Category creative

Doing it right

Since the last post showcased an ad that didn’t quite send the right message, I thought I’d show and example of a local business that seems to be on the right track as far as their advertising goes.

A few months ago I started noticing some billboards going up for a local chiropractic clinic. (Full disclosure: they are not a client, and I have never talked with them about their advertising.)

SandStone Chiropractic Billboard

It’s a nice bulletin and you can clearly read it from a distance. Other than the phone number and location, it’s is almost as if they followed The Art of the Billboard to a tee. I like it when someone does something right, so even though they are not a client I got a feeling of satisfaction from knowing that someone else “got it.”

I was even more pleased when I drove past their location one Sunday and saw their sign out front.

SandStone exterior sign

They actually use their logo on their storefront sign! You would be surprised at how many small businesses don’t do that. This practitioner’s identity is further reinforced by the use of color; the color of the storefront lettering is similar to the billboard’s background color. Maybe they’ve read Who Are You?

Then one day I am thumbing through a magazine to verify that a client’s ad had ran correctly, and what do I find? You guessed it, an ad for SandStone Chiropractic.

SandStone Magazine Ad

I was thrilled. Not only does the ad look good, I immediately recognized it as being SandStone Chiropractic and mentally connected it with the billboards and the storefront. That’s one of the things you want to accomplish with your advertising, a coherent identity.

I am a little disappointed with the lettering for the business’s name; it is not the same font used in the billboards or the storefront sign. The art-deco look of the magazine lettering is not nearly as professional looking as the serif font used in the other ads. However, because the visuals are almost identical to the billboards (color scheme, practitioner’s photo), the connection is still made and the ad works.

Interestingly, the lettering appears to be the same font used for the logo icon, which is a stylized SSC. Perhaps this was the original logo and it was changed either for ease of reading or to perhaps give a more professional appearance? It might be interesting to learn how this logo was developed.

Despite the logo/lettering issue with the magazine ad, this appears to be a strong advertising campaign for a local business. I wish them great success!

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Mixed messages

I’ve mentioned before that a good advertisement will say one thing and say it well. You have such a short slice of time to communicate your message and you don’t want to muddle things up by trying to say too many things.

With that in mind, it is possible to inadvertently send a mixed or conflicting message through your advertising. This billboard was running a while back near where I live, and illustrates what I mean by a mixed or conflicting message:

BurgerFresh Billboard

I hate to pick on these guys, because they really do serve great hamburgers. But this billboard doesn’t do their product justice.

I love the colors and the logo, but the product shot is a mess. There is nothing “fresh” about it. It looks as if someone dropped the hamburger on the floor, hastily put it back together and snapped a quick picture. While their name and their message attempts to say they have really good, fresh-made hamburgers, their product shot says the hamburgers are thrown together and are unappetizing.

It didn’t need to be this way. They could have hired a professional photographer experienced in product shots, taken the time to really dress up the burger, even hire a food stylist (yes, just like a hair stylist, only for food) so their product would look its absolute best. The results would have been vastly different.

I’m also curious if they took the picture themselves, as the lighting is poor and the colors are washed out. I think they would have been well-served to call in a professional. Based on the design, the graphic artist who did the billboard appears to know what they were doing, but they were hindered by an amateurish photo that communicates a message that is in direct opposition to the one that is supposedly presented.

It takes a lot of skill and hard work to match the look and tone of an ad to its message. Don’t cut any corners. You dress yourself nicely when you want to stand out and make an impression. Why wouldn’t you do the same with your advertising?

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Your logo’s back-story

A lot is involved in designing a logo, but it is well worth the investment.

Logo Design Love has a great piece by Brandon Moore on the three essential elements about a company that a logo design should reflect. Click the link, read the short article, and ask yourself, “Does my business’s logo do this?”

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Clever advertising

My wife and I celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary last week. We have some close friends whose anniversary is the day before ours, so the four of us drove up through the Ozarks to Branson, Missouri to observe the occasions and take in some fall colors.

On the way up, we passed a billboard in one of the many towns we drove through. Since I’m in advertising and things like that interest me, my friends pointed it out. It was for a jewelry store and it read:

“We sell wife insurance.”

We  chuckled a bit, and the other couple both said that the ad had gotten their attention. I then turned to the wife and asked her, “Does that ad make you want to buy jewelry from that business?” She immediately said no. I turned to the husband and asked the same thing. He also said that it did not make him want to buy from them. The billboard’s cleverness got their attention, but it did nothing to persuade them to actually go into the store.

Why is that? Because while the ad is clever, it doesn’t strike a chord within its audience. It fails to make a connection.

A lot of small business owners mistake clever advertising for good advertising. Clever might grab your attention, but good advertising not only gets your attention, it awakens something within you and lingers in your mind long after the campaign is over. It does that by touching something within the viewer that they immediately recognize as true.

