Dear CMO:

I had the chance to catch up with writer, inventor, speaker and philosopher Roger van Oech on the phone last week. Roger has been very helpful in shepherding Killing Giants along, which is a euphemistic expression for ‘keeping me on track.’ In his gentle manner, Roger warned me about the pitfalls of what Robert Cialdini would term consistency.

“Don’t fall in love with typeface.”

Designers have opinions on design the same way marketers have opinions on branding. They find things that appeal to their sense of aesthetics, from typeface to color and white space. And, like most people, they go back to the well too many times, using the same treatments where new ones would be better served. Marketers are no exception to this problem, as we tend to go back to what has worked in the past the same way anyone in the workforce tends to fight the last war in a new job. The trick, said Roger, is to understand that you’re doing it — then throw it away. Creative destruction is a liberating, powerful and ultimately life-saving process. Once you find a favorite move, discard it, or risk everything. Comfort can be the enemy of growth and progress. An apt expression from a darker time tells us that “the graveyards are filled with indispensible men.”

Why does this matter, particularly in troubling times? Your customers aren’t the same as they were six months ago. Every one of them is a little more worried, a little more concerned about budgets and income, a little more concerned about the future and much less interested in hearing that things are fine. Your brand may stay consistent, but your message had better change.

Are you about more choices or are you about only charging for the ones your customers use?

Are you about flexibility or are you about saving time, effort and ultimately money?

Are you about gaining more or losing less?

Are you about getting bigger returns or maximizing each and every dollar that you still have?

None of the above A/B choices mean you have to change your core branding. But each requires that you tell your story in a way that reflects the realities of your new world. Your customers want to hear their stories shot through the prizm of your solution.

Roger is correct that following in your own footsteps can be dangerous. This is a timely warning. We need to rethink our typeface or find ourselves increasingly irrelevant.