Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit for emphasis. Again. :-)
But there is a situation where trying to stay on brand and portray one perfect image to the world can keep you out of step with the top performers and behind the curve on modern marketing.
You see, I don’t know if you realize this or not… but there has been a huge paradigm shift in marketing that started back in 2002…
(Really earlier than that, with Claude C. Hopkins back in the 1930’s, but it wasn’t really possible for everyone to adopt it until the Internet and Google and conversion code and split-testing…)
Over the last 15 years, we’ve really and truly entered The Era of Scientific Marketing.
Here’s what we do now:
- Test your ads to find the best performer…
- Test your landing pages to find the highest converter…
- Test your images and copywriting to see what drives the most action…
- Test your blog post headlines to see what gets clicked and shared the most…
- Test your email subject lines to see what gets opened the most…
- Test your company logo or crowdsource it to get one people like more..
- Could we even test your COMPANY NAME?
WHOA. How far do we want to take this?
- How big of a customer response do you want?
- How big do you want your profits to be?
- How big do you want your company to grow?
I guess that’s up to you.
Are You Handcuffed By Your Brand?
The bigger company you are, the bigger chance there is you have this big book of Brand Guidelines…
Oh, no… RULES!
- These are our colors!
- This is our font!
- This is our spacing!
- Don’t do this or that EVER!
- Always do this!
- OR YOU WILL DESTROY OUR COMPANY!!!
- AND PROBABLY BE FIRED!!!
Ok. Brands are valuable. They’re important.
So, what is all that rigid brand guideline stuff based on?
I mean, look at Google… their visual brand is so flexible that they can change their logo every day, right?
They actually have a thing called Doodles where they change their logo for holidays and sometimes make them interactive.
So if your brand guidelines are super-specific and super-rigid, where did all that come from?
- Some designer gave the executive team a bunch of choices…
- Probably accompanied by fancy sounding rationales to justify why these were great brand choices (“red symbolizes your corporate value of innovation and grabs attention” or “blue is reassuring” or “this font creates authority” or “this font is elegant”), whether or not those things enter the mind of the consumer AT ALL when they see the brand stuff or not, and…
- The executive team chose the ones they liked the best, thereby becoming personally invested in the choice…
Was the customer ever consulted?
Maybe, via focus groups- that or some other flawed process where you may have been led to believe these branding decisions were great ones.
Maybe they were. Maybe they weren’t.
But now the brand guidelines are handcuffs. They’re gospel. Inviolable.
Because you have personally invested yourself in them.
They’re part of your identity, and your creative team’s identity. You think they’re who you are.
BUT they keep you from testing more stuff.
And that, in the Era of Scientific Marketing, is A Very Bad Thing.
“But Brian, why would I want to test other things?”
To let the customer decide.
Let the customer SHOW YOU which one makes them want to BUY the most.
That’s how you get better results.
Would you be open to letting your customer guide your branding decisions, even just a little bit, if that increased your profits?
ALSO READ (+VIDEO): The More You Test The More Likely You Win
Ok, let’s put all that aside and let’s say we decide to stick with your current BRAND HANDCUFFS…
We select a whole bunch of ad images and write a bunch of copy that fits your brand…
We have to overcome this problem:
Having Enough Creative Ideas to Test If You Want to Discover the Outlier Performer That Creates Awesome Results
We need to come out of the creative process with enough images to let customers choose, so that we can find:
- Higher click through rates
- Higher conversion rates
- Lower cost per actions
So if we send you 20 images, and you approve 10, out of that maybe 3 will perform great based on customer behavior. The CPA will be lower.
But if you only approve two of those images, because you’re thinking about your BRAND, then chances are the best performers from those two won’t be as good as the best performers from testing 10, and CPA won’t be as low.
The more stuff you test, the bigger chance you find a really amazing one.
NO ONE Knows What Customers Will Choose
There’s an unpredictability to which things customers prefer.
The research says that even great marketers with 15+ years of experience don’t get better at accurately predicting which things customers will choose.
And that’s really crazy. In the real world, there is no Don Draper that always has one genius idea every every week that saves the day. That makes good TV but that’s not how it works. Some of our agency friends wish that’s how it worked, and want to win awards for it working that way, but the only thing that comes close is Superbowl TV commercial world, and that’s not the everyday digital world… that’s not the arena most companies need to win in. Most of the Fortune 500 don’t even advertise at that level, let alone the millions of other businesses.
Even our most genius film-makers have made some bad movies. And those are projects they get to work on for years with teams of hundreds of people. We’re talking about what a few people creating a few ads should do.
All we can do to ensure better results is get better at testing… and to hedge your bets, you have to test more stuff. It’s the best way to avoid mediocre results.
So we have to go out with as much diversity in our creative as possible if we want to find the awesome performer and get low CPA’s.
We can achieve that by sending you a lot more images, or by you approving more :-)
But we need to stay on brand too…
And that’s the tight-rope we walk as scientific, results-focused digital marketers in a brand-oriented world.
Brian Carter is a popular business expert and keynote speaker with Fortune 500 clients like NBC, Microsoft and Humana as well as small businesses. He delivers motivational keynotes with practical takeaways with the comedic flair of his stand up comedy background. His agency, The Brian Carter Group, creates marketing that excites customers and increases brand visibility, sales and loyalty. Brian is a bestselling author you’ve probably seen on Bloomberg TV or in Inc, Entrepreneur, The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times. He has over 250,000 online fans and reaches over 3 million people per year.