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Selective Perception: What I, You, and They saw in the Rajdeep-Sania Q&A

A week ago social media was inundated with news of how News anchor Rajdeep Sardesai was put in his place by Sania Mirza, India's tennis ace. Most of the people and media outfits putting up the video exchange were those exulting in Rajdeep facing a blowback at the hands of tenacious lady celebrity.

Intrigued, I watched the video myself. Indeed, the anchor had asked a prejudiced question, and the tennis ace had responded with elan. What I also saw was a chastened Rajdeep apologizing for his question. To me that was admirable. A man, realizing his mistake apologized immediately on national TV. Even Sania welcomed the apology. It took guts and grace on Rajdeep's part to do that. However what was interesting in the social media brouhaha was that there was zero mention of the apology by the exultant many who were putting up the encounter on social media.

Its easy to see why the reveling people did that. They hate Rajdeep and his liberal positions. Switch to consumer psychology theory and the explanation is something marketers can learn from. When people encounter stimuli they engage in what is called 'selective perception', that is, they only tune into content that's in line with their expectations and motives. The people who hate Rajdeep are looking to see him get belittled and humiliated. When that opportunity comes along they practice selective exposure to stimuli, and put up perceptual defenses. That is, they take in what they want and drop what they find contrary to their motives.

In the arena of  marketing stimuli, brands must worry about how consumers form perceptions. Expecting objective reading by the consumer of any brand's marketplace stimuli is foolhardy. To craft the right perceptions, brands must decipher consumer psyches, and engage with communication content that form intended perceptions, and then persuades.

For brands, at times if that means playing into your target consumers' prejudices, so be it! 


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