What happened to plain, old reality?

Last night, one of us watched The HBO documentary, Fake Famous, and is chatting about it to another of us, who is is bleary-eyed from closely reviewing a telco-focused consumer perception survey. They are both at the coffee station, refuelling.

Its just another day at Bellwether.

Last night, one of us watched The HBO documentary, Fake Famous, and is chatting about it to another of us, who is is bleary-eyed from closely reviewing a telco-focused consumer perception survey. They are both at the coffee station, refuelling.

From this small interaction springs an existential debate.

Both the film and the research reveal – unsurprisingly and rather mundanely – that theres often a chasm between reality and perception. 

Fake Famous explores the perpetual question of chicken and egg. Where does influence come from? Is it attention first, influence second? Or is it first influence then followed by attention? There are plenty of examples of both. Does one formula carry more authenticity and credibility than the other? Does it depend? Does it matter?

The telco survey confirms that the brand trailing in perception doesnt deserve the lack of recognition. Scoring the lowest on some core attributes such as coverage, innovation, and product packages, this brand is equal to others on the first two attributes and leads on the third. Is the brand mis-communicating or are consumers misunderstanding? Does the brand act to correct its reality or its consumer’s perceptions? Does reality catch up to perception or does perception catch up to reality? Are these the same thing? Or shall the two never meet?

The questions of the documentary watcher and the survey surveyor then become one: what is real anymore?

Our very understanding of reality has changed. Whether its reality shows (less reality, more producer-massaged-drama-incubators), or social media platforms (where we curate personas that can be a mere 25% of who we really are), or the rise in mainstream The Matrix-inspired simulation theories (theres no such thing as reality, only sim-reality) or why influencers are the new celebrity (theyre real, but theyre not, but they are), most of us take reality with a grain of salt these days. 

There are so many qualifiers being used. Theres the virtual and the augmented kind.  

There are the air quotes we often use around the world when we say it. 

The current post-pandemic circumstances are dubbed the new normal most often, but just as much we hear of this new reality were living.

The current entertainment headlines about the Hulu-produced WeWork documentary all reference the start-ups distorted reality. Which of course is endemic of Northern Californias distorted reality field. Which created a myriad of leaders, some successful and some not, with an enhanced sense of reality.

Theres the old adage, perception is reality, which seems to be having yet another 15 minutes.

We – and perhaps its a generational thing – have become able to fully accept that not all reality is reality. We assume the divergence of reality and perception. But which side do we come out on then?

Psychologically speaking, we can begin to physiologically believe our own lies. Our brains can become less sensitised to the same lie repeated over and over, therefore, creating a reality out of perception.

Tell that to your smoke-and-mirror Influencers, says survey surveyor.

Fake-it-till-you-make-it is not the same as smoke-and-mirrors, answers documentary watcher. 

Well, there are benefits of sitting at the desk next to the coffee.

Bellwether Branding is a strategy-led brand consultancy that believes in asking questions and considering varying and opposing perspectives. Names have not been used to protect the two victims of eavesdropping. Did this scenario even happen? If it did, was it in real reality or an alternative type? The author will never tell.