The Dangers of Feedback - How Not to Brand a Business

'Designed by committee' is a phrase dripping with disdain. You'll certainly never hear it spoken with positive intent. Why so? Probably because it implies clashing objectives and heavy compromise, ultimately leading to a weaker outcome than would have been the case if a single, strong, holistic vision had prevailed.

This is just as true for brand identity as it is for any other discipline. Most professionals with a passing awareness of branding appreciate that a brand cannot be all things to all people, but what may not be so obvious is that this applies just as much to the development of brand identity as to its execution. Just as a brand that tries to appeal to every demographic will end up appealing to none of them, a brand identity that aims to appease various conflicting opinions within an organisation will be hamstrung by compromise before it even has a chance to enter the public consciousness. How can a brand speak to consumers with a single, confident voice if it's the product of many discordant voices? This is a typical challenge for identity professionals when developing a brand or conducting a rebranding exercise for a large corporation.

For smaller organisations, startups and sole traders, a similar challenge exists, albeit in a slightly different form. In these scenarios, it tends to be a single individual who has the final say regarding the brand identity, logo design, and other brand elements. This is a huge advantage, as this individual's own passion and vision will often form the core of the brand identity, and provide everyone involved in the project with a clear creative direction.

However, the responsibility of having the final say can often lead the decision maker to seek outside reassurance, in the form of feedback. This feedback could come from friends, family, colleagues or the general public, and can be extremely valuable if it's given due consideration in proportion to the relevance of the source. On the flip side, giving all of the sources equal weight, or giving undue weight to a single source, can have undesirable consequences.

An entrepreneur may value the opinion of a close friend, but if that friend isn't a member of the brand's target demographic then their opinion shouldn't be the catalyst for a complete change in the direction of a project, no matter how strongly or persuasively stated. A small business owner conducting a rebranding exercise may seek the opinion of some of their best customers, but if that means collecting feedback from 5 people then the results cannot be viewed as a representative sample. In both cases, the feedback may conflict with either the insights of brand identity professionals, or with the decision maker's own market knowledge and vision.

If such a conflict arises, the worst thing to do would be to let this outside feedback compromise the project. You may find, for example, that you've finally settled on the perfect name for a business or product, only to lose faith because one person, when asked for feedback, considered it to have an undesirable connotation that few (if any) consumers would realistically be likely to agree with. If that name was inherently tied to the mission, vision and values of the brand (as it should be) then some heavy compromise may be required to keep the project viable. Or you could go back to the drawing board - but you can always find an opinion that casts doubt on your approach if you look hard enough. Incorporate constructive feedback where you can, but if it's impossible to do so without weakening the brand identity then consider whether perhaps the cure may be more damaging than the disease.

Finally, remember that an effective brand identity is sensitive to the preconceptions of the public, but is also confident enough to challenge and reshape them. Ultimately, it's the brands that don't compromise that survive the court of consumer opinion.

If you'd like to work with me to develop an uncompromisingly superb brand identity for your business or product, get in touch with Brandsworth for a FREE consultation.