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Some Simple Techniques For Upgrading the Appearance of Ads, Brochures, Leaflets and Mailers

Market testing of the factors that make an advert work consistently relegates "the graphics" to the bottom end of the scale.

Graphics aren't as critical to the response from an ad or direct mailing or promotional piece, as are the "targeting" of the market and the "offer" components.

But, it is still important to give your promotional material a professional look. Not necessarily a "slick" or "arty" look, unless that is your desired image.

But certainly a look and feel of being professional and businesslike. Your Ad or Flyer is your "shop window" to the reader, at that point in time. Yet, in so many cases, promotional pieces look slapped together and disjointed. Short of going to an advertising agency or a graphic design studio, there needs to be some guidelines for the small business advertiser.

What then are some simple techniques for lifting the graphic quality of your ads?

Make the headline dominant

It's been stressed before. When your headline is written, you've spent 70% or more of your money. Given that you've sweated hard and long to write your headline, make sure it's the first thing to hit the reader's eyes after the illustration.

That is, don't fall for the trendy practice of putting the headline in the middle of the body copy ... or at the bottom of the ad, as is often seen. Have you ever seen a newspaper editor (past masters of the use of headlines to create impact) do that?

And make sure you have a headline that sells. Just putting the product name at the top is not a headline! 

An example of an upgraded leaflet 

What I've tried to do in my "make-over" of the leaflet above (without totally changing the feel of it), is to apply some simple techniques.

Firstly I've worked on a headline that grabs attention graphically, and stirs the emotions in a way that will sell the concept, rather than simply naming the product ... which isn't a headline at all.

The "creativity" of my illustration came from flipping through several magazines looking for a person using a telephone. (Magazine ad and editorial photos are a great source of material for rough layouts.) The copy is brief, but still "talks" to the reader, and it asks for the order!

So many promotional brochures cry out for a photo or two ... yet they are all words. Or the photos are smudgy and dark as if they were taken by an old box Brownie camera! If you can, use photos taken by a professional photographer. Photos that enhance your product, and demonstrate benefits to the reader.

Also, consider using the photograph 'blown up far more than you normally would ... it sells what you're about. Or try cropping it down to the very "core" of the subject, if it dramatises your message ... (such as the mouth close to the phone).

A photo of your building may be called for if it sells the fact that you're established, and have everything under one roof. It doesn't belong if it's an ego trip that says "Hey! Look! I own a building".

Observe "reader gravity"

Many promotional pieces are a hotchpotch of different sized type, unrelated panels of information, and big gaps of white space. Things that make it tough for the reader to follow the message. As you know, they'll only give you a fleeting opportunity.

After that, it's into the waste paper basket. We were taught to read left to right, top to bottom. Follow that "rule" in your layout and you'll lift readership. It doesn't mean you can't use creativity ... but use it wisely.

Avoid over use of ALL CAPS

Upper case is considered an effective way to emphasise a point. However, it is tiring and unnatural on the eye if used in excess.

Likewise, avoid using oversized type just to fill up the spaces. Oversized type is just like shouting at your reader ... something you'd hardly do face to face.

Body copy

Avoid sans serif typefaces in a heavy body of copy. They are harder to read than serif typefaces. Type size in body copy? Never smaller than 7 point. Outside of headlines and subheads, rarely would you go bigger than 14 point. Fonts? An over use of different fonts should be avoided, as it destroys the cohesion of the message.

Also, it's safer to use black ink for body copy (and halftone illustrations), and keep other colours for borders, screens and headlines. How many brochures have you seen with blue or green pictures and body copy, with for example, red headlines? They look downright insipid. An exception to that is where a stylistic effect has been achieved on an expensive coloured paper stock.

Study other ads and observe their balance

Some ads are too balanced! Their rigid symmetry makes them blend into the page or become a piece of "art", while other "less professional" ads stand out. A careful use of asymmetry can catch the eye. Incidentally, just making a border heavier than all the surrounding ads won't guarantee readership. It is the headline and illustration that earn the attention of the reader. I find often, that an ad that "mimics" the editorial, without any border, often gets a higher response.

Make your story unfold as the brochure unfolds

So many promotional pieces are just flat flyers. Yet, with a little time sitting down with a blank "dummy" to rough out headlines and illustrations, you can often discover some interesting ways to make your story unfold in a way that grabs the reader with the front cover "headline", then "invites" them to keep delving further and further until your whole message is told and you've asked for the order, as in this worked example...

 An example of an upgraded ad

Again, Ive resisted changing the context of the message. Rather, youll see that by simply taking out all of the caps, adding quotation marks, including a person to humanise the message, and boxes to break up the graphics, this low cost letterbox drop becomes a lot more reader friendly.

Frankly though, if I were producing this promotion, I would go a lot further. Id make the card a double fold, and inside, include more reasons for using my services.

Maybe Id have photos of the team outline their experience, discuss how we assist clients to get the best price, and Id offer a free information booklet.

Spend a little more ... you won't regret it

The final tip deals with the "saving" myth. False economy creeps in when printing costs are being discussed. Printers often steer clients away from "expensive" paper stocks, and from extra colours in the print run.

It's not their fault, as they aren't privy to the economics of the client's business.

You should weigh up your decision in terms of the extra sales that a better quality promotional piece can bring, against the "cost" of having a cheaper brochure "down sell" your business.

Want to learn more about creating winning direct mail letters?

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To read more articles related to this go to the Marketing Foundations section of the Academy.

You will also find other useful articles in Generating Leads, Online Marketing, Converting Prospects, Increasing Transaction Value and Increase Purchase Frequency.

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