Growing in the business!

As I grew in my business I went to work for a direct marketing agency. I was leery of going to work for an agency that did (shhh) junk mail.

But I soon learned that direct response advertising was one of the most respected areas of advertising. A company spends a lot of money doing advertising. In general ads, they place an ad in a publication or on radio or tv shows and then have to wait for a long time before they find out if the ad did any good with regards to response. And sometimes they never find out. That’s because there is no way to track that what people saw and listened to was the direct result to their buying or using a service. Are you seeing a correlation here?

With Direct Response Advertising, be it print (newspapers, magazines) or broadcast (radio and TV) or direct mail or email, there is definitely a way to track if one medium is working better than another.

Many advertisers will opt for a piece that has a coupon on it so when a prospective client sends in the coupon they can tell exactly where it came from (think; codes). They can tell “directly” whether the ads worked better or the mail piece. That’s where the phrase Direct Response comes from, not from the fact that an advertiser sends it directly to someone. It makes not a hill of beans if the piece is sent OUT . . . only is it is responded TO.

So what does a Graphic Designer do for direct response? It is the duty of the designer to work with the text, often created by a writer who specializes in direct response writing, and make it look fresh, original, enticing, funny, fun, lively and/or dramatic. A good concept works far better than simply a pretty piece.

What’s a concept?

Say a company is trying to sell telephone services to customers throughout a certain region. The client wants the consumer to buy three way calling, call forwarding, you know . . . the gamut of services.

One could make a direct response piece that states these items in a column of text and give descriptions of what each service does. It would be informative . . . but boring.

That same information could tell a story. Perhaps it could focus on a family that needs help in communicating via phone. Mom and dad work long hours and need to reach their kids via cell phone with either calls or text messages.

But Granny O’Neil, who lives in the next county, needs to be checked on now and again. She isn’t comfortable using a cell phone. The buttons are too small for her to see clearly and she has trouble holding the small device against her ear. A traditional phone works better for her. But Mom wants the kids to be able to speak with their grandmother. Mom’s at work. The daughter is at an after school event. With three way calling they can all three speak at the same time.

Now, again, this is a nice story but how does a designer use their expertise artistically to enhance something and make it attractive? Start with the idea of the “family” and do some creative thinking about how that family would look.

Can you make them into cartoons? How about some illustrations that are computer drawn? Or create a photo shoot with a real family or with actors/models. There are agencies out there that provide actors as models. It’s great because you can explain to them what the type of person is they will be portraying and they get “into character” immediately. There are even some agencies that deal with semi-pro models; people like retirees, young moms or college students that need to make some extra money.

Then there is a color scheme. Do you want it to look relaxing? Blues. Soft greens. How about energizing? Then pick contrasts like deep blue and bright red. Or yellow with purple. Black and white, with a good amount of it being the black.

A “color scheme” does not necessarily mean that only those colors chosen are used. But they are predominant in any piece.

If you know that the piece you are being asked to design is only the first of many to come, you can actually pre-pick color schemes so that when the next job comes around for you to design, you already have colors that go together. Rarely is a client ready to give you all information for a series of designs right from the start.

But they may wish to have each piece, be they brochures, web pages, packaging, or even stationery packages be a suite of publications. This means that they want each individual piece in a marketing effort to look like they belong together. So when coming up with design ideas, try to have the concepts be flexible enough to accommodate color variances, images that will be treated artistically in similar ways and type choices that can stand the test of time.

Don’t have the time, energy or wherewithal to do all that?

Hire a professional designer. It’s what we do all the time and we are good at it.

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