When I worked at a university, we received an order of notecards that were printed in the wrong color. If you did not know that the official brand palette was a certain gold you may not have even noticed the slightly-orange-ish ink, but those of us in the marketing area were adamant that they be destroyed. I remember distinctly someone in a leadership role saying that they would “just use them on campus” rather than waste them, but we knew that if they left the delivery box there would be no control of the brand. The gold would morph into all variations of orange-ish as other things would be printed using the notecard color as the standard.

Although that was years ago, I thought about the incident recently when I was cleaning out some supplies of my own. I found a box of notecards with my name – embossed in all capital letters. At the time I purchased them, having anything be both personalized be affordable was a rarity and so I went with it, even though all-caps were the only option. Now, I was staring at a box of high quality, perfectly functional notecards that were totally “off-brand” and I thought about the previous debacle on campus – and cringed as I proceeded to cut them in half to use as scrap paper!

Everyone plays a role in adhering to standards. You can either preserve your visual identity with rigor or let it go. “Sort-of” isn’t a viable option.

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