Opinions about marketing materials are not necessarily equal

I spent a few years working for an advertising agency at which every logo design and brochure had to pass a painstaking critical analysis. At the end of the day, one of the partners put whatever had been created in his briefcase, brought it home, and showed it to his wife.

Not surprisingly, new members of the design team quickly realized Mrs. Partner preferred certain colors, formats, and typefaces. Nor would it surprise you that we produced a lot of work using those colors, formats, and typefaces. Mrs. Partner lacked any background in marketing or design and had never worked in any of the industries our clients served. Yet her opinion outranked those of all the agency’s professionals (including her husband).

Chuckling at the idea of a high-powered advertising executive basing important decisions about millions of dollars’ worth of client projects on Mrs. Partner’s personal likes and dislikes? Then ask yourself if you may be guilty of a similar approach with your own company’s materials and projects.

What do I mean by that? When you have to make a decision about a logo design, copy for some sales materials, or the graphics for your new website, do you show it to several people around the office or in your circle of colleagues “to get their opinions?” It’s a common practice, so you don’t have to be embarrassed.

However, I would ask you to consider three questions. First, is that small sample representative of your target audience? Second, are the factors that motivate them the same ones that appeal to your real customers? And finally, is that group’s consensus what drives your decisions?

Everyone has opinions, but that doesn’t mean that all of those opinions are of equal value or deserve the same amount of weight when considering a decision. If the people expressing those opinions have little understanding of the motivations driving your target audience’s decisions, their opinions border on worthless.

If you brought a business question to your attorney or CPA, you’d be likely to follow her advice. After all, you’re paying her fees because of her expertise, correct? She knows more about the issue than you would ever want to know, so you’ll to defer to her wisdom.

The professional graphic designers, writers, web wizards, and others who develop your marketing materials have similar levels of knowledge in their own fields. If they tell you a particular approach will be the most effective, they’re basing that opinion on their experience and expertise. Would you ask your cubicle neighbor or third cousin to second-guess your CPA on a tax matter? Then why would you let his taste in color override a designer’s professional recommendation?

It’s rarely a bad idea to ask for opinions when making critical decisions. But just be sure that the opinions you request are from those who really matter. If you want to know how your customers will react to color choices, ask some of them instead of asking the folks down the hall.

(Did employees ever raise objections to Mrs. Partner’s pronouncements? Sure, but those of us who had been around for a while knew exactly what Mr. Partner’s response would be: “That’s just your opinion … and your opinion is wrong!”)