Not everyone sees the same colors. Everyone is affected by each color differently. Each color has different meanings to different macro and micro-cultures.
Negative image equals negative impact; the challenge is finding someone who can objectively decipher it.
Top management, responsible boards, invested shareholders and caring donors understand the value of image, effective communications and solid branding; others live in denial, waiting until it's too late.
Who do you call when you need to analyze a message, a campaign, your corporate or institutional image, even a building or an urban space? Who can tell you how you are perceived by key stakeholders within or outside the organization? More importantly, who can help before you reach a critical threshold?
If you call a multi-disciplinary agency - an agency that might later create the new message - they may have a vested interest in guiding you down a given path. If you ask for an internal analysis, within the company, you cannot logically obtain an objective report.
Excess Noise principals are seasoned perception veterans. Unlike agencies that also offer creative, production or public relations services, we are analysts exclusively. We do not participate in concept or implementation. This, and our international, public-private, high-level experience is why you should hire us.
Most often, decision makers turn inwards for answers. Because they have a personal stake in the organization's success, they are not equipped to dissect it. Other decision makers turn to targets directly. This is useful and necessary but insufficient. Targets can only vaguely estimate their response to stimuli or provide feedback to specific questions. Can a consumer find the real source of their discontent? They may think they can, but usually they will point to the visible tip of the problem rather than its root cause.
Too often, decision makers wait until a crisis is upon them. By then, perception flash points are unpredictable forcing them to scrambe into crisis management mode to save the day.
Unlike crisis management firms, we prefer not to intervene ex post facto; we excel in pre facto analysis. Our strength lies in our ability to decipher signals that influence perception using a pre-dissemination methodology.
To better illustrate our method, let's see where we fit into your communications process and how we bring added value.
Let's review what we've just seen.
A decision maker initiates the message and sets the goals that will ultimately shape the message. The decision maker provides the means of execution (money, infrastructure, resources) and sets the communications, branding or image goals. Corporate managers, CEOs, senior government officials, property developers, academic deans and film executive producers are all examples of decision makers. Decision makers may or may not participate in the actual creation of the message; we believe it's a mistake but many do.
But undeniably, a decision maker's proprietary bias — she or he owns the process intimately — impedes decision makers from analyzing a message or image objectively; they have too much stake in its success.
A communicator, usually at the request of a decision maker, produces, creates, designs, writes or otherwise builds the message. Basically, the communicator manufactures the message. Art departments, advertising or PR agencies, spin doctors, campaign managers, urban planners, architects, writers, artists, teachers and film directors are all communicators. Theirs is an act of passionate imagination and, to an even greater extent than decision makers, communicators establish an intellectual and emotional bond to the message that invalidates objective criticism; clearly, a communicator cannot judge his or her own work.
An analyst — such as Excess Noise — free of attachment or vested interests conducts an objective analysis of the message. The analyst ensures that the communicator’s creation has met the decision maker’s goals by verifying that the message satisfies the four human filters: hardwiring, imprinting, interference and effect. The analyst also ascertains if the message uses the medium effectively, whether it is on trend, if it contains too much noise and several other criteria. Superior analysis critiques and validates messages dispassionately.
The fourth actor is the target who ultimately receives the message. While many would have once said that targets were passive recipients, it is now widely accepted that they are highly — even critically — influential in the generation of the message often providing instant feedback that impacts message and image creation in real time e.g. social media. As communicators adopt formal methodologies, those responsible for them rely more and more on proactive target feedback.
Many, hoping to save time and money or simply because they consider themselves qualified, still choose to initiate and create messages and manage their image alone, donning the roles of decision maker, communicator, analyst and even assuming target feedback interpretation without real inquiry. But as the number of actors decrease, as one chooses to become decision maker, communicator, analyst and one’s own source of feedback, so too does the probability of creating effective messages. Communications and Perception Analysis, and the participation of the four key players, improves the probability of generating messages that effectively meet objectives.
Clients wish to know what they 'get' as part of an analysis. To this end, we have dedicated a comprehensive answer to this and other analysis-related questions on our Frequently Asked Questions page.
Allow us, however, to show you a very simple example of the potential added value of analysis.
What you see below is the entrance to a luxury hotel in an American city. This hotel has about thirty floors, a convention space, a fitness center with pool and tennis courts and all the other amenities you would expect to find. Its clientele, from what we could see, is varied, it includes business people, vacationers and sports fans attending any of the several major league games in town. These travelers come from the four corners of the globe and from all walks of life but they do have one thing in common, they can afford this hotel and they likely come here to experience safety, comfort and elegance.
Which brings us to this lobby in the image below.
This will not be a comprehensive analysis. Our goal is simply to point out some of the more obvious mistakes that an analyst looks for. For starters, where is the reception? As it happens it is somewhere in that dark space towards the back. Note that there is also no signage pointing to the back. No wait, as you can see, there is a small 'REGISTRATION' sign below two screens on the totem towards the right. The sign is small, below two noisy billboard images, and it has no contrast. Suffice it to say, that upon entry, one turns right. You cannot see it in this photo, but on the right there is a bright food counter. So one turns right only to be told by a less than happy staff member, who must answer this question hundreds of times daily, that "no, this is not the reception," pointing away in the distance to what one assumes is the reception area. After another wrong turn, one finally stumbles upon it.
This is but one small element that is wrong in this space. Lighting is wrong. Look at the very bright spotlights over red sofas on the left. They are overly bright, to the point of irritation. Throughout the space, colors are uninspiring and without a theme.
As for the sound, the noise from the bar that is out of sight to the right is loud. The air conditioning is also loud; we measured it at approximately 85 db. The floor is of the slippery-when-wet variety. The elevators are hidden behind the mammoth column to the right meaning that people who come in headed for a conference on the second floor see neither a reception nor an elevator.
As for the furnishings, they are dissonant and make no statement. Case in point are the plants, seemingly placed there to just fill space.
In short, the perception upon entry to this luxury hotel is one of confusion and discomfort, not exactly what you would expect when you are paying hundreds of dollars for a room.
A trained Communications and Perception Analyst comes into a space like this and identifies hundreds of problems and while the analyst does not offer the solutions per se, they are usually self-evident.