“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”


You’re about to build a brand. Now, most brand builders consider themselves artists. This is a problem, because:

Artists don’t test the assumptions underneath their work.

They hate contaminating their art with rigid thought. And of course. Because who wants their creative vision sullied?

Yet you are more like a mason.

Because as you build your brand, you are confronted with some choices:

Do we target segment A or B? (Brand Strategy)

Do we paint our product red or green? (Brand Identity)

Do we hide the menu on our website’s landing pages? (Brand Experience)

To make each choice you need assumptions.

Based on your assumptions, you choose segment A, a green product and landing pages without menus.

Your assumptions might be true. But they also might not be.

For even a demi-god with broad experience and great ability (thank you) is not all-knowing.

You – however – don’t even represent your average customer. This means your assumptions might be (1) slightly off or (2) flat-out wrong. Now danger lurks, for:

Bad choices are built on bad assumptions.

Since bad choices come with frustration, career damage and/or debt, we want to avoid them if possible.

So assume only this: You know nothing.

Don’t assume segment A is better. You don’t know. Don’t assume people prefer green. You don’t know.

Don’t assume landing pages without menus convert better. You don’t know.

Socrates and his philosopher buddies agreed that to “think you are wise when you are not” 3    is an obstacle to knowledge, because:

No-one seeks to know what he thinks he already knows.

So assume nothing. Test each assumption along the way.

This can seem like more work. But it isn’t. Because you spend less time re- doing things.

Yet there’s a painful price to testing assumptions. You risk your ego. Your ideas might be proven wrong, and that hurts.

Now your ego will always seduce you to go with your gut. And why not? You are brilliant. Why not just roll with it? You can always rework it later?

Yet the only alternative to testing assumptions is trial-and-error.

You build a brand, the market refuses it, you try a different brand.

This can be very labor-intensive. Especially if your mistakes concern Brand Strategy, the fundament underneath your other efforts.

After all, you can easily rework a landing page, but choosing a new market segment? You’ll have to start over.

You see: trial-and-error is not suited for defining Brand Strategy or Brand Identity.

However, you can experiment with pieces of your Brand Experience. There, we even have a name for it: A/B testing. (More on that later.)

So keep that ego in check. Test your assumptions. Measure like a mason.

Then how should you go about this? Great question.

The Brand Building Pyramid’s steps each come with their own testing methods. I will discuss them in the following chapters.

Use them to build a solid Brand Strategy, Identity, and Experience.

Don’t bother with market research firms.

They do not ask the questions that matter.

Instead, they produce mountains of irrelevant data and analysis. Why? Because the fools hiring them interpret glut as hard work.

Only let other people handle your market research if you (1) have excess money, (2) could use a pawn to sacrifice if your brand fails or (3) need fuel for that fireplace in your beach house.

For now, I’ll assume none of these apply. So instead, start with what growth hackers call “rapid experimentation” and rigorously test every element of your brand.

As the American engineer Edwards Deming said:

“In God we trust. All others must bring data.”