Having recently been diagnosed with a cataract I can speak with some authority on visual impairment. “Through a glass darkly” is the perfect description of my visual capabilities at present, at least until the operation. It started me thinking about perceptual vision and how diagnostics work in a marketing sense.

The headline of this blog is a direct ‘pinch’ from the good old, New Testament book of Corinthians and its interpreted to mean, ‘humans have an imperfect perception of reality’. That’s also perfect for my story because so much of what marketing can do, hangs on seeing the challenge with a very clear focus. Get it wrong and the imperfect perception becomes an imperfect reality

I’ve sat in thousands of meetings listening to clients tell me they don’t know which of their advertising works and which doesn’t. I can tell them here and now, the bits that don’t work are the bits they see ‘through a glass darkly’.

It’s all about diagnostics and separating the symptoms from the causes – but wait, there’s more as they say in the Demtel ad. It’s about DISHONESTY. That’s right, lies – not little white ones – big lies – huge lies, lies that lead everyone to wrong conclusions.

When I first noticed that the vision in my left eye was something close to viewing life through a frosted shower glass, I immediately and dishonestly, blamed my glasses. “You pay the highest price for something to improve your vision and what do you get – vision through a stained glass window”, I remember moaning to my wife. So with less than perfect vision and an imperfect perception I laid storm to the optician complaining that after six months the binoculars he’d prescribed had become a telescope. “Just fix my specs”, I begged, but no, he performed the usual eye tests (after all it’s his value adding process isn’t it?) and while I was sitting there considering how to fix this rip off, he broke the news. It was me, my eyes, no one else just an older me with 10-20 vision and a cataract. After the honesty set in, I began to think of all the clients who came into my office with marketing cataracts, as dishonest as me and unprepared to accept the truth.

One thing I never do is underestimate other business people, so I don’t really think I need to further paint a picture of the inglorious truth, so in polite conclusion let me offer a further insight into my experience. I didn’t even think of a second opinion but others might and then it struck me – how many of my clients have waddled off for a second opinion? Most of them, me thinks! But that is not my complaint, it’s more about who gave that second opinion. I could have gone down to my mate whose a physio, or a client whose a surveyor. “Take a look at my eye, some optician has told me I’ve a cataract and it’s going to cost me heaps to fix, what do you think?” Unrealistic? Not so.
After dishonesty comes denial and in the case of marketing it’s just a matter of finding someone, usually someone familiar but unqualified, to agree and confirm your own truth. Blindness is not a pretty state but when you’ve got two perfectly good eyes and you want to cover them, don’t be surprised if you fall down a hole.

I decided that my best hope is to admit my own eye failure and ask someone who knows more about it than me to work on fixing it. The op’s in April – I’ll see you then!