Idiosyncratic is defined in the English Dictionary as:
noun: a characteristic, habit, mannerism, or the like, that is peculiar to an individual .
When I use the word, it’s what I call a ‘face puller’. You know the casual conversation where you drop in the odd explanatory term and the guy opposite squeezes up his eyes and a slight dimple appears at the side of his mouth. It signifies of course that the person has absolutely no idea of what you’re talking about but he’s not going to say so. Let’s take a replay here. “Idiosyncratic; a characteristic … that is peculiar to an individual” and believe me when it comes to branding, the word is a big red light alarm.
Where branding is concerned it’s always good to know that consistency is king and that’s a well known fact, but what is less well known is how to manage the brand asset you’ve developed.
In a brand’s life, it will be ‘worked over’ by more service providers than a grand final football crowd. There’s the printer; sign writer; promotional gift manufacturer; uniform supplier; press; TV commercial and the list goes on – each one with the awesome responsibility for reproducing your brand.
To get a clearer picture here’s a true story. As the Marketing Director of a national food manufacturer, I had occasion to offer a number of select delicatessens a new store frontage branded with my company’s house colours and logo devices. We appointed a variety of sign writers, all of whom received a style guide sheet which nominated colour; spacing and type face etc.
Some weeks later I received a call from one of my brand managers who was at the store concerned, seeking guidance on a ‘small’ problem. Apparently our branding had received a little extra ‘help’, or at least that’s what our sign writer friend had told my frustrated brand manager. Proudly boasting his artistic flair, he had decided to enhance the designer’s work with none other than a black border. In addition, this creative genius had given our company name an apostrophe because as he put it, “it looks right now!”. He couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t authorise the account for payment until it was ‘done by the book’.
If you’re still in the dark, it’s called brand bastardisation – that is, adding to or taking away; amending; changing or in simple terms; giving your idiosyncratic ideas a run. That’s it – ‘idiosyncratic’ the word that Art Directors fear; Graphics abhor and Marketers just vomit over. I’m here to tell you, there’s only a small group of people who should have the right to change a brand and that’s the Board of Directors or the owner, and by the ‘Robe of Caesar’ they better have a bloody good reason for doing it.
Your brand is sacrosanct. Don’t touch it and don’t let any of these goons with a suicidal desire to offer their own idiosyncratic ideas EVER change a thing – not even a full stop. Your brand is an asset; it’s your company’s personal signature; it’s your mark; your image; your attire and it MUST be respected.
If you don’t have a style guide, expect trouble, and even if you do, put yourself or a line manager on 24 hour alert, because most providers are self proclaimed ‘face pullers’ they don’t know the difference between idiosyncratic and idiotic. Have a nice day!