Friday, August 28, 2009

Think people don't notice how your brand is presented? Just ask IKEA

Design-geek issues such as font usage rarely see the light of day in mainstream media, but a recent Time Magazine post is a good reinforcement of how important even the smallest of details can be to your customers.

The piece linked here detailed a backlash against retail giant IKEA for having the gall to change...its primary font. That's right -- after decades of catalogues filled with unpronounceable names in a customized version of the typeface Futura, IKEA is switching to the more internet-friendly Verdana.

Now, perhaps the backlash will be somewhat confined to the design community -- "Verdana, which was invented by Microsoft, was intended to be used on a screen, not on paper," Time tells us -- but regardless, the article proves a point that many companies just don't get when it comes to marketing and brand identity.

People notice small details about a company or organization, and when presented with those details consistently, form impressions in their mind based upon them. Consistency helps define the communication, and when that consistency is removed, it makes people question what's going on with the brand. The switch to Verdana may not result in lower sales of such products as the Aspelund (it's a bed), but it certainly caught the attention of more than a few people.

So what's the best policy? Build a brand identity, maintain it, and even guard it with your life. And if you make a change, it should be for a good reason. Maybe the brand has grown stale and needs a refresher; maybe the target audience has changed over time. IKEA apparently is making the change to save money, which every now and then is a good one too.

But if you think the little details aren't important, think again. Somebody is always going to notice.