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A brand narrative undermined by poor attention to detail

It appears that Marvel have found their new superhero. A Bansky of the English language, the self proclaimed “grammar vigilante”, regularly goes out late at night in Bristol correcting street signs and shop fronts where the apostrophes are in the wrong place. I wonder whether he would bring his cause to the streets of London where, outside the opulent Savini at Criterion Restaurant in Piccadilly Circus, a prominent sign reads: “London most historical restaurant.” Three errors in four words, but above all the irony of the Criterion’s famous literary connection to the first novella featuring the punctilious Sherlock Holmes, and a brand narrative undermined by inconsistent attention to detail.

Successful people often have fanatical attention to detail

The most successful people throughout the ages are often those who pay an almost fanatical attention to detail, and I cannot imagine Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, or Sherlock Holmes failing to correct the error. As John Hench said of The Walt Disney Company “What’s our success formula? It’s attention to infinite detail, the little things, the minor, picky points that others just don’t want to take the time, money, or effort to do.” Steve Jobs told his biographer Walter Isaacson that it was his father who “…loved doing things right. He even cared about the look of the parts you couldn’t see.” Jobs implemented his father’s meticulous outlook at Apple, as Isaacson chronicles, for example when “Steve made us spend half an hour deciding what hue of gray the restroom signs should be.”

Everybody pays attention to creating value for customers

Attention to detail is important, but it makes no sense unless it is channelled into creating value for customers, and permeated across the entire workforce. Many companies have figured out what their customers value, but struggle because they don’t know how to embed it into a self-sustaining ecosystem. One leadership team tried to change a deep seated sales culture simply by adding NPS into performance goals, but then everyone fixated on the scores, and forgot about creating real benefit for real people. Another, rather than genuinely understanding their customers and using behavioural psychology to guide decisions, slavishly followed a set of ‘design rules’, such as ‘finish on a high’, ‘get bad experiences over early,’ and ‘spread the pleasure and concentrate the pain’.

Intentionally building a workforce that automatically knows how to create value, and that pays attention to small details, which may negatively impact customer perceptions, also instinctively looks for ways to make it better for customers. Perhaps what is most surprising about the Savini at Criterion Restaurant, and would be unthinkable at Apple or Disney, is that employees are not actively encouraged to notice the sign and insist that it is corrected and replaced.