On the way back from the National Agri-Marketing Association’s Trade Show and Conference in Kansas City this week, I came across this example of good brands going bad because of personal decisions. I say “personal” decisions because I don’t believe that this local McDonald’s restaurant in Bethany, Missouri, was following brand standards when they plastered these red golden arches across the front of this awning. Many brand identity standards don’t allow for their logo to be used as a decorative element, either. I believe the local manager thought this was a cool idea, and he liked red and black as a color combination, so he called up the local sign company and asked him to make a bunch of vinyl logos. Then he probably asked one of his teenager employees to put them up. It didn’t matter if it was straight…it just needed to look cool. Will this little error kill McDonald’s? No. But will a bunch of personal decision that aren’t built on the brand kill McDonald’s? Definately.
In my 20+ years of experience, I’ve learned that this is what happens when personal decisions override brand standards. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with red and black – I love red and black – but I’m thinking the brand identity standards for McDonald’s don’t allow for a red logo.
I’m working with a client – a professional services firm – that employs one person who wants to be the marketing director, create a new logo and marketing materials, even if it’s not his job. His heart is in the right place, but his responsibility isn’t.
A small town bank client had one employee who would bend over backwards to serve customers, even when it violated policies, put the bank at financial risk and made his coworkers look bad.
This is the same thing that happens when marketing managers leave organizations and new ones arrive: ready and willing to change agencies, change logos and put their imprint on the brand, if that brand needs it or not.
Employees should take charge of the brand, but only after they understand it thoroughly. It’s up to an organization’s leaders to define that brand, teach employees how to communicate that brand and then allow them to own the brand and hold others accountable to the brand every day.
And then someone should say “Golden Arches are to be printed in gold!”