Ray worked with B-2-B and Consumer clients throughout the world ... including USA, Canada, Mexico, Asia, the South Pacific, Europe, the Middle-East, Central & South America, Africa.

This website is a compilation of Ray's 10 years on the Web.

Baker's Dozen INDEX

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 you.

#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 millions.

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 read.

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 CAPS.

#10). Use symbols to help the reader

l and and F and _ and 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
  • perforations
  • 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 3 levels.

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 find readable.

#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 copy"

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 morning.".

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.

Baker's Dozen INDEX

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