In Testing

Some people are too clever for their own good, and often also too clever for their company’s branding.

Instead of using a branding agency the company’s head will gather the company’s sharpest minds for a brainstorming session. The memo will read: Company branding brainstorm, 10am Tuesday, be prompt, be creative.

Eager to please, each of the assembled wise guys (and girls) will want to show just how inventive and capable of out-of-the-box thinking they are. To be fair, there will probably be a mixed bag of ideas; some brilliant, some that need working on and some that are just desperately bad. What then follows, can only be described as the birth of a ‘Frankenlogo’, a monstrous compromise where bits and bobs of various concepts and ideas are bolted together.

To a degree it pleases, because it ticks a box for everyone in the room. They will each be able to proudly claim to have contributed to the genesis of their company’s brand image.

Unfortunately, the excited people around the table are the only ones who can make any sense of the hotchpotch. There is no central message, it is ambiguous, probably incomprehensible, which together form the basis of the biggest crime in branding: it has no identity.

Before we look at how to avoid this, remember that the nonsensical results that issue from this kind of brainstorming session are used for all kinds of marketing concepts.

David Ogilvy, one of the founders of effective advertising once said, ‘Nobody ever unveiled a statue of a committee’.  This was his witty way of saying that no great idea ever came from a group of people that are forced to be creative together. Compromises will be made and the impact will be dampened to the point where the result is ineffective. If by chance one person does have a tantalisingly daring and unique idea, there will always be a sober killjoy who feels duty-bound to point out the unacceptable risks of the daring and unique. He too will be proud that he thwarted the assassination of the company’s brand image.

So, back to the conglomerate fudge that has been expulsed from the loins of the brainstorming committee. How do you verify that this new-born brand identity will have its desired effect?
Enter our unsung hero, Fred – the dullest knife in the drawer – and only too happy to share his stupidity. Fred has a refreshingly direct vernacular, when he thinks it’s shite, he’ll say so.

It’s important that nobody from the committee is present to influence the sense or meaning of anything he perceives. What issues from Fred should be revered as 24-carat unadulterated simplicity.

Because Fred does not have the same cultural and social references as the brainstormers, if he interprets the brand image at all, the chances are that he’ll have a different take on it. And this could well be the exact opposite of that sought.

Like any marketing idea, your brand image should be tested on the intended audience, and in every conceivable context.

The beauty of Fred’s enlightenment is that it will unveil potential dangers faster than any other method.

1980’s Fred

Harry Enfield as George Whitebread (Fred) the new Creative Director.

Who needs Fred the most?

The champions of the incomprehensible compromise are entities whose everyday decision-making is conducted by a committee, such as councils, associations and governing bodies. Too clever for their branding, not clever enough to objectively judge it. Should’ve called Fred.

If you have an example of committee-built nonsensical logo or branding concept? We’d love to see it – they’re always good for a laugh!

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