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An email newsletter should be short and sweet, right? Well, as I wrote this first article it sort of grew and just needed more words to make the point. The result, only a couple articles in this issue... but heartfelt none the less. Enjoy.
Creative Risk Tolerance
Lets back up a little and define the three terms within a design and marketing context. CREATIVITY. It helps sell things. If it didn't, every ad, brochure and TV commercial would simply say,"Here's our widget. It costs $3.95. Buy it." Yawn. But since it's human nature to learn and grow, creativity helps people look at things differently. They laugh, they wonder, they think, they grow. RISK. I know, most people would love a world with no risk, with the exception of skateboarders and highschool kids on prom night. Sorry, risk is just part of our existence. It's kind of "no pain, no gain" thing. Anyone who has ever gained market share or gotten noticed as a "shaker and mover" in their industry has usually gone outside their comfort zone in some way and taken some degree of risk. TOLERANCE. This one gets very personal. It takes into account your personal view of your clients, your competition and your market. How bold or different can (or should) you be to increase sales? Many questions come to mind: Will my clients understand? Will it turn some them off? Does any of my competition use this approach? What color socks did I put on this morning? (Just seeing if you're paying attention.)
So when promoting your company or product, how "creative" should you get? It really isn't much different than the stock market. Greater risk can yield greater rewards (visibility, mind share, sales) but, as the term implies, "risk" can be... risky.
Some of the most effective high-risk promotions have walked pretty far out on the creative branch. But some of the most dismal failures have, too. The risk of being "overly creative" is that it might lead to a misunderstanding about your product and therefore not improve sales. But how about taking the safe route? Do you say, "I'll do what others have done so I'll be sure that nobody misunderstands me." Maybe, but the risk here is that a message can be so bland and similar to everyone else that nobody notices you at all. So, in this case too, you are risking sales. Our world is thick with the safe and unnoticeable. The real trick to developing an effective promotional piece or campaign is to understand the creative risk tolerance of your company, your audience and yourself. (Note: it is usually the audience that accepts and even desires the highest creativity and it's usually fear of creative risk that leads to forgettable promotions.) But for everyone concerned (your company, sales force, customers and yourself) ask, "Do they like to see new things and to be entertained or are they conservative, black and white thinkers". Then, determine what you want from this promotion. Is your goal to please everybody, or is it to make a strong statement that attracts a large percentage of the target audience, knowing that you will not "connect" to a small percentage. If your answer is "to please everybody", chances are you will fall into the safe and unnoticeable category. Knowing that letting go of a small percentage to get a larger response can be a powerful understanding. Example – The PT Cruiser was designed knowing that some percentage of the public really disliked it. They felt that their remaining "approving" audience was sufficient to justify production of the product. They were right.
Good creativity can take a small promotion budget and break through the clutter of larger campaigns. Coca-Cola? has a promotional budget that can place their logo on almost every surface between here and Jupiter. To compete, a company would have to do one of two things: 1) Outspend them. Yeah, sure. Or, 2) Increase their creative risk tolerance and develop a promotional message that gains attention by being different.
The bottom line? Ask yourself, "Since I am going to put in the effort to promote, do I want to make a statement that is noticed, or is the goal to deliver a clean and safe message?" Neither one is right? or wrong. But if you know your creative risk tolerance your promotions, image, and brand will match your goal.
Visual Style = Design
There is a certain persuasiveness inherent in the look of things. A sexy new computer for example. Ten years ago did anyone use the words (sexy and computer) in the same sentence? We as human beings like things that look appropriate to the image that we have about our life, our job, our personality.
When a potential customer picks up your promotional brochure or sees your ad, they get a feeling from the look of it before even reading one word. The feeling might be "new," "advanced," "solid," "stable," or if you are less fortunate, "boring," "cheap," and "unreliable." This is style. This is what gets a person to look longer and read more.
Sometimes, the design of a promotional piece can stop right there. The visual style can be so interesting that readers are led right into the content of the piece. But how do you accomplish this without just making the type huge and essentially yelling at your customer? Concept is something that allows the customer to think and discover the product benefits in an interesting or fun way.
Suppose you have a product that is fast (pizza delivery, for example). You could create an ad with a bold headline that says "Pizza Delivered Fast." Yup, it says your message. Or, you could show a pizza box that has burned streaks across the top and the headline "Immediate Satisfaction." With the second approach the reader has a few seconds to mentally assemble the visual and verbal messages. Then comes the moment of "Ah Ha!" when they feel entertained and maybe even a little proud of their discovery. This is concept. There are times when visual style is the appropriate direction and times when concept is the better direction. Both are the tools of good design. Knowing when to use each is the trick. Like slicing a pizza, you can use a pizza cutter, a knife, a spoon or a table saw. They all work but some just make more of a mess than others.
Problem Solver No. 1
Thank you for taking the time to read this. If we can help with your design and marketing needs feel free to contact us.