The easiest way to undermine your brand

Brand Managers spend countless amounts of time, money and effort creating detailed marketing and tactical plans for their brands. Hours are devoted to workshops to determine the brand’s essence, core values and personality. The briefs are written and distributed to agencies across the land who’ll beaver away to create a need, and then ultimately satisfy the eager public with a nice, big launch. All is well. Or is it?

Introducing the typo. A single word spelt incorrectly. All of those hours undone. Imagine you’re a carnival planner. Surely as a consumer you’d think twice about going to the carnival if you saw this sign? Or what if your local police force sent an email to you about preventing break-ins – would this garner your trust? Even though there’s a school of thought (note the spelling here) that suggests language evolves through typos, these mistakes are pretty extreme. But they happen.

Everything communicates

In one of my first lectures as a marketing student, I was told ‘everything communicates.’ At first it seemed obvious – after all, that’s what we wanted to do. However, I learnt that ‘everything’ even included times when we weren’t saying anything – “why the silence? Is it a bad brand?” – and when there were typos.

‘Everything communicates’ is a philosophy I have stood by, and it continues to work well. It’s a benchmark for all marketing strategies and tactics, and can simplify a sometimes unnecessarily complex discussion.

In the world of celebrities, individuals have become brands. And it’s not just celebrities. Arguably every professional wants to look after their own, personal brand. So what about that hasty email to a client? Or that brief sent over for their approval? What could they say about your personal brand? A single typo can undo all respect your client has for you – now you’ve got no attention to detail, no interest in double-checking anything for them and a lack of pride.

It may seem like over-kill, and it probably is, but it could be worth thinking twice about where that apostrophe really should go next time you hit send. You’ll be doing a world of good for all of your brands.


One thought on “The easiest way to undermine your brand

  1. Oh deary deary me! I totally agree with you. Typos and poor grammar are very distracting.

    I’m ashamed to say, I am guilty of a major one. I emailed my CV to SamSmall with the cover sheet she wanted inserted. Whilst inserting it in Acrobat I noticed the word ‘pdf’ was in lowercase (I have them in all caps) so went back to Indesign and amended. Pdf sorted, job done. Later, whilst copying my CV entries to LinkedIn, I noticed that on the 2nd page ‘online’ was spelt without an ‘l’. Worse than that, I noticed that on the front page, my most crucial client name for this job; Ogilvy Healthworld’ was spelt: Ogilvy Heathworld…. in 2 instances (because I copied and pasted)!!!

    I could blame the font I used ‘Fedra, serif and sans’, I could blame the fact that after 2 months waiting I had only just got internet connection and my mac keeps beachballing. I did rush it in my keenness to get a shot at this job (you must realise what a dream it would be for anyone to work for or with you ;-)
    I can only blame myself. There, I’ve fessed up where I’ve messed up. I only hope it hasn’t shattered my chances. I’m particularly annoyed with myself because I normally spot things that the proofer has missed.

    —-end of confession—-start of more interesting point—–

    Back to the subject of misspelling (I nearly got that one wrong), I’m always interested in the science bit. Why is it that when you look at something over and over again you don’t spot the mistake, even though you do know how to spell the word?

    I read an article a few years ago in ‘Scientific American: MIND’ that was about how we see things, in particular things that are familiar. I’ll try and explain it in my own layman terms. When we look, our brain kind of draws what we see. If looking at something for the first time it does a sketch and stores it away. The next time we see the same thing, rather than draw it again (unless it has been radically altered), it refers to the stored picture. A similar thing happens with words. You know how a word is spelt (or spelled, US), your brain sometimes makes up for mistakes so you kind of impose the correct spelling in your brain on what you’re seeing. Often when doing housework people will notice things that they can’t believe they overlooked… they didn’t, their brain drew on the last version of that picture. Two things that I’ve found that help are:

    1. Fresh eyes: Get other people who are unfamiliar with it to look. Even if you have a dedicated proofer, it’s a joint responsibility, we all have a vested interest in producing good work. The last thing you want to distract from the idea/communication is a typo!

    2. Change its context or view somehow. With text I’ll copy it into another format (I spotted my typos when copying from Indesign to LinkedIn. With drawing, I like to hold it in front of a mirror to check symmetry. Re-juxtaposition has been used in the visual arts as a way to draw attention, make people look twice. Saul Bass (film title and poster designer) said that was exactly what he was trying to do in his title sequence ‘Walk on the Wild Side’. Take something familiar and film it so we look at it differently.

    And finally, spell checks are great but they don’t pick up on everything (there or their etc) and you spend a lot of time clicking ‘ignore’ because it flags up company names as incorrect.

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