When it comes to how they are judged, music critics have a lot of leeway. The genre “music criticism” is notoriously subjective. Music Critics can write just about anything they want—for who’s going to judge them? When Above your review is the magisterial banner of The New York Times, a music critic can sling high-sounding verbal mush and readers are expected to nod in appreciation—apparently.
As proof, consider this pronouncement from the Jan. 7th review of a visiting conductor of the New York Philharmonic. “This conductor doesn’t do breathlessness, and he could probably do with a little more liveliness. But when he avoids plainness, his judiciousness can seem very like maturity.”
Now, if we untangle this syntactical mess, we might interpret “could probably do with a little more liveliness” and “can seem very like maturity” as meaning “was boring and dull.” But NYT music critics don’t get paid for clarity. They are paid by the word—apparently.
What, then, is the purpose of a music review? Shouldn’t a critic give audiences, management and performers suggestions for improving the music? Shouldn’t our viewer advise specific changes of behavior? In this case, no one can derive any useful value from reading that the conductor “doesn’t do breathlessness.” Does this imply that conductors should “do breathlessness”? If so, how might they do so—via lung exercises?
In our field of brand strategy, there arise many opportunities to establish critical standards to guide future behavior. For example, client organizations and their advertisers like to identify a brand’s personality as inspiration for marketing and communications. You’ll never see “plainness” or “breathlessness” in a brand’s personality. But you are likely to see other terms of equal ambiguity.
To be useful, a brand personality profile cannot be a string of appealing words—like “quality”or “excellence.” These are not personality traits, just generally good things to have in life. A useful brand personality profile is distinctive, reasonably accurate, and motivating. It should shape how people in an organization communicate and interact with others.
In creating a personality profile, an organization can draw on a mix of 1) existing qualities rooted in history and culture, 2) descriptive qualities (who we are today), and 3) aspirational (how we intend to be in the future).
Above all, personality traits should guide, not just signal. They should inspire behavior, not admiration. They should leave you informed and equipped formediation. And yes, and everyone should understand what the heck your words mean because you are not being paid by the word but by the value of your ideas.(Stay tuned. Part II explores brand personality, development and use.)
Managing Partner, Brandsinger