What You Need To Know About Effective Print Advertising

Ed BurghardHalf the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.

Quotation attributed to: John Wanamaker

Most Print Promotion Fails Because It Violates One Or More Of These Criteria

I have always been amazed at the amount of lousy print promotion in the market place.  This is promotion created by well intended Agencies for clients that are looking to build a loyal customer base.  Big money is invested and the ultimate result is failure.  The client blames the Agency for incompetence.  The Agency blames the client for poor direction or a bad product.  In the end everybody is disappointed and the market is flooded with forgettable messages.

Here Are 5 Criteria To Help You Get A Positive ROI From Print Promotion

  1. Make sure your brand benefit is supported by visuals and the headline.  People need to quickly and clearly understand the benefit of your brand.  Eye tracking research confirms the importance of the headline in capturing a reader’s attention/interest.  It also confirms that people typically spend more time on visuals than text (but this can vary depending on the product category and the goal of the reader).  the conclusion of a recent study suggests “it appears that viewers sample the pictorial information and then use the text for confirmation, or they read the text and then sample the pictorial information for confirmation”.  This implies people will look at your visual and then the headline to confirm what they are seeing.  Consequently, having a benefit focused visual and headline provides a powerful 1-2 punch for communicating your message.
  2. Copy should be built around target specific insights.  If the copy is relevant it will be of interest and the probability of getting read increases dramatically.  If it isn’t relevant, it will be overlooked.  The difference between great copy and poor copy is relevance.  Ipsos Media conducts ad effectiveness research.  In a study of newspaper advertisements they found: a) the headline is the key element that drives purchase, b) convincing copy is strongly linked to conversion, c) imagery increases attention, and d) copy that makes people think differently improves message recall.  The key to writing convincing copy is having insight into the real needs of the reader (i.e. relevancy), and then speaking to those needs.
  3. Involve your target.  People dismiss passive ads that merely deliver a lecture.  It is no different than when you were in school.  The teachers that got you involved in the learning held your attention.  The others you tuned out.  there are a number of ways to involve people in your print promotion.  Some of the ways are – interesting headlines, provocative visuals, questions, testimonials, quizzes, demonstrations.  In 2011, ADWEEK ran an article looking at “10 Great Magazine Ads That Don’t Just Sit There Looking Pretty” that should help illustrate the point and get your imagination working.
  4. Anticipate and handle objections.  If you know a misperception about your product exists, don’t duck it.  If you do, people will simply discount anything your ad tells them.  It is a matter of credibility.  You do this all the time in sales, why not in your advertising?  Here is a passage from The ADWEEK Copywriting Handbook“Just as you have to recognize objections, it is your opportunity and duty to resolve the objections too.  You must be honest and provide alternative solutions or dispel the objections completely.”  The book goes on to use the Gillette Fusion razor as an example.  The razor uses a AAA battery and Gillette anticipated people might be reluctant to try the razor because the battery might not last very long.  The Gillette approach was to raise the question and answer it with the statement “For best performance, change the battery every six months.”  Don’t duck objections, effectively deal with them.
  5. Build on your design equity.  It should be clear that YOUR print promotion is from YOUR brand and not a competitor.  Make certain your brand distinctiveness and visual identity are evident.  Leverage your brand character and don’t allow your Agency to deviate from it.

Follow The 5 Criteria For Better Success

I often encourage marketers to do a table top review of their promotion to get a more holistic view and identify opportunities for improvement.

A table top review is pretty simple.  You get examples of all promotion done by your brand in the last year and place them on a table.  Take the 5 criteria above and have your team score each piece.  Use a 1-10 scale for each of the 5 criteria to make it easy to quantify results.  Set a minimum score for acceptable (I encourage you to set it high).  Once the exercise is done, a) discuss how each piece might have been improved, and b) look at the aggregate score by criterion to determine if there is a systemic challenge in your promotion efforts.  For example, if you consistently find the benefit is missing from the headline and/or main visual, then talk about how to change the promotion development process going forward to address that opportunity.  The exercise will take a couple hours, but the benefit will be more effective promotion that delivers a stronger ROI.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Share your experience.  I’d love to have you share an example or two of promotion you have seen that either meets or violates the criteria.

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2 Comments so far

  1. Ted Coene

    August 17, 2015

    Thank you Ed for continually fighting the good fight. Its easy to throw your hands up and say advertising doesn’t work. However, if you utilize these 5 principals, your ad and ultimately your community will receive significant interest and awareness. Well said!

  2. […] What You Need To Know About Effective Print Advertising […]

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