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A Sustainable Design Blog

The Danger of Outside Opinions

by Jennifer Stewart | Jan 3, 2012 | AdviceBranding

When given design concepts to chose from, many of our clients have made the mistake of asking “someone whose opinion they trust”. However, trusting a person’s opinion about how good you looked in your new jacket does not necessarily qualify them to make decisions about your business. How you brand your company is, after all, a business decision. So if you must get an opinion about your branding, it’s important to ask a person who already knows what your company provides, what it stands for, and who is its audience. And to ask it in the right way.

Some may argue that outside opinion is important, especially when you have a product that is sold to all consumers. I submit to those arguers this now famous quote by Steve Jobs “...people don't know what they want until you show it to them”. Don’t you think the fathers of the founders of Google regretted paying for their kids education when they named their company Google? Don’t you think the owners of Starbucks had friends telling them that mermaids and the color green had nothing to do with coffee?

No offence to your Auntie Nora, but in most cases the opinions of your friends and family suck and so it’s on you to know what is the best representation of your company. And if your brand represents your company well, then it will reach its intended audience. All of this being said, I know that there are many people who cannot make a choice alone. So if you must get input from another person to make a decision, follow these steps:

  1. Explain that you are not asking for a personal opinion, but an educated guess. If you’re asking the right person, they should be able to turn off their personal biases and approach your question pragmatically.
  2. Then explain what you want your logo/package/website/etc to communicate to the audience. No one will visit your website or see your logo without some context, so don't ask for a pop quiz style opinion ("Tell me everything that comes to mind when you see THIS!"). Give some context.
  3. Show the person only one concept, your favorite. Giving choices weakens a person’s ability to choose. This is why a Chinese restaurant menu can put some people in a cold sweat.
  4. Ask if they think this particular concept conveys what you have described. If you are satisfied with their answer, don’t show them any other concepts. They just validated your choice and there’s no reason to confuse both of you. Only show further concepts if they say that they aren’t getting it. And if you want to show them more concepts because you think they’re just trying to please you, then you’ve asked the wrong person.

In most cases, it’s safe to trust your own instincts about what is the right choice. If you are creating a product or service that you yourself would like to have, then you are, in a way, the intended audience. In which case, what communicates to you will attract people like you. So if you can do it, be brave and make the decision on your own. After all, only brave people should start their own business!

Jennifer Stewart is the Office Manager and wanna-be organizational psychologist at Modern Species. For more posts from her, click here.

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