This is something I've been thinking about even before I became a brand person. As a consumer I used to look at some brand names and find them fresh and to date, and while others looked dull. It wasn't their 'logo' itself, it was more the 'handwriting or font' style and the colours that they played with. Just like fashion dictates 'whats in, whats out' in colours every season, the branding industry too goes through style, colour and tone changes every years. When we were young, hard styled, official looking, formal fonts were in - it meant your brand was serious about their work, about their mission. Later in the early 2000s, as new and more casual online typography became prevalent and as our consumer/customer base and target audience eased out and relaxed a bit in their own personal style, they also started expecting brands serving them to emulate that style to resonate with the audience better. Which is perhaps why some the brand logos like Acer....underwent font and style changes to depict an entirely different image of themselves, an image that would be more appealing and fresh for the consumers.For the same reason the font style of Vaseline' hasn't remained the same over the years, ven though it's been a brand that has had one of the strongest loyalties based on product performance alone, Vaseline has strengthened its bond with it audience by innovating their look, as the look and the eyes of their consumers evolved.
So I've been wondering how FONT really impacts the perception consumers have of your brand. Last week I watched 'JOBS', the movie on the life of the revolutionary 'Steve Jobs'. I was surprised to see a scene enacted where they showed how Jobs immediately fired one of his most talented and able engineers because the guy said that 'font types' were not a need of the computer users. This particular engineer mocked at Jobs question 'So where do I change font'...his response to this was, 'This isn't really a pressing need'. This scene was set at the launch of the first Macintosh computer in 1984. Back then no one knew that soon enough in the late 90's font size and style would become such a sensitive issue of preference for both businesses and at-home users. I've worked with some of the big corporations and I have gone through the agony of actually ensuring each heading, sub-heading and text are of a certain size and style, as per the instructions of the higher management. All big companies have standard power point templates (with specific font style, font colour and font size) that reflect the culture of the organisation, work personality of the management and the persona of their brands. For example, pick up anything on Coke, an external communication or an internal document, it must have Red header and a red font in it. Pick up Dove and all documents would be a certain tone of Navy Blue. Somewhere in his head, Jobs predicted a behavior that was revealed 20 years later. This is the quality of a true innovator, who understand what the consumers need before the consumers themselves realize it.
However back to our 'font in the lives of brands' discussion - I am a firm believer that font really does matter and not only does it make a particular brand stand apart from its peers but also communicates a certain feeling to its consumers. Moreover, I think sometimes font follows cultural development of the users i.e. as attitudes, behaviours, social norms change so do fonts - so that the brands stay upto speed with the psychic trends of their consumers.