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Pleasing all the people all the time

Pleasing the target audience

By Græme Gordon, Executive Director, Praxity

“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” Or so said the fifteenth-century monk and poet, John Lydgate. Abe Lincoln is reputed to have used a similar saying, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time…”

And while I personally suspect both are true, it is John Lydgate’s quote that has been very prominent in my thoughts of late.

Almost a year ago, Praxity’s Board reviewed the Alliance’s first ten years. Given Praxity was now offering considerably more support to member firms, in a significantly changed environment, the Board made a number of key strategic decisions, including that it was time for a re-branding.

Now, when you talk about re-branding, many people think you simply mean a change of logo. Not true. The visual identity, including the logo, should be one of the last aspects of a re-brand.

A true branding exercise starts with an in-depth discussion to establish exactly who is the key ‘target' of the brand. This is not primarily the company’s employees, nor its suppliers. It’s certainly not its branding consultants or the individual Board members. In our case it wasn’t even our member firms, although their goodwill is paramount. No, in our case it is the clients and prospects of our independent member firms. Unusually, therefore, we are at least one removed from the target.

What do you wish to convey to this target? What is your company’s purpose and values for this target audience? What impression do you want the target to take from your branding? This is where you start. By distilling these essential facts at the beginning, you can move on to decide how to convey the facts convincingly – whether consciously or subconsciously.

Next you need to encapsulate this in words.

At which point, John Lydgate rears up to remind you of your own fallibility and of your targets’ lack of homogeneity.

Not only can you not please all ‘the people’ all the time, but you won’t please ‘the target audience’ all the time either.

So my (questionable) scholarship derived from this exercise, which we have yet to finish, is that once you have defined and agreed what you wish to convey to the target, always have in mind an imaginary composite representative of that audience. When you are discussing differing routes in the rebranding process, you can then consider what your imagined target would say, or how they would react. It helps if you can actually get together with a small group of real people who are either part of your target audience, or familiar with them, to use as a focus group to test your thoughts.

I believe that this is the best way not only to “please most of the (key) people most of the time”, but also to remain moderately sane at the end of the process.