We have three divisions: a sensational division, a mediocre division, and a rotten division. The sensational division is on the top floor … There aren’t too many clients who want to operate in that rarefied atmosphere. In the mediocre division, we have clients who compromise: Put in some sensational ingredients, some rotten ones, and you have the opportunity to do mediocre work. The rotten division is where the bulk of the work is — and the reason it’s rotten is that clients determine the product. (Herb Lubalin)
Most brand owners share the myopic inability to see their own brands. They’re too close to them to be able to see them clearly and to perceive them objectively from the perspectives of their prospects. Nevertheless, many brand owners resist the introduction of that kind of optical clarity or perspectival objectivity. When presented with the new, they try as they might to revert to the old. Is change really that fearsome?
Why is that objectivity perceived as threatening? It’s not just brands that are at stake. It’s work, reputations, and integrity. In theory, brand owners rely on others to ensure their brands are neither diluted nor diminished. But as Albert Einstein correctly observed, “In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they’re different.”
Would we tell contractors how to build our homes? Would we tell software developers how to develop applications? Would we tell manufacturers how to machine parts? Would we tell dentists how to drill and fill? No. It wouldn’t occur to us.
Nevertheless, we tell the people we hire to position and manage our brands, “Make that blue instead of green.” “Select another image.” “Choose another word. I don’t know that one.” “Move the navigation bar on the website” “Say solution instead of product.” Say innovation or disruption instead of change.” Why do we do that?
Have we done the research they have? Have we studied the usability and readability studies they have? Do we understand the implications of design, color, and symbolism as they do? Do we assess the market and audience behaviors as they do before they select a color, design a thing, or write a word?
No. We don’t. Nor should we.
If we’re going to hire brand consultants, we should trust them — and let them separate us from the herd.