Remember when U2 released their album for free via iTunes but it downloaded onto your phone whether you wanted it or not? A lot of fans were really stoked. There was also a lot of outrage.
It was an experiment, it was risky. And, because of that experience, everyone learned something new about what iPhone users are cool with or not. This isn’t the first time that U2 has stepped out of the box into uncertainty. When they released Joshua Tree in 1987, the band almost tried to halt production of the record with leads predicting its failure. Instead, it topped the charts.
Both of these stories involve a brand (band) that took a risk by launching out to collect the data along the way. Sometimes, there isn’t data until you jump into the experiment, collecting the data as you create and take the risk.
Being free to experiment with your brand while respecting the expectations of your consumer base is essential to growing and expanding your brand.
As Seth Godin says, “If you’re just obsessed with always doing what everyone else is doing because you’re afraid of someone saying, ‘You failed.’ Then you’re in really big trouble."
Take Google+ for example. Right now, Google is systematically going through and shutting down expired profile pages along with their Google+ photo service. It’s like Waffle CEO Wes Belden says, “Everybody is on Google+, but nobody is on Google+.” It was an experiment and we’re sure it provided some insightful data on social use, adoption rates and abandonment.
Which prompts the question: if it provided insightful data, does that make a project a failure?
Here’s the thing: the data and insights provided from “failure” can lend itself to benefiting the brand and everyone else in the field. Take screenwriting for example.
Walt Hickey asks, “What makes a screenplay good? What makes it bad? Are writers in certain genres at an advantage or disadvantage when it comes to certain elements like plot, premise and characters? And if so, how can we show this? All we need is a data set to draw from.”
The data set is developed from past successes and failures in film as well as contemporary trends to create a scoring system that allows for peer evaluations of scripts before a movie is produced.
Failure can be a good thing and experimenting is important. A lot of people preach authenticity in brand messaging and the freedom to fail, but when it comes to their own brands they leverage successes over failures and miss the opportunity to speak to the even greater success that the data of failure can lead to.