The Business of Belief

Quick Read: Every business that we know of can be said to be in the ‘business of belief’. While a majority of these business thrive on building and sustaining our beliefs, there are also ones that thrive on breaking down and challenging our beliefs. 

Arguably every business that we can think of can be said to be in the Business of Belief.

While most businesses that we see around can prove this point, RIEDEL glasses are a very straight forward example.

RIEDEL is an expensive line of glassware designed to deliver the wine’s ‘message’ via the carefully crafted form of the receptacle. In other words, Riedel has built a thriving business of glassware by driving a belief that the shape of their glasses can make wines test better!

Skeptical? The story goes that even experts and wine critics were – several of them skeptical of this seemingly implausible claim.

And yet today, hundreds of wine experts, and thousands of customers now swear it’s true. Taste tests throughout Europe and the U.S. were said to have proven time and again that wine — expensive or inexpensive — tasted better in Riedel glasses.

riedelo

Except it’s not true. At least not empirically. (source)

When subjected to double-blind testing that doesn’t let the taster know the shape of the glass, people found no detectable difference in taste between glasses. Objectively, the shape of the glass just doesn’t matter.

But subjectively, when belief in the story and the experience of the glass are added back in the mix, it matters. And the wine does taste better to these people. Today some Riedel glasses sell for more than 100 dollars each and people covet these over other lower priced glass ware!

Therefore, sensing a branding opportunity that is waiting to be leveraged, Coke has recently tied up with Riedel to come up with a glass that “is designed to enhance the drinking experience”. The Coke site goes on to explain..

Shaped by trial and error by a panel of industry experts and Coca-Cola lovers, this form captures the distinct spices, aroma, and taste of Coca-Cola and creates a magical sensorial experience… A unique glass for a taste like no other.

RIEDEL+Coke(Riedel + Coke, Source)

While this ‘glass act’ by Coke drew myriad views from the F&B industry, it nevertheless makes for an interesting commentary on Riedel as a company that has thrived by systematically building a business of belief.

Meanwhile elsewhere…

Interestingly there also exist businesses that build a following for precisely the opposite reason – by belying beliefs and tearing down expectations each single time they offer something to the consumer.

Take The Art of Dining – a business that sets up theme based pop up dining experiences – as an example.

As part of their model, Ellen Parr and Alice Hodge, put on theme-based pop up restaurants mostly in London. The venues – always unusual and unexpected – have so far included a 16th century mansion, an eel and pie shop, the Victorian Dalston Boys Club, and the army barracks on City Road while the themes range from wartime rationing to the Food of Love. The whole experience is like eating within an interactive art installation. Each of their dining event is thus an experience that belies conventional expectations and common beliefs on what is to come.

A Night With The Mistress(Themed as ‘A Night With The Mistress’, guests were required to put on a blind fold when they ate, Picture Source)

Their recent series called Say Cheese – the photography of Martin Parr in five courses, is the duo’s latest example on how they have cemented their expertise in their signature experiential model – Set up expectations, evoke the guests’ pre conditioned beliefs and pull the rug off their feet as they take the plunge. 

This is how it works:

  • You enter a typical English café setting: gingham table cloths, plastic flowers on the table, pictures of Lady Diana and Mrs Tatcher, copies of the Sun etc
  • The waiting staff are mostly English, wearing floral pinnies
  • And this is where it starts to get interesting -You don’t get a conventional menu, but a set of 5 photos by Martin Parr – the legendary photographer
  • And here is the twist: the food looks just like the images but tastes completely unlike what you expect.
  • For eg. An English tea cup is filled with a tea coloured liquid, poured from a tea pot, which turns out to be a delicious Tom Yam Soup. A doughnut is actually a South Indian savoury, made from lentils and served with a coconut chutney. And it goes on

Martin Parr(Each of the five courses saw Martin Parr’s pictures come to life in bizarrely unexpected ways. Compilation of pictures from here)

See the short video here to get an idea on the actual execution

Say Cheese! The World of Martin Parr in 5 Courses from GOLIGA on Vimeo.

This pop up experience was also offered in Tokyo in 2013 and as per Time Out Tokyo, the tickets costed  ¥12,000 per person, and were limited to 50 people per night. Food, it says, doesn’t get much more high-concept than this.

Now that’s a business that is actually built on belying beliefs!

(Featured Image, Of Wine Glasses and Beliefs. The Riedel Wine Glass Company Brochure, Source)

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9 thoughts on “The Business of Belief

  1. Good Article!!! Chaitanya.It’s like our Indian Hindu religious philosophy,if someone believes that “There is a GOD in stone,it is.” otherwise it’s only stone

  2. While the Riedel wine glass is a great example of consumer perception, I don’t think it should be overlooked that some businesses are making consumers believe in something that is true!

  3. Pingback: The Business of Belief | Ideas, Riffs And (Some) Noise On All Things Marketing. Branded | Eat, Love, Think

  4. When I was reading your article two things were coming in mind 1. Positioning book by Alries and Jack Trout and a TED video of Rory Sutherland http://www.ted.com/talks/rory_sutherland_life_lessons_from_an_ad_man in which he talks about how advertising creates magic by making perception in consumer minds. Do watch this video its all about perception like your article how it talk about belief. Btw a good insightful article. Added your blog in my subscription list from today 🙂

  5. Interestingly there also exist businesses that build a following for precisely the opposite reason – by belying beliefs and tearing down expectations each single time they offer something to the consumer.

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