people that we are attracted to and form satisfying relationships with have a good foundation in high perceptual value. Conversely the opposite holds true for things of low perceptual value; we often think less of such things and are happier without them.

Also known as perceived value, perceptual value is the quality of worth that we personally assign to something based on our own assumptions. For example, think of the difference between the bargain-basement, private label candy bar and it’s more-expensive counterpart, Godiva. Unless very savvy in the business of producing candy bars and having experience in drafting proformas for this type of industry we have no clue as to what the real production costs of a yummy and tasty candy bar to be. In our example, both brands of chocolate serve to satisfy a certain craving. Additionally, they are approximately the same size and weight. To the less-discerning eye, or palate, both are composed of the same “stuff” and only bear significant difference in price. Upon closer inspection, however, nothing could be further from the truth.

To begin with intention is a key differentiator. Intention then manifests itself into quality of experience; either a premium and more memorable one, or one of mediocrity. In the case of Godiva, this holds true in their package design, all the way to the ingredients that it’s composed of. The private-label version, however, exercises an entirely different mindset altogether. It’s raison d’être is “good enough,” which is basically a function of a volume-driven mentality. This would help explain why it’s version of the ingredient list, wrapper, and display often leave something to be desired; not to mention the overall taste and level of satisfaction. “Good enough” can certainly satisfy, but certainly does not reach the level of greatness that a premium experience can afford. Greatness, on the other hand, is something that people aspire to and thus bears certain inherent opportunities, if not responsibilities, like a higher price tag.

Speaking of price, we now turn to the opportunity of exercising a bit more conscious awareness over our own decisions that affect the perceptual value of the goods, services, and life experiences that we offer. Quality of experience and intention can represent our biggest growth opportunities. In business this can mean a greater sense of satisfaction and accomplishment toward the problems we solve, who we solve them for, and how we do it. Through it all we can choose to execute our undertakings with elegance and integrity to the highest level of fidelity that we can muster. This takes discipline and sincere dedication, but offers the trade-off of invoking a higher cost of doing business and thus reaping more to deliver more.

Although seeming like just another pesky marketing term, readying itself for marginalization, perceptual value holds significant worth. It not only influences our behavior patterns, as discerning human beings and consumers, but presents us with a sincere set of challenges and a mindset for those of us striving to bring something that we feel of great value into market.

Robert Charles Miller