Does Your Dog Bite?

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To set the scene:

 In 1976’s The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Inspector Jacques Clouseau enters a hotel, gestures to the clerk’s dog, and asks, “Does your dog bite?” The clerk, in turn, responds with a dull “No”. Clouseau proceeds to pet the dog and is immediately met with teeth. The shocked Inspector replies, “I thought you said your dog did not bite!” 

 The hotel Clerk answers, “That is not my dog.”

 If you ask a question, you’ll get an answer. Knowing people, that much is guaranteed. If you’re looking for a useful answer, however, you’d better give your questions some consideration. This is valuable advice for detective inspectors and professionals in the world of branding alike, two very different groups of people with a strangely similar task: taking many small truths and using them to get the full picture.

 We’ve been working closely with a new client over the summer to help them define their position and build their brand story. This client has a niche offering, which can set a brand up for a relatively straightforward development process. It quickly became apparent to us that while their offering was indeed unique, the fact that they served a variety of audiences in such diverse capacities meant that developing a truly inclusive identity would take a nuanced approach. 

 We arrived at this understanding because we paid careful attention to the questions we were asking as well as the answers we were receiving. Many of the questions we initially set out to answer were developed around how the client saw themselves, not how their audiences were actually interacting with them.

 It’s ingrained in us as social beings to respond to questions no matter how well we think we can answer them, it pays to listen for clues to gain a sincere understanding of the situation. In our case, further investigation led to untapped audiences and opportunities.


It’s ingrained in us as social beings to respond to questions no matter how well we think we can answer them


Today everyone is a “brand expert” from ad agency execs to work-at-home graphic designers, what was once a specialized field has been adopted as a standard title by, well, just about everyone. Unfortunately for both them and their clients, many of these so called ‘brand experts’ seem to be, like Clouseau, inept at asking questions. Many ask a laundry list of template-questions, satisfied that whatever they get back whether it gets them any closer to the truth or not.

At Paragraph, we have a proven methodology that we’ve developed over many, many years. By allowing the interviewee to speak freely while listening to clues, we’re able to guide the conversation to reveal answers to the questions we have rather than regurgitate them. This helps reveal the intangible attributes of the brand, and ensures that we don’t let aimless inquiries come back to bite us.



Robert AretzComment