An increasing amount of advertising is being reviewed by technocrats who are brand illiterate. Brand literacy is a skill that can be learned, but some people simply cannot reach the parts other people can. One should never make these people the final judge of a proposal. Often they are the financial engineers or researchers in the company, that, rightly so, want to know why all this money is being spend, but often they do not understand communication nor branding. In the year 2015 one of the worst pieces of advertising was created with the aid of brain-scanners (beslist.nl). Of course, research is important and one can learn from it, but one should never make it the final judge.
A common mistake made by brand illiterate people is to take the type of person portrayed in the advertising too literal. They believe ‘what you see, is what you get’. But the brand personality can be ‘symbolic’, meaning many seemingly different people are able to relate to it.
According to a former CEO, Harley-Davidson ‘does not sell motorcycles. We sell 50 year old accountants the ability to wear black leather and ride through small towns frightening people.’ 50 is too old, but by the time Harley Davidson will portray accountants in the advertising, it will be dead.