A Conflict of Two Branding Maxims

I’ve always been a conflicted person. Passionate on the inside, but reserved on the outside; Cautious in the long term, yet impulsive in the short.

Like anybody, I love a good aphorism or maxim. But what happens when two of your favorite maxims come into direct conflict?
Maxim #1: “Look before you leap.”
Maxim #2: “He who hesitates is lost.”

What should I do? Is there a compromise here? The corollary to #1 to make it more compatible with #2 would be: “But don’t look too long.” The corollary to #2 to make it more compatible with #1 would be: “But if you’re you’re near a cliff, some hesitating and looking would be advised.”

With branding, the warning against leaping without looking is a serious one. Critical mistakes are made when making changes just for the sake of change. The warning against hesitating is a warning to avoid “paralysis by analysis.”

Many consumers probably don’t notice that packaging “refresh” design campaigns happen all the time these days. For instance, without thinking, guess which of these two packages is the “old” and which is the “new.”

To combine the two maxims in a less-absolute, more reasonable fashion, one might say: “He who hesitates is lost, but take a quick, deep look before you leap.” When to revitalize branding and packaging is a critical business decision that should be analyzed through many lenses. This takes time and discipline—and patience.

Of course, product or packaging innovation that creates new value requires a leap of faith. Finally, getting it done in the real world requires management and political skills.

Here’s a list of things to consider when revitalizing package designs that I put together for Packaging World magazine. This article was pulled from a series of “Playbooks” I wrote and edited that came out in April 2013. Check out the “Package Development,” “Labeling,” and “Flexible Packaging” editions for more brand development tips from yours truly.