Growing up, we were always taught that “Looks don’t matter” and “It’s what’s on the inside that counts.” Now what I tell you may come as a shock, but the truth is, looks DO matter. Let’s not sugar coat the hard facts any further. In today’s heavily saturated and highly competitive marketplace, it is more important than ever to create visually-appealing, professional and compelling marketing collateral. You can have a powerful product and/or service, an award-winning team, and strong messaging, but as Coughter (2012) mentions, based on a previous UCLA research study, 55 percent of our communication takeaways are derived from visual elements. Let’s think about that figure for a second, over half of what you and I take away comes from visual devices such as symbols and other non-verbal forms of communication. Gulp…no pressure marketing professionals out there, but it’s clear some efforts and resources are needed to ensure that a company’s collateral is making full use of its potential.
With this in mind, here are a few tips:
Keep it simple and clean. Ever hear of the term cognitive overload? In case you haven’t, let me explain. “Jane” creates a marketing piece with loads of text, unreadable fonts, and endless clutter. There are no message headings, no clarity, and no key takeaways. We, as her audience, have no idea what we are supposed to be looking at, no direction, and feel lost. This, my friends, is cognitive overload.
As marketing professionals, it’s our duty to give our audience a user-friendly map that guides them to the key takeaways we are striving to highlight. How do we do this? Simplicity is key. As Coughter (2012) explains, using concise, provocative and colorful language is important in creating a powerful image for your intended audience. Eliminate irrelevant content, add headings, highlight key takeaways, and make room for a little white space (Coughter, 2012; Mindtools, 2015). Easy enough and I promise, you’ll thank me later.
Use visually compelling images and meaningful charts. When using visual devices, choose wisely. Some companies (particularly in the investment management industry) often select the most complex and incomprehensible charts in an effort to assert their intelligence. Agency Post’s Content strategist, Jami Oetting explains “Charts and graphs should clarify information. When you choose the wrong type of chart or simply default to the most common type of visualization, you could be going against this principle: you could either confuse the viewer or lead to mistaken data interpretation.” Furthermore, like charts, images used in marketing collateral should also be chosen carefully, as they too hold the key to an emotional and powerful connection with your audience (Coughter, 2012).
Consistency across all marketing collateral. As part of a company’s integrated marketing efforts and overall brand strategy, it is important that marketing professionals maintain a consistent look and feel across each communication channel (CMGT 541, 2016). As we transition into the digital era, more businesses are focusing their efforts on website design and social media, and falling short on other communication fronts like print ads and collateral. The reality is that successful marketers implement a consistent strategy across all communication channels, recognizing that not only does each medium complement one another, consistency across media also renders the deepest penetration into target markets (Stokes, 2014)
As Creative Designer, Mark Stokes puts it, “marketing collateral that feels tired and outdated gives the impression that your business is falling behind its competitors,” thus further substantiating the reality that looks really DO matter.
Coughter, P. (2012). The art of the pitch: Persuasion and presentation skills that win business. Palgrave Macmillan.
CMGT 541. (2016). Integration. Retrieved from https://mcm.usc.edu/mod/page/view.php?id=33944
Mindtools.com (2015) Creating Effective Presentation Visuals: Connecting People With Your Message. Retrieved January 27, 2016, from https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/creating-presentation-visuals.htm
Oetting, J. (15, May 10). A Simple Guide to Choosing the Right Chart for Your Data. Retrieved January 28, 2016, from http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/data-visualization-choosing-chart
Stokes, M. (2014). Marketing Collateral Tips | Marketing Collateral Still Matters! Retrieved January 27, 2016, from https://medianovak.com/marketing-collateral-tips/