Clearly, you should let your prospects say “no” because they don’t need what you offer. But never let them say “no” because they don’t understand what you’re offering. Too many ads, brochures, mailers and websites are obscure and weak on communicating what they sell and why people should buy it. Ads and collateral that do not differentiate, create value, offer proof and ask for the sale, only waste time and money. And unless your communications are clear, concise and quickly communicate their point, they simply will not help grow sales.
We’ve all heard about the over-bombardment of ads and the media. There are too many messages and too much information attacking people’s attention for your communications not to be clear and concise. Target Marketing® magazine reported that a weekday version of the NY Times® contains more information than an average person in the 1700s would be exposed to in their lifetime! People just don’t have time to listen to marketing messages anymore. Most of us don’t even seem to have time for vacation – you’ve probably known people (maybe even ourselves?) that leave for vacation and spend 7-10 days packing as much as they can in, and when they come back from vacation they’re more tired than when they left.
People have no time for “discovery”. Your ads, brochures, websites and collateral needs to communicate your compelling reasons to buy as quickly and easily as possible. When our agency builds an ad or brochure, it all starts from the Creative Brief and “what’s the main point – what is the key takeaway message?” Creative is essential, as long as it overtly addresses the objective. If you work with an agency or designer and they have to explain their concept to you, it probably isn’t a very good solution. It should be obvious, immediate and simple – make it quick, make it clear, make it obvious.
For example: The Energizer® Bunny was an interesting ad campaign. The client stated they wanted something “loud and attention-getting.” The designers actually came up with the solution as a joke – the loudest, most obnoxious thing they could think or, a pink bunny banging a drum. And the client loved it. But personally, I believe Energizer had to spend millions and millions of dollars before I remembered to associate the pink bunny with the silver battery that lasted longer. I remember standing in a store thinking to myself “which one lasts longer? Is the pink bunny using the silver, or the copper-top battery…?” In my personal opinion, there are probably many more direct, and still creative, ways to communicate the Energizer benefit and connect the brands core value in the market. Just for kicks, I’d would have liked to see the pink bunny campaign tested against a simple set of silver and copper pie charts that someone in accounting could make – would the bunny really out-pull it? Might have been interesting to test.
The worst offender of the unclear, ambiguous ad is the teaser campaign, where an ad or billboard has no message, and later a follow-up ad explains what you were supposed to be getting for from the first ad. Some of these companies are spending good, hard cash on creative, and placement, of an ad that has no message. I guess the opposite of “clarity” would be “devoid.”
Another trend that seems to be wasting money and selling nothing is the latest movements in vague taglines and messages that seem to try to create an image, instead of sell a product or service. “Your potential. Our passion” – Microsoft®, “The Proven Path to Success” – TSMC® (semiconductor manufacturing), “You can see everything from here” – United Technologies®, “The future in sight” – Hyperion®, and my favorite, confusing mixed message ever, “Like always. Like never before.” – Saturn® Automobiles. These taglines, along with so many others that include the words: dreams, solutions, experience, success, and “the power of…” normally aren’t accomplishing what a tag is supposed to do. In my opinion, a generic logo is ok, as long as the company is defined by the tagline. Unless you are Apple®, IBM® or Nike®, your tag should say “We do this, for these people.”
Of course the text needs to be clear, but the visual needs to be even more so on-track. Visuals communicate much faster than text and are usually they key as to whether or not your ad is read or passed by. People notice your ad by your visual first, and based on their interpretation of your visual, decide if they should stop to spend the time reading your copy. Websites are subconsciously evaluated within 3 seconds, sometimes before they’ve even finished downloading, whether or not it’s worth reading or clicking onto the next site!
And visuals are important, but rely on the copy to get the correct message across. True, a picture is worth 1,000 words, but you don’t want your market to get 1,000 different interpretations of your images. Use your copy to tell them what they are supposed to interpret from the ad and what they are supposed to take away.
One last point, it’s not just clarity of message you require, you need clarity of purpose too. The reason why you are creating an ad, brochure or web site must be defined before you begin to think about what it will look like or what it will say. First you need to clarify: what are your objectives, what do you expect it to do, who specifically is this geared toward, and what one key indicator will let us know if this (ad/brochure/website) is a success? Only then do you start to create the message, creative and design the piece.
3 tips to keep in mind when creating ads, brochures, websites or other marketing communications:
• Simple – write the copy to a 5th grade level, unless your market is 100% Harvard grads. It’s all about the LCD – lowest common denominator. If the market doesn’t get it, they won’t buy it.
• Quick – the main reason why they should buy from you, your core value, should be communicated within seconds.
• Singular – have a focus; 1 point is better than 10. People might have time to listen to 1 unique selling point. They probably won’t have time to hear 10. If you’re lucky, they might even remember 1 selling point, they certainly won’t remember 10.
Kevin Daniels is a Principle rabble-rouser at Ruckus Creative, llc, with 20 years in advertising and marketing.
Ruckus Creative is a results-driven, full-service creative and branding agency
“Business results through strategic creative.”
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