On March 18 of this year, I was signing into Sirius XM Radio online when the graphic above caught my eye.

It wasn’t the flying baseballs. Or the blue sky.

It was the spring traning. T-r-a-n-i-n-g.

I was born with an observant nature and a proofreading eye. Most of the time, my observations have been welcome and have served me well.

When I was five years old I went with my parents to a tailor shop to pick up my father’s suit. I stood about as high as my father’s thigh at the time. I noticed that the right flap of his suit jacket back was slightly lower than the left flap and told my mother. My parents thanked me for my observation and asked the tailor to fix it.

Around the same time, my parents installed a beautiful brick red floor tile with an elaborate pattern of black swirls in our entrance hallway. Once the grout had solidified and we were allowed to walk on it, I noticed that one of the tiles was backward. While acknowledged, that was a less welcome observation.

In our private home, one backward tile was not a big deal. But if the suit jacket had remained uneven, that would not have conveyed as professional an image for my dad as he would have wanted.

Some details matter more than others.

For insight on which details matter, consider the Broken Windows Theory. The theory came to prominence in 1982 when social scientists James Wilson and George Kelling described it in an article in The Atlantic. It links disorder and crime, reasoning that a single broken window in a building left unrepaired would signal that no one cares about that area and lead to more broken windows.

When tested, this was true in upscale neighborhoods as well as downscale ones. The operative at work was not economic status (or hatred of windows) but lack of accountability. People did not fear being held responsible in areas where broken windows were not repaired because they figured no one was watching.

The theory implies that the converse would hold as well; in areas where the window was promptly repaired, there would be less vandalism. Someone cared and was watching.

Similarly, small details about your brand can signal that someone cares or not.

A while back my husband Dan expressed approval that his investment club chose Panera stock over Chipotle. His reasoning? Chipotle often had a single long line at lunchtime, while Panera usually had four or five registers operating at peak times so the line moved faster. Though he never measured the actual service time, the visual of the respective lines was enough for him to conclude Panera’s service was better and thus that the business would be more successful.

On the topic of restaurants, the restroom conditions signal much to me. If they are dirty or unkempt, that makes me wonder about the company’s attention to health and cleanliness in the kitchen. A Dunkin’ Donuts University instructor once advised me to walk out of any restaurant that didn’t have soap in the restroom.

On the other hand, here are some brands whose details boost their image and their business:

  • Zappos’ emails add to the fun of interacting with their brand. In acknowledging a return, they wrote “We wanted to let you know that your return is back safe and sound in our warehouse. That trip over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house went smoothly.”
  • Harney & Sons sends free samples of other flavors with their tea orders. (Did you know there was a tea called Paris?! I’m smitten.)
  • Our local pharmacy Jones Drug once delivered a prescription to our house rather than have me wait when it wasn’t ready when they had promised.

None of the above brands’ actions cost them much, but they delighted me.

Heed the Broken Windows Theory for your brand. Pay attention to the details that pertain to your image and capitalize on them when you can.

  • Learn what matters to your customers and excel in those areas.
  • Train your employees to pay attention to key details.
  • Infuse your communication with your brand’s personality – including emails, invoices, even instruction manuals.
  • Deliver your product or service in a memorable way – specially wrapped, with a free sample of another offering, or with a fun related freebie.

So is the Sirius XM typo a big deal? I thought it was. It was an unprofessional presentation for a major company. And they must have thought so too, because they had fixed it when I checked back a few hours later.

Have you ever had a telling detail catch your attention? Please tell us about it by posting a comment!

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