ISO has published a new standard on “brand evaluation,” numbered ISO 20671:2019. The thrust of the standard is to define (presumably “standardized”) methods of evaluating brands periodically, with the intent of understanding how brands are viewed, and then improving them over time.

The new standard was developed by TC 279 and chaired by Bobby Calder, marketing professor of Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. China — of course — has its hands in the pot, acting as Secretariat for the TC, in yet another example of just how willing ISO is to hand over eventual control of all things standards-related.

The standard itself is a dull slog, presenting yet another continuous cycle “model,” complete with inputs and outputs and lots of arrows. The rough takeaway is that brand owners should first conduct various methods of brand “evaluation” to determine how the brand is being perceived and how it is performing, and then brand “valuation” to measure the success of the brand against financial measures. Marketing and branding pros will recognize some of the words in the standards, but only some. This is professorial, leather-elbow stuff, and will be over the heads of the people who probably need to use the standard the most.

Also as usual, the standard is largely fluff, intended to pad the page count to justify the CHF 58 cover price. Of the 22 pages, a number of them are blank, others are set aside for vocabulary, and others still are repetitive introductory padding. In fact, the “requirements” section only comprises three pages in all. You’re spending $60 for three pages.

The point here, however, is that reading ISO 20671 is like a lab experiment to see how much hypocrisy and irony a single entity can shove into something without causing the container to burst.

Consider this yummy word salad smorgasbord on the subject of using the customer’s input to evaluate a brand:

5.3.2 Customer/other stakeholder dimension

Customer/other stakeholder dimension refers to both, the psychological and behavioral perception and response. Other stakeholders also may play an important role in brand evaluation, such as e.g. employees, trade/ supply chain partners, investors, banks, government, media, community.

Indicators of this dimension include for example,. how customers/stakeholders think and feel about the brand and how the discuss it in positive or negative ways, customer/stakeholder actions that reflect positive or negative reactions.

These indicators often require direct measurement with customers through market research regarding the functional, emotional, and/or experiential qualities associated with the brand.

First, I want to point out that I left all the typos intact, just so you can see how far ISO has fallen. (Seriously, “such as e.g.” ??)  The entire document is rife with misspellings, extraneous commas, grammatical errors, and more, because ISO gives so little a shit about what you think, it can’t even bother to edit their publications. And this is the final version that is available for sale on the ISO website, not some early draft. This is the “polished” version that ISO felt was suitable to represent (wait for it….) their brand!

But if we boil that clause down, it is asking the user to consider the customer’s perception of a brand, and then to use that in evaluation. Now remember how ISO reacts to customer feedback on its standards:

  1. ISO routinely ignores negative feedback on its standards, going so far as to use its influence to block negative articles on its products, deny publication of critics,
  2. ISO hires Wall Street law firms to threaten legal action against critics for merely “discussing” (their words) ISO standards without permission, falling deep into the well of trademark bullying, an illegal act in and of itself.
  3. ISO promotes toadies and sycophants to positions of authority in their TCs, and allows those “leaders” to then engage in more bad behavior, such as harassment, threats, defamation, doxxing and intimidation of anyone who might have a negative view of their products.
  4. ISO manipulates the annual ISO Survey data on the international numbers of ISO certifications, while publishing spin-based editorials that minimize the fact that ISO certification is on the decline. It then publishes outright falsehoods in order to claim — falsely — that ISO standards are doing well, despite their own data.
  5. ISO works to alienate end users of their standards from participation in both standards development and standards commenting, hiding behind a labyrinth of arcane “procedures” which ensure it’s impossible for users to have their say. ISO refuses to enforce its own rules on ensuring equal participation of stakeholders, allowing TCs to be controlled and run by consultants and other conflicted bodies, rather than actual experts. It then limits public commenting on draft standards to a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it “Committee Draft” stage, that TCs are under no obligation to even follow through on. Then, again, ISO hires lawyers to threaten lawsuits against those that might publish their own comments, on their own websites (like this one), that aren’t entirely flattering.
  6. In the case of ISO 9001, ISO has created a “Brand Integrity Group” that refuses to involve actual ISO 9001 end users, and is instead run by a company shill (Nigel Croft) who has made a career out of kowtowing to ISO; in exchange, they give him awards, even as he also rejects any data that may show ISO 9001 is on the decline. Then, that very same Brand Integrity Group shows their “expertise” at said branding by nicknaming their work to invoke a 1980’s softcore porn movie.

None of these actions by ISO are in keeping with the suggestions of their new baby, ISO 20671. ISO regularly engages in nefarious practices that run counter to the words in this new standard.

So it’s hard to read this new standard for two reasons. First, it’s — like — literally hard to read, given all the typos. I mean, sweet Jesus, couldn’t Calder have gotten a freshman to proofread this thing? Second, it’s hard to stomach, since you know ISO isn’t doing any of the things it’s telling other people to do.

Now it’s just a matter of time before BSI starts issuing some bullshit ISO 20671 certifications to companies, and selling ISO 20671 Lead Auditor Training classes, of course. And it will do that with ISO’s blessing, too, even as they ignore all the “dimensions” that are screaming at them to fix their brand.

Ugh.

 

About Christopher Paris

Christopher Paris is the founder and VP Operations of Oxebridge. He has over 30 years' experience implementing ISO 9001 and AS9100 systems, and is a vocal advocate for the development and use of standards from the point of view of actual users. He is the author of Surviving ISO 9001:2015. He reviews wines for the irreverent wine blog, Winepisser.