It’s your organization, and ultimately, your risk – how you make brand choices is always up to you. But when it comes to testing brand concepts, Owen offers the following perspective:
THE DATA YOU GET BACK IS INHERENTLY FLAWED.
Why? well, in the testing construct (particularly when testing something as subjective as creative concepts) most of what you get back is what is wrong with an idea. This is because people really want to add value to the process – and saying, “wow, that’s great, you nailed it” does not allow people to feel like they’ve helped improved anything. Helping people fix something is a way to add value. And this is where people (bless their hearts, really) spend the bulk of their time and represents a disproportionate amount of the data you get back.
WHAT YOU DO WITH THE DATA MAY NOT BE PROPERLY PURPOSE-DRIVEN
What are the ramifications of asking opinions and potentially disregarding them? The potential political ramifications of the inclusion of others in the decision-making process can easily cloud the decision-making process.
LOGOS & BRAND /TAGLINES NEED TO BE FILLED WITH MEANING OVER TIME
I’ve never loved testing creative concepts that have a very, very broad communicative purpose. Logos and brand lines are intended to embody as much of “everything” about an organization as possible. As such it is very hard for a test group to specifically respond beyond the actual aesthetic of feeling that the logo or line conveys. And in testing (see above) that never feels like enough. Logos and brand lines can not be expected to be solving a super specific communication purpose other than to remind us who is being represented. As such, they are aways filled with meaning by the surrounding context (an, ad, sign, banner, website, etc) – and only take on broader meaning with the actions of an organization over time. The Coca Cola logo was designed by the bookkeeper for the pharmacist that invented the drink. He chose Spencer Script as the typeface because it was the dominate form of formal handwriting at the time and he thought it would “look good”. Of course, now the the Coca Cola logo is worth (literally) billions and has taken on much more meaning than that bookkeeper could have ever intended. So, again, beyond a basic reaction to aesthetic and emotional quality, there is not much more we can take from testing. Discussions and data from testing tends to narrow focus. When it comes to something that has to convey so much, narrowing goes towards the literal, and you end up with suggestions that skim the potential meaning for the sake of a literal understanding.
Additionally: There is no practical way in testing to simulate the real-wold experience of experiencing, seeing, reading a logo or brand/tag line repeatedly over time.
IF WE’VE CREATED THE RIGHT DECISION-MAKING CONSTRUCT, WE SHOULD BE ABLE TO MAKE THE RIGHT DECISON.
A big part of brand development is figuring out (and expressing) who you are, what makes you different, and why you do what you do. Having done that hard work, we should have an excellent decision-making framework for specific tactical executions. It might take some significant time reflecting on that criteria and measuring the work against it – but the answers – and best decisions are in there somewhere if take that time. Yes, it might inspire more questions and discussion – but that discussion will likely be more focused on making sure the criteria/framework is clear enough to make the right call.
NOT ALL SUBJECTIVE OPINIONS ARE CREATED EQUAL.
When you get into aesthetics things can really begin to feel loose. Aren’t we just talking about people’s preferences? And, if so, doesn’t that mean everyone’s opinion is valid or equally worthy? Hell no. If it is impossible for a logo or brand line to come completely filled with meaning upon creation and that what we need is something that is aesthetically and emotionally appropriate to begin to convey what is true about the meaning that you bring. If the creative team has done their homework and the design has solid aesthetic references, is clearly different than that of your competition, and has demonstrated that it will function (in context) then you already have a good part of the team of experts to help you make your choice. These people spend their entire professional day doing nothing but aesthetic research and decisions – considering trends, considering if something has aesthetic / emotional longevity and scalability, learning what is beautiful and what is not.
There are, of course, some caveats and/or mitigating factors to all of the above. They include:
WHE WE SAY “WE” IN REGARD TO MAKING BRAND DEVELOPMENT CHOICES WHO ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?
You need to feel good about your core branding components. If it doesn’t feel good and right internally, it will never be expressed with the vigor, honesty and love that it needs to be externally. When referring to “we” it must include enough internal people/constituents to make sure that it feels good. This, of course, must be balanced by the basic truth that communication is not like pizza – you can’t just add stuff to it and it gets tastier/better. Too many opinions, too many cooks – we all know what that means.
OBJECTIVITY DOES MATTER.
It is entirely possible for the creators, co-creators and collaborators to become myopic in the process. We do need to accommodate for this tendency with some form of outside validation.
In the end – it is the CEO’s decision to make. Owen will always have some favorites that we present that are worthy of the organization, and satisfies what we see are the decision-making criteria for the assignment. We will surely offer up our informed, though subjective opinion in that regard.
But we do so fully knowing that it is your choice to make.