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Telling a Story with Your Marketing: The Art of Balancing Copy and Design

shutterstock_129772415There are millions of stories being told every day. A person is bombarded with words and images throughout their waking hours — status updates and shared articles on Facebook, a flyer or catalog received in the mail, ads that appear on every webpage, billboards seen on the daily commute, commercials during a favorite show. When we tell a story we need to find a way to get what we say to cut through the clutter and be noticed.

There are a lot of ways to tell a story. Sometimes a story is told in words, as in a radio program or novel. Sometimes it happens in pictures, as in a painting or photograph. However, most stories take advantage of both words and pictures.

Finding a good balance between words and design elements (photos, illustrations, graphics, charts, symbols, shapes and colors) is an art. It requires a new level of thinking that strips ideas down to their essence and makes them concrete enough to be easily understood. You don’t want the layout to be bogged down with text or the message to be diluted with images. Finding the middle ground is tough.

A powerful image with 3 tiny words has the potential to tell the entire story, like Nike’s classic “Just do it” campaign. In different circumstances, a longer narrative, maybe even comprising several paragraphs, with a compelling headline and a few supporting images does a better job at capturing the idea and delivering the message.

We have to give thought to the balance between copy and design on every project. The words and the images need to be strong on their own and each work to get the audience to respond to the call to action, and they also need to say the same thing, to strengthen each other, not compete for attention.

Different situations call for a different proportion of images to text. How complex is the product being sold? Will the call to action require an emotional or rational response from the audience? How much space do we have to tell the story we want? What medium are we using to tell this story? Who is our audience? How much do they already know about what we’re telling them? All these considerations go into the decision making process when finding the right form for a project.

There is no exact science to determine the mix of copy and design in making an ad. Because an ad isn’t just an ad — a good ad is a story. Developing that intuitive hunch about how to tell the story is the real art form. It takes time. It takes practice. It takes experience. And it takes confidence to go with your instincts.

One last thing to keep in mind when considering the balance between copy and design: less is more. The tried and true formula helps you distill your message to its core meaning. If that takes less words or less pictures or less of both, then so be it. The important thing is to communicate and make your story memorable.

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The dgs Team, a Group with Diverse Interests

The dgs team is a unique bunch of people. While we collaborate and coordinate on client projects, the truth is we are all radically different individuals with different tastes, talents and interests.

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Case in point: recently, an office-wide survey was sent out to gauge team member hobbies and pastimes, and the results were all over the board. Each of us was asked what interests we pursue outside of the office, what recharges us after a long day and what unique hobbies we enjoy. Here are some of the answers submitted. If you know us well, you may be able to figure out which team member is associated with each answer.

Our Interests

First, we asked each team member to list his or her interests outside of the office. While many listed the usual activities of spending time with family and going out for drinks with friends, others listed volunteer work as a major component of their lives outside of dgs. Music lovers (including one member of a band) cited their love for concerts while film buffs and bookworms expressed how much they enjoy their preferred entertainment mediums. We have an excellent baker who enjoys bringing her latest desserts in to the office, which we all appreciate. We even have two political junkies who enjoy watching election debates/primary coverage, an Art Deco aficionado, and a fly fisherman.

Our After Work Rituals

Each dgs employee has a different approach to unwinding after a long day at the office. Many listed exercise like boxing, jogging and rowing as part of their nightly routines. Beer and wine showed up in more than one answer, as did spending time with our kids or pets, which many of us consider to be our kids. Our resident band member enjoys learning a new song on the guitar or piano, and one team member even enjoys brain-teasing jigsaw puzzles.

Our Unusual Hobbies

This is the fun part. While you can likely relate to one or many of the activities listed above, many of our team members have hobbies that truly are unique. One of our more outdoorsy members loves to farm and attend rodeos. Another uses her creative talents to create special greeting cards for her friends and family using old photos. We also have a snow globe collector in our midst, as well as a volunteer who enjoys delivering meals to the elderly. And while most of our time in the office is spent at desks, one of our team members enjoys getting active with DIY projects and has recently built a new deck and completed two room conversions.

Even though each of us has different personalities, hobbies and backgrounds, we come together to create an impressive team. In fact, our agency is able to accomplish so many great things because of the differences that exist between its members. Without all of our different interests and perspectives, we would be unable to produce the innovative, creative deliverables our clients have come to expect from dgs. Learn more about our unique team here.

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When Remarketing Goes Wrong

hands-coffee-smartphone-technologyMarketers can save themselves a lot of trouble by routinely asking, ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ That may sound a bit pessimistic or cynical, but I disagree. If you don’t foresee potential problems, you’re helpless to avoid them. Few, if any, ideas are truly ‘all upside’ at their inception. Envisioning potential negative consequences is a vital part of both mitigating them and assessing total risk.

Of course, this process doesn’t have to rely solely on imagination. Every marketer is also a consumer and our peers are constantly trying to find new ways to engage us with their brands. Paying attention to our own responses to these efforts is an easy way to be mindful of potential pitfalls when we take actions of our own, which brings me to the topic in the headline.

Remarketing by showing ads to people who have visited a website or app when they visit other sites has been around for a while now, but it feels like companies have really ramped up their efforts over the past year. In that time, I’ve noted quite a few instances when I was the target of a remarketing campaign that rubbed me the wrong way. Here are three that really stand out, along with the lessons I took away.

