Design & Copy Tips That Get You Noticed

When designing any marketing communication, it’s important to stay on the lookout for tips to help with the design, the list, the offer, and the CTA. However, tips to improve readability can make a big difference, too.

If people can’t read the message easily or if you have inadvertently created stumbling blocks that limit their ability to absorb it, your response could be diminished. Improve the readability of your message and you will improve your response rates, conversions, and sales.

Let’s look at five tips for improving readability.

  1. Be specific.

People are drawn to details. Pat Friesen, author of The Cross-Channel Copywriting Handbook, gives the following examples:

  • “Save money.”
  • “Save hundreds of dollars.”
  • “Save an average of $478.22 per year.”

“’Save money’ is a powerful draw, but ‘save hundreds of dollars’ is more compelling,” she says. “Even better is ‘Save an average of $478.22 per year.’ We see this approach a lot in the auto industry.”

  1. Be relevant.

People’s eyes are drawn to messaging that talks about things that matter to them. For example, your audience has children about to graduate from high school. You can add, “Save money to put your child through college.”

“Pair that life stage incentive with the specific detail of saving $478.22 per year and it makes a strong statement,” Friesen explains.

  1. Add images.

Even the most specific, relevant copy can fall on deaf ears without an image to accompany it. For example, you might create a banner ad that says, “Download your free retirement guide” that goes totally unnoticed, even if it’s hitting your ideal target audience. Add an image of the cover, however, and suddenly the ad gets noticed.

Images in email newsletters and other digital media can look flat, so try adding drop shadows for dimension and depth.

  1. Use numerals when possible.

When discussing numbers in running text, use numerals instead of spelling them out. This makes those details pop. Readers’ eyes will be drawn to numerals right away, even in the middle of a paragraph.

Try it! Which one of these stands out most to you?

  • 10,000
  • 10 thousand
  • Ten thousand
  • $10,000
  • $10,000.000
  1. Avoid using all caps.

For the most part, the human eye has difficulty distinguishing between words and letters in all caps. Avoid using all caps except in rare instances.

If you must use all caps, use smart font choices to make the words more readable. “A general rule of thumb is that serif fonts are easier to read in print,” notes Patrick Fultz, president and chief creative officer of DM Creative Group (Woodstock, VT). “But on the Internet, serif can fall apart. The thicks and thins break up. Traditionally, sans serif font reads better online.”

Want more ideas for great design and type that make your message stand out? Give us a call!

Taken from the webinar “Design & Copy: Little Things You Don’t Want to Overlook (2016 DMDay Virtual Conference Session)” hosted by “Direct Marketing News.”


Profitable (and Overlooked) Uses of Color

When we think about color in print marketing and direct mail, we think about stunning images and eye-catching graphics. But what about color in the messaging itself? What role should that play? Here are some important but often overlooked ways that color can increase the effectiveness of your print marketing efforts.

Increased Recall and Response

Study after study shows that, when messages and images are in color, it increases recall dramatically. Color increases recall in the 80% range, and people are about 40% more likely to select or read materials when they are in color.

Here are some more benefits of color:

  • Helps readers find information more easily (great for insurance policies, contracts, and other lengthy documents)
  • Reduces errors (highlighting instructions or account information helps people get it right the first time)
  • Slashes payment time (try highlighting the amount owed and the due date with color and watch your invoices get paid faster!)
  • Increases the ability of readers to understand and retain information (great for sales presentations)

When you want to draw your readers’ attention to something, consider printing it in color. Make phone numbers or payment information stand out in a letter. Highlight discounts in a brightly colored starburst. Use arrows or colored bullets to focus attention on key points in a brochure.

Success Translates into Dollars

One success story comes from the State of California Franchise Tax Board (FTB), which produces more than 14 million personal income tax returns each year. The FTB used to send out tax notices, but many taxpayers didn’t know what they needed to do, how much to pay, or where to send the payment.  The result was slow payments and expensive volumes of calls to call centers.

The FTB decided to do something different. It added highlight color and personalized messaging to explain exactly what each taxpayer needed to do. Key information was displayed in blue, guiding taxpayers through the document and giving them specific instructions.

The result? Faster payments and fewer mistakes. This translated into millions in additional interest income and, at an average cost of $15 per call to the call center, significant savings from reduced call center contacts.

The takeaway? Color matters—not just in your graphics, but in your messaging, too. It is central to your brand identity and marketing psychology. Let us help you use color to make you money and save you money, too!

What Is Your Font Trying to Say?

Several years ago, the U.S. public was fascinated by the television show “Who Do You Think You Are?” This smash hit took television and other famous personalities on a journey to discover their ancestry. Discovering these secrets often changed these celebrities’ perception of themselves.

Did you know that fonts have an ancestry, too? Typographers designed almost all of the classic fonts for specific purposes. Let’s look at just a few.

Venetian book printer Aldus Manutius invented italic type, not because he wanted to stress everything, but because it was the best way to fit all of a book’s text into a “pocket edition.”

The British newspaper The Times commissioned the creation of Times Roman after font designer Stanley Morison criticized the paper for its poor typography.

AT&T designed a popular sans serif face Bell Gothic in 1938 for its telephone directories. Its goal? Legibility and economy of page space, two vital elements of a good phone book.

Charles de Gaulle International Airport developed Frutiger, another popular sans serif, for airport signage. The goal was for travelers to quickly and easily read it from a distance.

Closer to home, Highway Gothic, the official font of the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, spawned the creation of Interstate. Typographers subsequently modified it to use at smaller sizes, and perhaps in colors other than white on green.

Some typefaces outlive the technology for which typographers created them. People who have never even seen a typewriter often use Courier, which was designed for IBM typewriters. It still evokes a “home made” feel, even though few homes actually have typewriters anymore.

So next time you look at a font, remember that it was designed for a purpose. We hope that providing insight into some of these purposes will entertain you, spark your creativity, and provide insight into how to best utilize them.

Counteract Commoditization with Creativity

Anyone can come up with a snazzy jingle or discount a product. Marrying great creative with insightful, database-driven personalization is more challenging. It also generates better results because the mailer is relevant, not just catchy.

When one safety products company exchanged its static mailers for creative, highly personalized mailers, for example, the results were dramatic. Instead of receiving generic sales pitches, recipients were invited to log into their own personalized URLs where they could input company-specific data and see estimates on the impact of the technology in their own organizations. Variables included net costs saved, estimated injuries avoided, and estimated lives saved.

By allowing recipients to see how the product directly benefits them (rather than another company or some hypothetical organization), results went through the roof. The marketer’s annual revenues grew from $6 million to $68 million in a span of five years in part due to this dramatic change in marketing strategy.

Marketers are testing elements such as size, shape, substrate, windows, “reveals” and fonts to grab attention in other ways, as well. These elements, in themselves, increase response rates, but when paired with relevant personalization, the improvement can be dramatic.

When one financial solutions company wanted to increase participation in its “company match” 401(k) programs, for example, it paired its design changes with targeted segmentation (by participation level) and personalized content. Although the number of variables was low, the company saw a 16% boost in participation and a jump of $2 million in new contributions.

If you want results, get creative. Ditch “the usual” and look for new ways to approach the same material and get recipients to take a fresh look at the value of what you have to offer.