My daughter's new bike

Buying a new bike: Perception is reality

Paul Green Content, getting new clients, increasing profit

Crisis. My 6-year-old daughter needed a new bike. And the only one she liked was sold exclusively in Toys R Us.

It took some time to get her to look at this one. For ages, she wouldn’t consider any bike unless it came with a free soft toy, after spotting a promotion for a free monkey.

But eventually, she settled on this Day-Glo beauty:

Here’s why this was a crisis. I have lots of skills and talents in life. But building and repairing bikes (or any machinery) is not one of them.

So when I need something doing, I’m very happy to pay someone else to do it for me.

To me, a new bike must come from Halfords, or an independent shop that only sells bikes. Because that’s what they do. In my head they’re the experts.

Toys R Us… well, it’s a big toy shop.

So we bought the bike, paid an extra £5 for the building service, and went to the collection counter.

The girl brought out a flat pack box. “Er, we paid for the build service,” I said.

“Did you?” she replied. “Oh, well we can’t do that today. You’ll have to come back tomorrow.”

“What time tomorrow,” I asked.

“Whenever, really. I’m sure someone will build it in the morning,” she said.

Now there’s a sentence to fill you with fear. Someone will build it in the morning. Not a bicycle build specialist. Just… someone.

I pressed to have the build booked in at a specific time, and 24 hours later we picked up the built bike. According to the checklist I was given, a number of different items had been checked by the builder and again by a supervisor.

So we were quite surprised when the front wheel seized up just 20 minutes later, while my daughter was trying to cycle around one of Milton Keynes’ many lakes.

Back to Toys R Us – the front brakes hadn’t been fitted properly.

15 minutes later, the bike was working properly. And I had sworn internally that I would never let my daughter even see Toys R Us bikes again.

There’s a marketing lesson in this

Toys R Us probably has exactly the same building process as Halfords. With the same kind of staff. And maybe mis-adjusted brakes is just something that happens now and again.

But in marketing, it’s never about reality. It’s about perception.

My perception is that Halfords are experts and do a better job.

That perception is a feeling, not a cognitive thought. And it will have a surprising amount of power over me in the future.

Interestingly, when people are driven by powerful perceptions, price becomes less of a factor. I would happily pay £20 for Halfords to build a bike in future.

Paint a picture of being the perceived expert, and price becomes A factor, not THE factor.