Can this really be true?

We all know who the low-price leader is in retail.

We also know of a chain of Italian restaurants whose chefs are trained in a culinary school in Tuscany.

Also, it seems that every fast-food restaurant is using high-quality Angus beef in their burgers.

So what do these things have in common? They all have varying amounts of truth in the advertising statements. What do they also have in common? Those fantastic claims, regardless of the amount of truth, may not be in synch with the real product.

Who has the lowest prices?

As reported recently in CNN, retail consulting group Customer Growth Partners compared 35 branded products at Walmart and Target in several markets. I’m sure you can guess which store had the lowest prices. Do you think it was a long-shot? We know Walmart survives only because their prices are so much lower than the competition, right? Why else would anyone endure their indifferent sales staff, their unclean stores, the chaos of the People of Walmart?

The less-expensive retailer in the study was Target.

The advertising messages around Walmart have always focused on price. Their reputation illustrates them as a “cheap” company. But their prices are not much cheaper, or often the same or more than their competition. Meanwhile, the general opinion of Target is much higher. So it’s not really price that matters as much as reputation. Even though Target is an affordable place to shop, the average perception is that it’s higher class, and therefore more expensive.

But, they train their chefs in Tuscany?

Over 730 locations worldwide, and at nearly every one I’ve passed there is a line out the door. Olive Garden is everywhere, & no matter what crowd the name is uttered in, someone is sure to rave about their breadsticks. It’s amazing how gaga people will get over a spread of butter, and shaker of “parmesan.” But they have a culinary school in Tuscany, right? Well, according to one employee’s account, they do get a trip to Tuscany, but there’s not much in the way of culinary training. It’s a big chain restaurant, everything in the kitchen is frozen, bagged, canned, and entirely unlike anything freshly made by a chef. That’s what you get at the chains.

But, the chain has spent so much in advertising, and gives you basket after basket of those breadsticks to make sure the public has their name on your mind. Opinions on Olive Garden are as mixed as those on Walmart, but as long as they have their loyal customers, they’re winning the game.

What’s an Angus?

Last decade, “fine” steak houses told us all about their Angus beef steaks. Today, McDonalds & Burger King tell us their burgers are made from that same high quality beef. So am I getting the same meat in a $2.99 burger, as I get from a $40 steak? Angus is a cattle breed that’s been predominately used for beef production. While the drive-thru places probably are using beef from that specific cow, just slapping that name on doesn’t make it better. The Angus name was part of a PR campaign to convince us those cows were better. There is a very specific designation, Certified Angus Beef, which has very high quality standards, and typically costs much more than other cuts of beef, but the name Angus alone convinces many consumers today that the drive-thru burger is something special. It’s not. It’s all in the name, and thus the psychology of that branding.

It’s all brand recognition. This doesn’t mean all advertisements are lies, but there are varying degrees of truth exercised by companies. It also illustrates the many different brands we are familiar with, and how they influence our decisions. From world locations, to cattle, everything has a brand. As long as those perceptions exist, the brands will continue to win customers, even if the truth isn’t entirely in the product. The danger is, once those brands start to erode, and we see beyond the breadsticks, it doesn’t take long for the public to move on to something better.

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