The 13 Most Important Graphic Marketing Ideas
Copy is "king" in marketing, direct marketing and sales. Graphics
makes the copy better.
Recently I attended a conference where a speaker made an effort to reverse
this "fact". In the first minute on the platform she admitted
the title of her presentation was done to get attention. Okay, the title
is important to filling the room.
Then she said she really believed copy and art are equally important
in direct marketing. That's when I came close to leaving the room. As
nothing could be more off base.
Show me anything that's all graphics that sells!
Create awareness and a position ... sure. Nike does such in their outdoor
posters and double-trunk space ads. The cosmetic industry is mostly about
how the advertisement "feels". Some high-end clothing manufacturers
do the same. They are each creating a "look". An image.
This philosophy has not - does not - will not work in direct marketing.
Copy needs to carry the message. There have been many, many all copy ads,
mail packages, fax blasts and now E-mail. And they work. Because it is
copy that sells. Graphics makes it better.
Radio is all talk. Television is talk, with pictures. Television is more
powerful, because the ear and the eye are each involved. Ditto
what happens in successful direct marketing campaigns.
With that said, here are The 13 Most Important Graphic Marketing Ideas.
Concepts I've found to be key.
#1). Graphics are used to get the words read!
The message, description, offer and details are all in the text. In the
copy. The words.
The art, the graphics, photography, illustrations, layout and design
are to support the message. And very importantly ... to make it more interesting.
To illustrate and endorse the text. i.e., to get the words read. And to
make them more understandable. More likely to gain a positive response.
When the graphics become the message the message is lost. Exceptions?
Sure ... when you're selling art or photography or design. If you're into
any other game understand words is what your prospect will use as a decision
tool. Good design and graphics will support those words.
#2). Where the readers eye goes, the mind will follow
Hey, we live in a graphic world. We expect things to look nice.
When I launched my E-zine I begged for graphics - so the "plain
text" (yes, that is what the designers call it ... plain text)
could be dressed. I did not want a boring E-mail marketing newsletter
arriving on your desk once a week. I was hopefully we could make it more
interesting with design.
Well, because of the countless (and I am not stretching here) E-mail
systems, with few standards early in this 21st Century, there were more
problems than solutions. For the short term I gave up.
Graphics are used to pull the readers eye to the most important passages.
Because when that happens, the mind will follow. So, for instance, LARGER
TYPE for headlines, beginnings in brochures, for major lead-in paragraphs
works well. As does a picture, graph, chart or illustration, with a 2
or 3 line caption.
Think how you're going to grab attention for your main story. That is
what the graphics should do.
#3). The eye goes to color
And we're in a color world. The pair of girls I call granddaughters (one
is 20 something, the other a late teen-ager) do not know black / white
ever existed. Their life has been nothing but color.
Which means the rest of us have lived in almost solid color for 3+ decades.
Tests have proven color out pulls white. And that 2 colors is better than
a single splash. When you use 3 or 4 or more colors you can expect another
UP in response - as the eye goes to color.
Everything from post cards to major product brochures, with illustrated
letters, booklets and response cards in-between, all do better with color.
So do web sites.
Plan to use color to enrich your words. Still, there is one caution;
color is another support tool for graphics. Be extremely careful of mixing
too much color with your text. Dark copy on top of dark ink makes for
nearly impossible reading.
#4). Illustrate with people
People buy from people ... not companies or organizations.
The earth is what it is because of people - not things. So, use people
in your marketing and promotional materials. When you have a big piece
of equipment to sell, or a something you can hold in your hand, you may
feel the need to show it. The big cat earth digger. The handheld cell
phone. To make it real. To prove it exists. Fine. I accept.
Now, show a customer using your "thing". Enjoying your automobile.
Sitting comfortably in your chair. Flying high in your airplane. Pounding
on your keyboard.
If you peddle a service it is even more important to show "happy"
people. The financial marketplace - banks / brokerage houses / insurance
/ loan companies have learned a smiling face gets more response. Much
more than a picture of the headquarters building, a brinks truck, a safe-deposit
box, a stock certificate, a vault, or even a stack of money.
People make good things happen. Use people as key elements in your design.
#5). Illustrate rectangular
Round is nice - yet tough to read. And thus difficult to truly understand.
This is a physiology thing. Meaning it is how our eyes take in light
and dark and process it. How we "read".
What research has shown is that things round are less readable than things
in squares or another rectangular shapes. Meaning further, pie-charts
are the worst to read. And that anything in a circle, although we may
like the way it looks, reduces our capability to make a point. To be clear.
Translated, this means things in rectangles, horizontal or vertical,
work. Bar charts north/south or east/west work best. A rectangle graph
with a wiggly line is easier to understand than a circle with call-outs.
This applies to pictures, illustrations, photography and all art, too.
When they are housed inside a "box" they are much more likely
to do the job you want them to do ... get attention, AND be understood.
#6). Illustrate with a caption
Newspapers do the best job of this. And most magazines. Frequently in
brochures and direct mail we do not do as good a job.
When you place a picture, underneath it must be a 2 or 3 line descriptive
caption. To the left can work ... as in this and many languages we read
left to right. The purpose of the caption is to tell the reader what they
are seeing. To hype interest. To pull them into the complete message.
The caption allows you the opportunity for a sales pitch. To repeat a
benefit. To say something to turn the looker into a reader.
Never, never, never leave a picture, a chart, a graph "hanging".
All by itself, with nothing that tells you what it is. You must tell the
reader what they are looking at ... even if it is plain and obvious to
#7). Handwritten notes get noticed
Technology available to us today allows us to do almost anything we wish
in production. Things that previously were done by hand or only in small
numbers, can today be extended to thousands, and "yes", even
A hand written note is one example. That personal short note you handwrite
in the margin of a letter or below the P.S. Maybe even above the introductory
paragraph. Something - always in a different color, most often blue -
to get the readers eye. To get attention.
