If you are working with a young marketing company or freelancer that is building a portfolio, that answer might often be “of course.” But that’s an answer that’s good for the marketing firm but not necessarily appropriate for your sales goals. Most of us in this business want great looking art to win awards and show to prospects. Completely rebranding a company is a plum assignment that involves a lot of billable work and recognition in the industry. But that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do for the customer.

A large national company spent an enormous sum with a consulting firm for a brand standard and accompanying standards manual. The brand standard established graphics rules such as the location for logos in various media, type size and style for headlines, subheads, text, and address information, and graphic elements such as color blocks and photo cropping. The manual showed how to create compliant branding for print, video, apparel, vehicles, packaging, and anything else that carried the brand.

This company makes products that are sold into various markets, and the standards manual specified that certain graphic elements should be in a particular color for each market — an idea that at first blush seems like a good one. For example, market A should use red; market B, green; market C, blue; and so on. The idea was to use the design as a unifying element across the brand, and the color to designate the various market channels.

Here’s the question apparently never asked: Who is going to see enough of the variations to understand the system — or to even understand that there is a system? This company sells products into a number of niche markets that have very little overlap. As it turns out, the only people who would see most or all of the color versions are those who work for the company. The niche market customers would typically see one, or maybe two, versions of the system. Customers in market A will think the corporate color is red, while customers in market C will believe it’s blue — or maybe green, occasionally. The color system was later abandoned by yet another consulting firm several years later during the creation of yet another brand standard.

So, what’s the point?

The point is that focusing on uniformity at the expense of effectiveness can waste money and produce ineffective marketing. Creation of marketing assets under these complicated rules takes longer, costs more, and doesn’t necessarily speak to your various prospects in their language. If you are selling into markets that are insular, there is an argument to be made for designing and voicing materials that will work best in each one. If your materials are not graphically consistent across all markets, you and your marketing team will be the only ones who know.

JC Bourque is a 40-year veteran of the marketing field and has produced work in real estate development, banking, public utilities, healthcare, direct marketing, automotive aftermarket, food and beverage and many other sectors. He is a partner in the Denver firm Heppner + Bourque, specializing in manufacturing, technology, and industrial marketing. We can be reached at 303/675-0105 or visit our website at heppnerandbourque.com.