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New: When is a Stylish Buchan Craftsman Home like Succulent Panko Encrusted St Peter’s Fish?

Posted on Mar 26, 2009


After an intense (and fun) Pickett Street Properties retreat, I needed a bit of mind-numbing TV. In my search for something to watch, I came across the Food Network show called “Food Detectives.” It’s a show that does experiments with food—sort of an Alton Brown meets MythBusters.

On the night of my respite, they did an experiment on food and how it tastes based on presentation and flowery descriptions. Two groups of diners were told they were going to be reviewing a new restaurant and after their meal they were given a survey to fill out.

The first set of diners’ menus said they would be having “Green Salad, Fish, Green Beans, Potatoes and Chocolate Cake.” They were sat at tables with plastic table cloths, served New Jersey red wine in plastic cups, and their meals were presented on rather dated plates.

The second set had “Crisp Mescluin Seasonal Greens, Succulent Panko encrusted St Peter’s Fish, Hericot Vert, Potatoes au Gratin and Belgium Double Chocolate Cake.” They were sat at tables lit by candelight and adorned with linen table cloths. They were served a red wine from Nappa valley and the meal was presented on a classic plate.

Did I mention that the food itself was from a warehouse store and aside from the presentation, the food was the same?

The hypothesis is that people will be biased based on expectations and will seek to verify their expectations. In other words, if you think it’s going to be crispy or succulent, you will look for that. While I anticipated the results would show the better presented food would be the “winner,” I was surprised at the  difference in perception.

Plain Jane customers rated the food on average at 3.5 (out of 10) and would pay an average of about $10 for the meal. Some of the people were interviewed on camera and the comments were very critical. One person even said that they couldn’t finish their meal.

The second group with the better fancier menu names and nicer presentations rated the food an average of an 8 and would pay $38 – nearly four times as much as the first group!! One of the interviewee’s said that the fish reminded her of her childhood and it brought back lots of fond memories of eating dinner with her mother. Same frozen fish – many very different opinions.

The same is true in real estate. A home sparingly adorned will be thought of simply and sell for less money – the same home, once staged by a professional, can change the entire experience for a potential buyer. The results from Food Detectives reinforce the Pickett Street Team’s belief that a home should be professionally photographed, staged and promoted with excellent marketing copy.

Successful marketing is no more than managing perception. Choosing a real estate agent that understands this can mean the difference between a frozen fish and a memory of mom. Perception is a powerful thing – if Food Detectives is any indication, it might be more powerful than reality itself.

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