My question to my friends sparked a short conversation about what makes good advertising and why that particular billboard missed the mark. As we were talking, my friend’s wife brought up a billboard that I had done for one of my clients. Here is the billboard she was talking about:

Jeff's Jewelry Billboard "Show her Love"

The wife actually said that she loved this billboard. And she isn’t the first to tell me that. In fact, someone else had mentioned this same billboard to me a week or two before, saying it was one of their favorites. What’s interesting about that is that this billboard hasn’t been displayed in almost two years. But people still remember it. And talk about it. It strikes a chord within them and they can identify with the message, and they want to do business with that advertiser.

Does your advertising do that?

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How to create a brand

“Every advertisement should be thought of as a contribution to the complex symbol which is the brand image.”

— David Ogilvy

That isn’t as complicated as it sounds. But it does take some thought before you begin to create your ad.

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The other day I saw an ad…

I hear this phrase all the time from small business owners, even from marketing directors. They want their ad to look like someone else’s ad. Huge mistake.

“In advertising, not to be different is virtual suicide.”

William Bernbach

Your ad has got to strike a chord within the viewer and make them think of you and nobody else but you.

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How much?

How much would you expect to pay for a nice suit? They aren’t inexpensive, but barring any trendy fashion whim (leisure suits, anyone?), a good suit will be last many years and many events. I don’t know about you, but I usually have to replace a suit because of my growing middle, not because I wore it out.

Now what about a tailored suit? One made specifically to fit you? You expect it to be more costly than even a really nice off-the-rack suit. After all, not only are you paying for the time and materials to make your suit, you are paying for the tailor’s expertise in fitting the suit to you and sewing the materials together in a way that makes you look your best.

Now, what if you require a suit that is not only tailor-fitted to you, but is completely unique? It can’t look like any other suit out there. When someone sees your unique suit, they must immediately think, “That is (insert your name here).”

When you ask a design professional to create a logo for your business, you are essentially asking for a one-of-a-kind, completely unique tailor-fitted suit for your company. Now do you see why a logo costs more than a couple of hundred dollars?

As a small business, you shouldn’t pay tens of thousands of dollars for logo design, but you shouldn’t expect to only pay a few hundred dollars for one either.

Back in 1980, CNN paid about $2500 for their logo. That is a small investment by business standards, but their investment has payed off handsomely. I promise you that they have gotten their money’s worth from it.

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Smart logos

If you haven’t guessed by now, I love logos. Webdesigner Depot posted a great collection of logos. Click the link, have a look, and see if your small business’s identity could use a make-over.

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How not to be taken seriously

It takes quite a bit of skill to match the tone of an advertisement, or a sign for that matter, to its message. Even your choice of font or typeface can drastically affect how you or your business is perceived by the public.

Your Logo Makes Me Barf has a perfect example of a mixed marketing message. The typeface used in that particular sign would be great for a childcare center, but not a professional building.

Just because someone has a copy of Photoshop doesn’t mean they can help you with your advertising. The same goes for your friend who knows a lot about computers or that guy with a video camera. Make sure they have the skills you need to communicate your message effectively.

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The need for simplicity

TechCrunch has an excellent article on the need for simplicity in communicating what you do. While the examples in Michael Arrington’s article are bigger than the small businesses that read this blog, the advice still applies no matter what you are trying to sell or to whom you are selling.

You would think this would be an easy task for a small business, after all, they operate in a smaller market and often don’t have a large variety of services to offer. But when you look at many small business advertisements or marketing material, so much is crammed into the space it gives you a headache looking at it.

I recently completed a print ad for a new client (you can see the ad here, and I did their logo a couple of months ago). When the ad ran, I picked up a magazine to have a look and verify that the ad ran correctly. The magazine is local, running almost exclusively local business advertisements, and does a pretty good job of targeting its chosen demographic. But what struck me was how busy most of the advertisements were. Most of them had no real message. They were just a quick shout out of their name — “HEY, DON’T FORGET ABOUT ME!” Unfortunately, the shout out often got lost in the noise of their own ad and the noise of the other ads around it.

The few ads that had simple messages stood out like an oasis in a desert. They caught your attention because their message was so simple it was easily understood at a glance. One of the ads that stood out to me was for a local gift shop (who is not a client, by the way). Their ad broke through the clutter by having lots of white space and featuring just one product. It was effective because it stood out. It also was a national co-op ad, which explains why its execution was so much better than many of the other ads, and is a rare example of how to use co-op advertising effectively.

The message your small business communicates to its potential customers is vital to your business. Good communication of a simple message brings in new customers and has people talking about your business in a positive way. Poorly conceived communication leads to muddled messages and you get lost in the crowd and forgotten. Take the time and make the investment to craft your message and communicate it well.

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