Is God In The Details? | Bruce Turkel

Take a look at Mazda’s logo. Notice anything strange? How about that all the letters are lower case except the D which is upper case (the Z could be either upper or lower case). Is that a good use of designer license or is it lazy typography? Does it matter?

How about the logo for the Toyota 4Runner? In this case, all of the letters are upper case except for the two Ns and the U. And here’s an interesting detail — the U is simply an upside down N (or the Ns are simply upside down Us). But wait a second. If those letters are virtually interchangeable, how come the E is its own letter when it could just as easily been created as a sideways N with a horizontal center bar added to convert it to an E?

The architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe who said, “God is in the details,” built an entire career — and a fresh design aesthetic — on this seemingly simple adage. But somewhere down the line the variation the Devil is in the details popped up and became part of the vernacular too. Are these different idioms — which attribute the very same attention to detail to very different personalities — interchangeable like the letters in the Toyota logo are? Does that matter?

A few years ago our advertising agency helped a client prepare for a presentation they were making to county government. Our client didn’t prepare carefully, didn’t rehearse thoroughly, and didn’t even fill out the RFP completely. But they did assemble a crack team of marketers, partners, lawyers, lobbyists, and presenters. And they did have a good plan and plenty of resources to make the plan a reality. Did those activities matter? Did they win?

The problem is that whether or not you’re a perfectionist, and whether or not you think it’s God or the Devil in the details, you never know what piece of a presentation, program or plan will prevail. And so you have to diligently dot every i and cross every t because you just don’t know which one will ultimately make the difference.

Before World War I, John Wanamaker, the legendary retailer considered the father of modern advertising said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” And even today, with the reams of data and metrics that computers create, advertisers often still don’t know what part of their marketing expenditures pay them a return and which do not.

If you spend time with advertisers and marketers, you’ll hear them talk about-above-the-line and below-the-line, online and offline, traditional marketing and digital marketing. You’ll hear them discuss out-of-home, on- and off-premise, print, broadcast, direct, and social media. You’ll also hear about PR, advertising, event marketing, and promotions. And you’ll see different campaigns and different budgets all created for each of these disciplines.

But here’s the ugly secret that advertisers either don’t recognize or refuse to admit: Consumers don’t know the difference between the different marketing media and they don’t recognize that there’s any difference between the various disciplines. Consumers don’t realize they saw an ad on TV and then drove past a billboard and then uploaded a photo to an engagement program on Facebook and then used a coupon they cut out of the newspaper and then saw the product at a friend’s house. All they know is that they saw that brand “everywhere.”

So while none of the specific engagement modalities are critical by themselves, all of them have the potential for reaching and convincing the consumer or turning them away. And all of the different media need to be considered and consistent in order to make the overall campaign as effective as possible.

Consistency matters. It’s why the last point of our Building Brand Value protocol is “Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.” It’s why W. Edwards Deming, whose work is credited with launching the Total Quality Management movement, insisted that, “There must be consistency in direction.” And it’s why God — AND the Devil — is in the details.

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