When Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert wrote a letter to Cavs fans on NBA.com July 8 denouncing LeBron James‘ decision to leave his team for the Miami Heat, he never anticipated the negative reaction it received. The letter, while intended as a “rah-rah” post to show his support for the Cleveland fan base, set off a firestorm of criticism from major national news outlets, fans, and the blogosphere. But Gilbert’s detractors weren’t upset by the content of the letter – they pounced on his font choice – the childish, cute and crayonesque Comic Sans.
The choice of Comic Sans as a font for what can only be described as an angry rant demonstrates that Gilbert (or the person who posted on his behalf) is clueless about the impact fonts have on audiences. What was intended to rally the troops and unite Cavs fans behind him in a “who needs LeBron James anyway?” movement, backfired terribly and opened Gilbert up for an onslaught of criticism. Using Comic Sans was akin to writing a note and dotting every “i” with a smiley face – it just didn’t convey the outrage he felt after hearing James’ decision.
This episode illustrates how readers and viewers can see something and have an opposite reaction to what was desired – simply because the wrong font was chosen by someone who didn’t take the time to consider its impact. It’s a cautionary tale for companies who are marketing their services to specific audiences – and it applies to much more than just fonts.
If you’re trying to attract young families to your restaurant, use photos of parents and children – not seniors and singles. Looking to lure the 20-something crowd to your bar? Steer away from illustrations showing teenagers and middle-aged couples. Or if older folks are a demographic you’re trying to capture, you should probably keep the point sizes larger and use fewer words.
Always keep in mind that your logo, the colors you choose, fonts, point sizes, photos used in print and on the web, and anything you may link to from a blog or a Facebook or Twitter page, will be instantly associated with your business. If it doesn’t fit with your brand and conflicts with your intended objectives, don’t do it. And if you ever find yourself the owner of an NBA franchise and want to get something off your chest, have someone else double-check your post before sending it off.