Don’t be creepy / Don’t regurgitate what I’ve already read
This twofer has the benefit of proximity, as it happened just last weekend. I went to a retailer’s site to learn more about a product. The next page I visited was my webmail, where there was already an email waiting for me that contained identical text to the product page and almost nothing else.

We’re aware that companies track our behavior to the extent that we allow it and we somewhat expect unsolicited follow-up communications. That said, there’s a psychological difference between ‘hey, we saw you looked at this last week, are you still interested?’ and an instant response that feels like stalking.

Beyond that, when you follow up with me, either offer something new or vastly condense what you’re reminding me of. When I’m reading a wall of text that sounds familiar and then see that it’s verbatim the same text I already read, it’s annoying. It sends the message that you want my money, but it’s not worth putting any degree of effort into whatsoever.

Don’t point out I paid you too much
Over the holidays, I purchased a gift online for $180. For the following 3-4 weeks, I was regularly served display ads featuring it from the retailer I purchased it from. That’s bad form in the first place, as I already made the purchase and it wasn’t an item someone is likely to buy multiples of.

Even worse was the fact that they included the price, which slowly dropped to around $130. We all understand that prices fluctuate and mostly accept that, even if it still stings a bit to buy something and see an immediate drop. Despite that, it’s terrible form for a company to actively and repeatedly call attention to the fact that the wrapped present sitting next to my Christmas tree would’ve been $50 cheaper if I’d waited a couple weeks.

Don’t offer to sell me something you can’t sell me
Last year we were decorating our son’s room and found the perfect bookshelves for it on the site of one of the nation’s largest retailers. Unfortunately, it was out of stock online, not available for store pick-up and seemed to be exclusive to that store.

The next day, I received an email from the company urging me to come back and buy the bookshelves. Only, when I clicked on the link, they were still unavailable. That was the first of six emails, spread over the course of the month, designed to get me to buy the bookshelves. At least two included discount codes. Like an idiot, I kept clicking the links in the emails, hoping they’d come back in stock, but no, it was just the company repeatedly reminding me they couldn’t meet my need. Hopefully, not what they were going for.

Have your own lessons learned from a company’s mistake in remarketing to you? Why not post it in the comments?

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3 Tips for Marketing IIoT to Manufacturers

dgs_Blog_Feb15_IIoT_FNLThe Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is all the buzz in manufacturing right now. Using sensors, machine-to-machine communications and the Internet to share and access data throughout the plant–and even beyond its walls–creates tremendous opportunities for manufacturers to make better decisions and improve their operations.

Industry leaders agree that the global marketplace and manufacturing infrastructure are rapidly changing. To compete in this new environment will require U.S. manufacturers to embrace the concept of smart manufacturing. So what does this mean for in-house marketing departments and agencies responsible for marketing the products and services that help manufacturers enter the world of IIoT?

There are several communication challenges to overcome. For one, we are asking very traditional thinkers to think differently and to trust in concepts and technologies that are not yet fully understood in the industry. We are also asking them to embrace change and to move quickly to adopt new ways of operating so they do not get left behind.

Each of these challenges points to the need for us to market IIoT strategies, products and services in a manner that educates our target audiences and helps them overcome the fear and anxiety of making the leap. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

1. Target messages to all levels within an organization.

The decision to implement strategies and technologies that allow access to data from virtually any device, any time and any place likely requires approval from the highest level in an organization. It is a bold initiative that has widespread implications and requires a mind shift at every level. With this in mind, marketers must be sure to target messages that educate all levels of an organization – from the C-suite and IT personnel to the engineers and machine operators on the shop floor.

2. Focus on the benefits.

When companies market technologies, they often bog down their customers with too many details when it’s really the benefits that are most important. When it comes to marketing IIoT, customers want to know how digital integration of their factories will improve their productivity and how it will help them to be more flexible, especially in a world where Just-In-Time manufacturing is becoming the norm. Ultimately, manufacturers want to know how collection and analysis of all this data will increase their profitability. It’s our responsibility as marketers to create that context, and the best way to do that is by focusing on the payoff to customers through the tangible benefits to their operations.

3. Show examples of IIoT in action.

Right now, IIoT seems like this really big, nebulous idea that can be overwhelming. For some shop owners, especially those who have been very successful using their current methods, making such sweeping changes may seem like too much trouble. This is particularly true if they haven’t seen overwhelming evidence that convinces them that this is the way of the future and it’s time to get serious about about embracing IIoT. Owners of smaller job shops may wonder how this new technology will effect them and how they can scale it to fit their businesses.

The best practice for marketers is to show examples of how connectivity is making a difference in other manufacturers’ facilities. Seeing specific cases of how these technologies are being used–especially by competitors–to become more agile, more productive and more profitable, is likely to motivate a shop owner to learn more about how he or she can reap those same rewards.

One great way to show examples is through case studies or customer success stories. Companies that are marketing IIoT products and services should make it a priority to share examples of their customers who are already tapped into the IIoT. Check out this IIoT Report, which compiles several examples of companies that have connected devices and machines and are using the data to transform the way they operate. It’s an interesting read and may spark a few ideas.

Here are a couple other interesting articles about IIoT and its implications for the future of manufacturing. And, if you want more information or ideas on how to market the next generation of industrial products and services, please contact us.

What is Smart Manufacturing” This article, originally published as a Time Magazine wrap, provides a good explanation of smart manufacturing.

Driving Unconventional Growth through the Industrial Internet of Things” Learn how IIoT is about more than efficiency. It’s about growth…and lots of it.

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