designing ebooks and other fun things

What’s your marketing style?

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So you decided to print some brochures, or create a newsletter, or send out some postcards.

What’s your next step? What is the content that goes in there? What kind of style do you use for finishing up? How much care do you put into the little details? The answers say a lot about you and, ultimately, about your brand.

Let’s look at some possibilities. Play with me for a moment, alright?

Let’s pretend that your brand is invited to a black-tie party.

And the outfit you choose is your marketing piece. Obviously, for this specific marketing piece, there are black-tie party standards. That’s why it says “black-tie.”

Does it mean you have to adhere to these standards?

Not necessarily. It’s your marketing piece, and if you decide that your brochure is going to look like cake, then that’s your choice. (And I hope that in the end, you don’t get scared off from that idea by all the people that tell you that a brochure has to look like a brochure, and that you had better add some bullet points to that postcard, since there is too much room. In fact, if your brochure looks like cake, can I please have a copy?)

But for now, let’s pretend you are deciding what to wear to that party. What do you choose?

Little black dress or a rented tux.

The cliche of all black-tie parties. There are going to be a hundred other people wearing the same thing. Or, in terms of marketing materials, yours are going to look pretty much like your competitor’s. Sure, they will be clean, professional and use images and fonts according to the rules. But will they be noticed? That only depends on how many others are there. If there is only a handful of you, you might have a chance. But if you are in a highly competitive field, you will be lost in the crowd.

The cheapest dress or suit that you can find. That doesn’t even fit you that well.

This is the equivalent of doing your marketing materials yourself, or getting someone with little knowledge of marketing and design to do it for you. You may think that the bad stitching, or the way the material stretches too tightly over your body isn’t very noticeable, but when you are next to those immaculate, professional-looking others, it will be very, very obvious. Trust me. Even if someone can’t quite put a finger on what is wrong with your promotional piece, the impression that something isn’t quite right will still be there. And I don’t think that’s the impression you were going for.

Little black dress or a rented tux. With accessories!

You may go with the expected style — for the most part — but you always add a little detail, a personal touch. This is an excellent way to stand out just enough, if you are afraid of overdoing it. Details that are eye-catching and vibrant, but, most importantly, chosen with care, will set you apart from the crowd. These can be striking images, vibrant colors, a unique way of setting the headline, or even finishing touches like stitching your document with a colorful thread, or putting a gloss varnish over a part of an image. The secret to make this style work even better? Make sure this detail is relevant to your main message.

Torn jeans and an old t-shirt.

Or whatever else you happened to be wearing that day. No specific care is taken in preparation for this particular piece. It was thrown together in an hour, and it shows. This laid-back approach can work in some situations, where spontaneity is welcome and expected. (Let’s say, you decided to send a quick email to all your customers because you felt grateful to them, and it’s something written from the heart. The form, in this situation, counts a lot less. Though I’d still run spell check.) In other situations, though, it can ruin your chances for building trust. (Think of a newsletter full of typos, or a postcard where the return address is unreadable, or a brochure that doesn’t follow through on the promise it makes on its cover.) After all, if you don’t care enough to prepare, why should we believe you will care about us as customers?

Designer suit or gown.

You really went all out on the preparation, and it shows. Heads turn wherever your marketing piece shows up. Oohs and ahs can be heard from miles away. I hope that it lives up to its promise! It’s really sad to see those beautiful marketing pieces with truly creative designs and unique finishing techniques, but where the message is something flat and boring.

Showing up in your underwear.

Or using something shocking to attract the attention. This technique has been used so much, I think we are all rather numb to its effect. It can work, if the shock element is relevant to the message, but in all other cases (which are much more common), this is probably not the kind of attention you want in the first place.

A costume.

Or something completely unique, that doesn’t look like anybody else’s outfit, and that represents you to a tee. Even if it may look a bit out of place in this particular gathering.

If you are confident about the message you are sending, this is a very effective choice. A brochure in the form of a cake. An annual report that looks like an amusement park’s guide. But it better be the very core of what you do best — otherwise it’s just a gimmick.

The point.

There are no rules set in stone.

The best advertisements often don’t look like advertisements. The same goes for brochures, annual reports, and newsletters.

And if something feels wrong for you (even if everyone says that’s the way to do it) — chances are, it probably is. There are plenty of ways to approach any kind of a design project. Trying to copy what everyone else is doing will guarantee a boring, ordinary result. So don’t be afraid to get a little bit playful with it!

If you know you could use a touch of style, but not sure how to go about it, or if you have a feeling your materials could be better, and could use some specific ideas and input finding a style that works for you, that brings out the best in your brand, a Style Analysis Session might be just what you need.