Makers of bread: Perception is almost everything ó Simon Thong
January 03, 2012
JAN 3 ó I eat nasi lemak as itís delicious but I avoid the ones that are too lemak. Nothing to do with who makes it, Malay or Chinese. I love the mee rebus and rojak that the Mamak sells at a Chinese coffeeshop. I havenít found any Chinese man who makes a better product.
Satay? A Chinese man in Ipoh Garden sells them at 50 sen each; each stick is the biggest you can get it. The Malay man sells them at 60 sen each and his satay is too sweet for me. I order satay on the basis of price and taste.
As for roti canai, the Mamak makes better roti canai thanÖwell, who else makes it? No one else that I know of.
Whatís my point? Itís simply that, like almost all Chinese who are Malaysians, I love good food and will frequent stalls and shops that offer good food regardless of whether the seller/owner is Malay, Indian, Chinese, Mamak or Australian. Yes, there is an Australian who makes extremely delicious pies. Heís married to a Chinese woman. We enjoy his pies once a fortnight.
When it comes to bread, I used to buy Gardenia white, not High 5. Gardenia was slightly better tasting. Eventually, I gave up on bread. White isnít healthy for me. However, recently, a new bread arrived, Massimo. At RM2.50, the loaf with wheat germ is good for my health, the cheapest and suits my taste-buds. My wife likes it, too. Thus, it is Massimo for us. High 5 lowered its price to RM2.80 today (January 2) but I still like the taste of High 5 the least of the three. If High 5 lowers its price to RM2.20, it wonít matter to me. Massimo tastes better.
I eat Massimo for two reasons: it has the lowest price and best taste. It has nothing to do with ownership or whether the firm is a crony company. If Massimo raises its price to RM3.50, I would have to consider Gardenia bread again. The price, as well as taste, is important.
Unfortunately, many people eat Massimo because it is the cheapest, most delicious and, in their belief, made by a Chinese-owned firm, not by a crony company. They boycott Gardenia because, in their perception, it is made by a crony company. Thatís what they have decided. They perceive things that way, and they act accordingly.
Which takes us to a very powerful statement, a sociological dictum: when people define a situation as real, it is real in its consequences. (W.I. Thomas, Polish sociologist)
No matter how the owners of Gardenia may attempt to project themselves as not a crony company, the definition of the situation of many bread-buyers/eaters is that it is a crony company. That perception is almost impossible to change.
My advice to Gardenia is not to waste money on adverts but to spend the money in a more worthwhile way: produce a better bread at a lower cost. Then, charge less, far less, than Massimo.
If Gardenia sells a more delicious loaf and at a lower price, they may just be able to get back some of the lost sales.
I, for one, would buy Gardenia.
* Simon Thong reads The Malaysian Insider.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.