Beware of subjectivity. It just might be limiting your brand's true potential.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What resonates with one person very well might not with another. We all have our own likes and dislikes. From favorite colors to the ways we choose to communicate with words. With branding it is important to seek input from potential constituents and as brand stewards, it can be challenging to completely remove our own preferences when making decisions. Subjectivity, however, can be the enemy of effective creativity. It must be weighed and balanced in a broader context. When any individual’s subjective opinion becomes an oppressive influence, often at the expense of other perspectives, you place your brand at unnecessary risk and often wind up with compromised solutions.

Sustaining clarity in the process of seeking constituent perspectives is not always an easy task. Whether it is through formal market research initiatives, conversations with thought leaders, or even internal discussions with colleagues, we are exposed to myriad views -- and we are ultimately responsible for assessing the value and importance of those views. The key is discerning between a person’s preferences and professional perspective. This is not to say that personal preferences do not matter, especially in cases where trends can be identified, but it can be a slippery slope when you are responding to preferences tied to particularly small numbers. A reactive pattern of behavior can contribute to erratic brand communication and muddled messaging.

It’s also critical to not succumb to your own biases. Having a personal distain for the way something is expressed can be difficult to admit and even more challenging to overcome. But if the very issue you are struggling with actually supports your brand and helps meet your business objectives, personal preference must be parked, and your brand’s integrity preserved.

Here are some guidelines to go by when evaluating brand communication.

Don’t confuse subjectivity with experience.

Afforded the opportunity, we should learn from our mistakes and successes. Experience should be a valued springboard for decision-making. The experience you harness should be based on fact and tangible results. The only word of caution is that experience in one situation or with one brand may not be applicable to another. This is why every brand scenario must be weighed on its own merits.

Make sure your brand is aligned with your business objectives.

Depending upon whose opinion you are asking, they may or may not have your business objectives in mind. Your brand must be aligned with your target audience’s needs, but that must be set into the context of what you are trying to accomplish from a commercial perspective. Although many times this can work in unison, there are times that you will need to make brand choices with an understanding of your objectives that may be immaterial to your audience.

Do not be afraid of taking responsible risks.

Weigh constituent beliefs, but discern what drives their decision making. Often the motivator to purchase or adopt a brand is not based on the nuances of personal preferences, but instead how persuasively a brand is presented as answering a particular need. Knowing this, it can be effective to take calculated risks and push the envelope. There are times when you can be more aggressive with brand communication. Catering to the lowest common denominator can cause you to leave opportunity on the table. So long as the communication is consistent with the brand, there is fluidity to communication. You’re continually contributing to your brand’s communication. It’s the bigger picture that’s set in stone.

Don’t force pieces together that don’t fit.

Sometimes, especially when it comes to creative testing of conceptual directions, you are left with feedback that is either contradictory or identifies components of each concept that resonated positively. Too frequently, the task at hand is to sweep the remaining pieces together and compose the most cogent composite. The problem with this approach is that if you developed conceptual directions for testing appropriately, they should all be distinct (never test different flavors of vanilla), and the pieces that garnered positive comments may simply not work well together. It’s best to identify your strongest direction and bolster it based on what will make it successful in its own right.

Weigh input more heavily than feedback.

You wouldn’t build a house and then ask an architect to evaluate it. Input can be infinitely more valuable than feedback. The reason is that it allows you to ascertain information without introducing creative that can cause immediate and visceral responses. Build the creative for your brand based on a solid foundation of feedback. Never build in a vacuum. Never turn a blind eye to input that you may personally disagree with. Information is power – especially as you establish your brand’s foundation.

Ultimately you want to achieve your brand’s full potential. It’s important to pay attention to voices that matter. But it’s most important to make sure that what you are hearing is rooted in the issues you are trying to assess and are not merely an observation or preference that is irrelevant. Maintain your brand’s integrity by advocating for meaningful input to base decisions upon. Balance that with your business objectives. Together, this should form the guideposts necessary to keep your brand on track and valued by your constituents.

by Jonathan D. Katz