Take your brand idea for a test-drive (Brand Vision, Part 6)

This is the 6th taster from the brand vision book, and looks at how vision projects can benefit getting brand teams to ‘think less, and do more’. (BTW, is anyone looking at the book on Amazon, or are you just thinking, "great, if he keeps going like this I won’t need to buy the book"?! ;-))

Brand vision and positioning work can easily get bogged down in ‘pyramid polishing’: hours, days or weeks spent arguing about the exact wording in the brand pyramid/onion/flying saucer (check out this painfully funny cartoon on this). This intellectual introspection is prolonged by the utterly futile attempt to then explore ‘positioning concepts’, that try to get a new brand idea across via a written concept, and a few pictures from Getty Images. I tried this for a decade or so, and it doesn’t work. The typical conversation from a focus group is:
Consumer: "I don’t like you advert"
Moderator: "Its not an advert (stupid). Its a concept.
Consumer: "What’s a concept?"

An alternative that’s not perfect, but is better, is to work on creating a ‘prototype mix’ that brings to life the positioning direction(s). Design and identity stuff works well, as does innovation ideas. If you have the right agency, you can even create some comms ideas. This approach has several benefits:
1. You bring the brand idea to life for consumers
2. You bring the idea to life for your team
3. You "test-drive" the idea…to me, what the creatives think of a brand idea is as or even more important than what a few focus groups tell you
4. With a bit of luck, at the end of the project you get not just a positioning, but also a prototype mix

This process is shown below, along with an example of using design to bring to life 3 different positioning directions for a Hungarian dairy brand called Milli:

Picture_8_3  Picture_1_3

Any other good/bad experience of exploring brand positioning/vision directions? And is the whole idea of vision exploration a good idea, of should brand teams just have the confidence of their convictions and go for it without any research at all?