“What do you think of my new website?” He asks. “It’s nice, but from a branding perspective it doesn’t coincide with your brand. Your website doesn’t scream business success. At first glance it looks like you are an R&B singer promoting your latest album. Until I scroll down and continue reading, I’m not positive about what you do.” I respond. He immediately went into defense mode and began explaining why he chose that particular layout, pictures and colors. He ended his dissertation with, “well everyone else like it.” I didn’t understand why I appeared as an enemy because my advice was contrary to the popular opinion, even though I never said I didn’t like it. I gave my critique as a brand architect.
This interaction is more common than you might believe and contributes to more branding catastrophes than you can imagine. Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of letting the opinions of their friends outweigh the advice of experts. Yes, friends should be trusted, but friends should not be looked to for branding advice, especially when branding is outside their realm of expertise.
Friends offer opinions which is based upon personal their preference, whereas advice is based upon education, experience and wisdom. By no means am I saying experts know it all. But, I am saying do not dismiss an expert opinion to rely on the personal preferences of friends which don’t have a clear understanding of your brand and/or business objectives. Something else to consider is your friends may not be within your target audience.
Your friends have good intentions, but generally speaking, if you’re happy, then your friends are happy, which means they aren’t looking through the lens of a consumer, or from an objective point of view. However, if the opinions of friends carry that much weight with you, asking the right questions is important to receive honest feedback. Keep in mind pretty, nice, and simply liking a design may not be what matters to your target audience. Rather than asking, do you like my website, flyer or other branding collateral? Give friends permission to be honest with you and ask questions similar to these instead:
·        What do you think or feel when you see my…. (Whatever you are presenting)?
·        Based on what you’re looking at, would you hire or buy from me, why?
·        What do you like least, why?
Don’t look at the feedback as criticism but a level of quality assurance. Did your friend’s answers align with your brand and branding objectives? If not, you may want to re-evaluate the design of your branding collateral to ensure that it will appeal to your target market. Your brand speaks when you’re not in the room; make sure the intended message is what is being conveyed.