I was speaking to a business leader recently about A/B testing for branding. (A/B testing is the process of coming up with two different communications assets to test with -mostly online – consumers, to see which performs better.)
“It would be so great,” he mused. “We could figure out what elements really resonate with our target audience and then build our brand according to what our customers want. What do you think?”
There’s a lot to love with A/B testing, particularly for marketing. It’s incredibly results-oriented, very accurate, promotes flexibility and rewards performance. In general, I like and advocate strongly for A/B testing when it comes to advertising, marketing content and the like. But.
You can’t A/B test brand.
Brand is about who your organization is and what you stand for. The exercise of branding addresses fundamental business questions, such as:
What are your values?
What’s your reason for being?
What do you promise every customer with every interaction?
What do you do extremely well that few can emulate?
Brand comes from within, not from your customer’s opinions.
Brand is your stake in the ground, what you promise your customers day-in and day-out, never vacillating or wavering in belief. It’s your North Star, around which product, development and marketing revolve. Brand is your company’s reputation, and you don’t A/B test your reputation and see what resonates better with your current customers… and then change it up in a few month’s time for someone new.
You don’t waiver on your principles, values, beliefs and business model.
Your business’ reputation is made up by a series of first impressions, and you only get one shot to make a first impression -> use it wisely. Develop it thoughtfully and strategically.
Brand is Your North Star
As an example, I was listening to a podcast recently with the CMO of Harley Davidson. Harley has been around for 116 years, and they have never wavered from their true brand purpose: to help people fulfill their dreams of personal freedom. They live into that brand purpose and promise in every brand touchpoint, in every piece of advertising, with every bike that comes off the assembly line. Everything they do goes through that filter: does this help fulfill dreams of personal freedom? And in staying true to that North Star, they have made (and continue to make) Harley into one of the most iconic brands in the world.
So when it comes to branding, it’s very much what your company stands for and what you deliver on. It can expand over time, but at its core it always has the same values and principles. Those can’t be agile; they can’t shift to accommodate certain customers and then shift to accommodate others. If you do this, you run the risk of standing for everything or anything – which means you stand for nothing.
Now, A/B testing for marketing? Absolutely. A new website, or online ad campaign, content, posts: go, go, go. But something as foundational as your brand should never be in the hands of an external source to determine. If you’ve got questions about this topic or branding in general, let’s connect and set up a time to chat.