Who Defines Quality?

Here's how brands should think about the word "quality"

Here’s a quick Mad Libs game:

My name is _________________ and I work as a _________________________.

I define quality in my industry as _______________________________________________________.

The elusive and highly subjective concept of quality is ever on my mind. Suppose you’re a stonemason participating in my little Mad Libs experiment above. In that case, you might define quality as a client who’s happy and confident that the stone wall you built them will not crumble in their lifetime. If you’re a comedian, perhaps you liken quality to the volume of laughter.

A chef friend once told me, “To me, everyone in that dining room is my mother. If I wouldn’t serve it to my mother, it will not leave this kitchen.”

I love that.

There are industries where quality is much more clearly defined. Expertise and quality often go hand in hand in these instances. Take surgeons, for example. Their expertise brings a quality of life to those they operate on. Of course, no matter how you define quality, it’s the person experiencing it first-hand who drives each example’s reputation. A sturdy, beautiful wall. A night full of laughter and fun. A memorable meal. No more pain.

I couldn’t agree more with the “eye of the beholder” concept. But for this thought exercise, I’m more interested in you — the practitioner. Consider your initial response; let’s go more in-depth, take another look. Quality. How do you define it? Consider your offering. Think about why you make, produce, or share it. What about it matters most to you? What do you hope it can do for someone else? How you define quality says as much about you as it does your product, business, art, etc.

What you put into the world matters, and if you do it enough and consistently, it finds its way back to you — a sort of creative Karma. 

Clients trust my team and me to make the best subjective choices we can for their brands. So we must know and understand them to speak to their “quality.” It also helps that we see our clients as partners, fellow shipmates on the voyage. Over time, our options come to be viewed with a sort of objectivity because we’re part of the family.

Or to quote Dan, one of our clients:

“If I have to hitch my wagon to any team of asses, Jim and Matt from JXM  would be my first choice!”

Of all the asses in advertising, Dan chose us. If that doesn’t speak to the quality we bring, I don’t know what does.

Matt Maguy is co-founder at JXM, an advertising agency located in Massachusetts.