This same technique can also make a personal statement in a brochure.
On the outside of an envelope. In a fax message. And soon in E-mail marketing.
Identify 1 or 2 or 3 "hot buttons", and use the handwritten
method to grab the attention of your audience.
#8). Avoid reverse ... avoid italics
Being positive by nature, saying "avoid" is tough for me. Yet,
in this instance, it is easy to do.
As using reverse type and italic type as a "graphic" is certain
to reduce the impact of your message. Sure, as with most things, a little
is fine. As long it is not a reverse yellow italic 9 point in size.
If you really want to reverse a block of type, use a bigger point
size. And maybe bold it as well. My experience says nothing smaller
than 14 point will do - anything smaller is unreadable.
Plus, keep it short ... nothing more than a paragraph. Save reverse for
borders and symbols and pure graphics to get attention. Not for type.
The same can be said for italics. A little is fine to get attention.
Several times in this article I have put a word or very short phrase
in italics. Because long paragraphs of it are nearly impossible to
Bottom line; avoid reverse ... avoid italics.
#9). UPPER & lower case reads best
This is second time I'm using the word physiology. Talking about our
bodies. And particularly our eyes.
Research as proven again and again it is much easier To Read When We
Use Both Upper And Lower Case Type. The most often used opposite is everything
set in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. WHICH, AFTER A WHILE, NOT ONLY SCREAMS OUT,
IT BECOMES EXTREMELY DIFFICULT TO READ.
A few words - probably up to a max of 5 - in all CAPS is AOK. More than
that and your audience turns away.
Newspaper headlines s the only possible exception to this guideline.
Certainly for brochures, booklets, in direct mail and E-mail, on your
web site and any document you hold in your hands, you want to avoid ALL
#10). Use symbols to help the reader
l and and F and _ and û and other symbols help keep a
reader with you.
Simple things ... such as / slash marks, (parentheses),
the # number sign, stars * and > arrows all make your
writing more interesting.
These, and many more, I look at as a graphic. And feel they are as important
as a picture of your customer using your product. They each help the reader
move along with your message.
Symbols allow you to put a "list" together, too. Such as O,
, Ž when you have 3 key points to make.
As important as it is to use symbols, it is tempting to over use them.
Because it is so easy to drop one in here / pop something in there. Please
don't do that.
#11). Use involvement pieces to help the reader
It's vital you get your prospect involved with you emotionally.
Sure, many buying decisions are consideration, vs. impulse. Meaning they
are more rational. Still, the "feel" part plays at least some
part in every action. And "things" help you get the emotional
juices flowing. When your prospect does something, you've begun to move
them toward you.
It's easiest in direct mail ... yet these ideas work in print, in literature
and brochures you hand out at a trade fair, at a demonstration;
- scratch & sniff or other rub-off spot
- a pop-up
- a peel-off sticker
- stamps or tokens
- a puzzle or game
- a die-cut or punch-out
- a premium or ad specialty
- something with a fancy fold
- a product sample
- anything 3-Dimensional, including the packaging
People - even adult people - like to do things. Some of the most popular
activities on computers are games. Bingo - use that appeal of fun and
action, combine it with emotion, and get your audience involved.
#12). Serifs exist for a purpose
Serifs are the "feet" on type. The "hooks" at the
end of letters. They are named serifs.
For anything you hold in your hand to read, one of the 1800+ serif typefaces
is best. Some of the most popular and most common are these;
- Courier New
- ITC Century Book
- ITC Garamond Light Condensed
- Goudy Old Style
- Times New Roman
- Century Schoolbook
San-serif, another 1800 or so typefaces without feet, are used for things
we read far away. Like posters and signs. Or in printed matter, for short
headlines or a bold sub-head.
When we reverse the use of serif and san-serif we are - again - fighting
physiology. Never thought when I dove into this marketing business I'd
talk medical. Yet, it is our eyes that read.
Think of it this way; 70-75% of the world wears glasses or contacts.
Why? Because they cannot see! Nearly a third of those with glasses have
the enhancement of bio or tri-focal. Which means they can't see at 2 or
Anything you do to make easy for this audience to do business with you,
you should. Including selecting a typeface that is easy on the eyes. Such
as a serif face, one of those listed here - or another that you
#13). "I can't save this copy"
One of the best graphic designers and art directors I've had the privilege
of working with is the source for this quote; "I can't save this
It was mid-afternoon. The client was expecting a first class presentation.
We were behind schedule. About 3 o'clock we tossed David the copy and
said, "Whip us up something ... Les is expecting us first thing in
The client was a long time resident in our firm. Everyone knew everyone
else. Yes, they were demanding - yet, they were great to work with. And
we'd had many successes together. The relationship was long - solid.
Still, we were behind. And even with all our knowledge, we had not allowed
time to do the graphics right.
David went in his office, closed the door. He read what we'd given him.
20 minutes later he came out and said ... "I can't save this copy".
I've never forgotten those words. Because, even if he'd had a week he
could not save the copy. David knew, because he understood how graphics
made the copy work, made it better, made it interesting, that unless he
had good copy, he could not make it better.
This is the last in this Baker's Dozen set about graphics. It closes
the loop to what was #1). Graphics are used to get the words read!
The story I told to open this article offers a fitting ending. The lady
had it right when she said the creative process is a team effort. The
copywriter, the art direction, the creative direction, the account manager,
the production team ... everyone must truly come together. As developing
successful marketing programs requires a team.
That's it ... The 13 Most Important Graphic Marketing Ideas. Use
them for success.