ReThink, ReVise, ReConsider, Re-Vote, ReDuce…

What a fantastic experience it was in helping to judge the next crop of ReBrand 100 winners for 2007!Anyone who is familiar with Malcom Gladwell’s excellent book “Blink” is familiar with the way humans employ “rapid cognition” in order to process information in the blink of an eye. Essentially, the art of making the types of snap judgements that in some cases can help us to return a tennis serve coming at us in under a second or in other cases may prevent us from walking down the dark alley where the 3 seedy-looking guys are standing.One could argue that in the case of branding, this type of rapid cognition is on text-book display, as we make snap judgements while walking down the grocery store aisle, interacting with a bank teller or dropping into our favorite coffee spot for a cup o’ joe.

Everyone and every company has a brand. Good or bad. On purpose or by accident. We all have a brand. Sometimes it is interesting when you contrast the stated goal of a brand with its results. I mean, a brand message must be consistent with the experience one has when encountering all the various “touch points” by which they come in contact with the branded company, individual or product.It’s not enough for a grocery chain to brand itself based on a certain set of positive virtues, only to have this brilliant branding campaign and effort undermined by dirty stores, poor inventory and indifferent staff.Judging Brands and judging ReBrandsJudging a branding exercise is one thing. Judging a rebrand is certainly completely different. It’s so important to consider the transformation of the brand while stopping yourself from simply making a snap decision based on the final execution. In this way, perhaps the best-looking brand may not end up being one of the best rebrands simply because perhaps the previous branding was pretty good to begin with or perhaps the new branding effort did not represent a big difference in the brand perception, even though it certainly provided a new and improved visual language.As much as possible, I tried to keep this in mind when evaluating the 100 entries in front of us. What’s interesting though, and tie-ing back to some of the issues that Gladwell spoke about in “Blink”, is how we feel about projects one day later.When one is asked to read 100 case studies and judge 100 rebrand exercises in a matter of hours, one quickly learns that they must make snap judgements. Initially I had decided to withhold my votes for entries until after I had evaluated each one of them. After reviewing about 2 dozen entries — with many more to go — I realized that I knew within a relatively short period of time, whether or not I was going to vote for an entry or not. I made small notes about each entry and gave each my own little stars system, with 4 stars being the best and getting a vote and 1 star being the worst. Any entry that was on the fence or that I had not decided after reviewing all materials whether or not to give a vote to, got a favorable star rating but not a vote.That was day 1.Re-Evaluating and final voting.Here’s where it gets interesting. You make snap judgements on day 1. On day 2 you must deliberate and vote for the “best of” winners as well as the “distinction” winners. What’s interesting is how much our feelings and sentiments changed from day 1 to day 2. Entries you may have voted for or really liked while making a snap judgement, fell closer to the pack once you had to state your reasons for awarding them or making a decision to award one entry over another. The best example of this may be the fact that the entry that received the highest number of votes on day 1 was not one of the “best of” winners as a result of the deliberations on day 2.In “Blink”, Gladwell speaks about professional baseball players who describe how they can “see” certain details on a baseball — such as the rotation, path, etc — when they credit how they are able to be such successful hitters, despite the fact that doctors and scientists maintain that that the human eye cannot pickup those kinds of details in the lightening fast amount of time it takes for a baseball to travel from the pitcher’s hand to the batter.Something happens when we attempt to merge the left brain and the right brain. To explain actions or decisions made by the intuitive, random, subjective left brain in terms that are the province of the logical, analytical, objective right brain is to some degree an effort in futility. And at the same time, that’s what brands are all about!To what degree could someone ever rationally explain their love for Starbucks coffee? It’s certainly not the best coffee on the market in terms of taste. It’s definitely not the best value. But there is a way Starbucks lovers are made to feel by the experience of purchasing Starbucks coffee — or perhaps even just hanging out in the store — that they probably could never quantify.The problem is that the business world which pays for brand strategies is dominated by left brain people and most of us would not try to insert “to create that certain ‘je ne sais quoi'” into our stated objectives, even if we are French.Why do I love it today but not tomorrow? Why would I — or any judge — vote for something when we only have ourselves to answer for but not when we must answer to a room of other, respected design professionals, many of whom have flights to catch, emails to answer and lives to resume?It was interesting to see this struggle playing out in my own mind. It also complicates matters when the examples are so good and there are so many worthy parties.I will say, however, that I will make one promise coming out of this competition. We are currently re-doing our existing Cube Interactive website (long overdue but you know about the shoe-maker whose kids have no shoes) and I will definitely say that after reading some of the case studies that were submitted, I will go back through the text in our new site and remove any thing that remotely resembles corporate marketingspeak! Call me on it, too! If you see any words like “ignite”, “energize” or “excite” in our new site verbage when it launches, let me know and I’ll immediately remove them! ;-).chris{}

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