Insights Into Effective Benefit Visualization

Ed BurghardA Picture is Worth a Thousand Words.

Have you ever tried to visualize your community’s brand promise? If so, you’ll know that it’s difficult because it is hard enough to communicate your promise in words let alone a picture.

So what do you do?

Start with a better understanding of the process that leads to great benefit visualization. This post will tell you what you need to know to increase your probability of creating a benefit visualization that will help your advertising/promotion be more effective.

It is important to understand great benefit visualization is all about the strategic benefit.  It is not the “money shot” of your community that features a rainbow and happy people going about their lives.  It is a visual that clearly, and precisely illustrates (or helps to illustrate) your community’s brand promise.  It needs to be simple and meaningful to your target audience.  And, ideally it is both distinctive and provocative so it can attract attention.

In my experience, more often than not, the key difference between a strong and a weak ad is often the presence or lack of a great benefit visualization.  Ads with a great benefit visualization consistently score higher for ad recall and allow for more efficient copy (which in the case of print can mean using ¼-page and ½-page ad units rather than 1-page).

But, some benefits are hard to visualize because they are invisible or intangible, or you are trying to visualize the absence of a negative, or the benefit requires a certain degree discretion when trying to visualize it.

In these cases, here are some options that often can work:

  • Animation will help readers understand and accept things they don’t normally see (particularly effective for videos on your website).
  • Third party endorsement of how the benefit has helped a relatable person lends credibility to a hard to see benefit (e.g. a small business CEO talking about how the choice of being in your community has helped her be successful).
  • Visualize the problem and use copy to discuss your benefit.  This helps in the overall communication of your benefit story.
  • Use a metaphor.  People understand metaphors and they are often used to explain complicated things.

Whichever approach you opt to use, it will all be for naught if your community’s promise is poorly written.  Be certain it is strategically clear and articulated simply.  If your community promise is not choiceful, it will be hard to discern what the benefit you are trying to communicate actually is.  Also, if you are working with an Agency, make certain the Creative Brief has an unambiguous articulation of your community promise and the benefit translation for the various target audiences you want to communicate with.  A sloppy Creative Brief will lead to sub-standard communication concepts.

Here are a few more watch-outs to keep in mind:

  • Insist on precision in the visualization of the benefit. If it requires too much thought, or a leap of logic to understand, it simply will not work.
  • If your benefit is fundamentally boring, so will the visualization be.  Make certain your community promise is focused on something truly important to your target audience.
  • If the communication (or campaign) concept is too complex it will be hard to identify the core benefit.  Simplify the story.
  • If you focus too much on a reason to believe the benefit, then the benefit will not be communicated well I the visualization.  For example, if you are trying to communicate how easy it is to do business in your community, don’t focus too much on explaining the details of your low cost loan program.  If you do, the reader will miss your broader point.
  • Be sure your community’s benefit is communicated clearly, relevantly and in an inspiring way.  Reject any visualization that fails on any one of these three criteria.

Keep you benefit visualization simple.  Try to focus on a breakthrough way of visualizing the benefit rather than simply doing it the way everybody else does.  Take the time to make sure the benefit is seen as desirable; romance it if needed.

Now that you know what makes a benefit visualization good, you’re ready to work with your Agency to try and create a visualization that will work hard for your community.  When you find it, it will serve you well for a long time.

Here is an example of a visualization we created to help communicate that Ohio was a great location choice to achieve both professional and personal success without trading one for the other.  This ad ran in the Wall Street Journal a few years ago.  The challenge was to find a visual approach to illustrate both sides of an executive’s life.  We did it using juxtaposed images with a look at the executive’s personal life and a circle that acted like a portal into the featured executive’s professional life.  We elected to used a storytelling approach in copy development so the visual and copy were reinforcing.


Did it Work?

While this campaign was “on-air” Ohio won the Site Selection Governor’s Cup of the most large deals attracted in the nation.  Cause an effect is often hard to convincingly establish.  But, it is worth highlighting that over the multiple year period Ohio invested in its national branding campaign,  the state was consistently the annual Governor’s Cup winner.

Leave a comment with your thoughts.

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