Oh, the good old days of catalog production. Back in the day, designers, copywriters, art directors and photographers spent their workdays creating, well, catalogs. Their time was spent laying out pages, writing to line and character counts, and directing photo shoots.
In today’s multichannel world, designers, photographers and copywriters work on a multitude of projects. In addition to catalogs, you’ll find them creating Websites, direct mail pieces, newsletters, e-mail communications, space ads for print publications, banner ads, free-standing inserts (FSIs) for use in newspapers, trade show materials, retail store signage, and a host of other projects.
The one consistent component all those projects have, or should have, is your brand. And the best way we’ve found to ensure brand consistency across all your communications is to make sure everyone — your internal creative team, freelancers, and/or agency — has a copy of your brand guidelines or stylebook.
It’s astonishing how many organizations have no brand guidelines other than “these are the colors and fonts we normally use.” Taking the time to create specific usage guidelines for your logo and marks, an approved color palette for use across all media, approved fonts, even punctuation use, is the best way to ensure that your brand stays consistent and recognized across all your communications.
When putting together your stylebook, be sure the fonts and colors work across all the media you’re using or intend to use in the future. Try them on dummy Web pages, direct mail pieces, catalog pages, e-mails, and print ads. Remember, you’re going to have to live with your stylebook for a long time.
Here are some other tips for making the most of today’s multichannel creative.
FIT THE DESIGNER TO THE MEDIUM
Another reality of today’s multichannel marketing world is the need for design specialists. It’s the rare designer who’s equally adept at creating Websites, print catalogs, store signage, print ads, direct mail pieces, e-mails, and so on. Instead, you’ll likely discover that some designers’ talents are better suited to online work and others to traditional print media.
But be careful not to so compartmentalize your designers that each is unaware of what the others are doing in your different marketing channels. Let them trade ideas back and forth — even if they’re working in different mediums — and you’ll have happier designers, fresh thinking and probably a few breakthrough ideas.
It’s worked so well for us that we now always try to have both our “traditional” media designers and our “online” specialists together at meetings to create synergy across all the platforms we’re working in for our clients.
The online world, in particular, changes rapidly. Be sure your designers and art directors are aware of the latest Web 2.0 tools, online design standards, search engine optimization techniques, how and when it’s appropriate to use tools like AJAX and Flash.
Most important, they should be on top of “what’s working” response-wise. An investment in sending them to design conferences, seminars, and workshops can pay off in greater response rates and higher average orders down the road.
One tip: Rather than hoping designers keep up on the latest trends by reading design magazines, we’ve found that copying relevant articles from the magazines and handing them out at staff meetings to our designers ensures 100% readership. Remember, these days your designers and art directors face tougher schedules and tighter deadlines than ever. Help them out by copying important articles and sharing them whenever you can.
SHOOT MORE. LOTS MORE
Perhaps the most significant new reality of 21st century creative is in the area of photography and photo management. Previously, a photographer might shoot to a layout and bracket the shots, and the art director would have a number of selects to choose from.
While it’s still true for some catalogs, many of today’s photographers and art directors have to plan on their shots being used both online and offline and in a multitude of different marketing vehicles.
Urge your photographers to shoot more and at different angles than what the current assignment might call for. If the old mantra “film is cheap” is true, than “digital photography is even cheaper” is more so.
Remember, the angle of the shot you’re using for your catalog may not be the best for use in a space ad, e-mail, or on your Website. More than once, an art director has come to me and said, “I’ve only got this one shot to work with and it’s not ideal for the piece I’m designing. Can you get me a few more to look at?”
If you’re shooting fashion, be sure to shoot as many colors “on figure” as possible. You may not need them now, but they might come in handy later for a sales catalog, flier, mailer, or on your Website. We’ve run into this so many times that we’ve made it standard operating procedure at every fashion photo shoot we do.
A critical point: If you’re currently shooting a product for Web use only, be sure your photographer is capturing a hi-resolution image. You may want to use it for a printed piece later. It’s a lot cheaper — and faster — than having to reshoot later.
Even if you’re not planning on showing close-ups in your catalog, ask the photographer to shoot a few close-ups of any interesting or special features the product may have — like the control panel of an electronics gadget or the really cool buttons of a shirt. You may want to use them later as inset shots in another piece where you have more room to call out specific features.
When you’re creating drop shadows, be sure you create them for both your high-res and low-res photos. We just ran into this: We were asked by a new client to create a couple of postcard mailings for use in a multichannel campaign combining both online and traditional media. Of course, it was on a rush schedule.
One of the postcards featured several laser printers. We created comps by grabbing the low-res images and drop shadows from its Website and, at the presentation, reminded the client we’d need the high-res images as soon as possible to be able to go to press.
You guessed it. Two weeks later, someone was able to find the high-res photos and get them to us. Unfortunately, since they’d never been used before, there were no drop shadows. The shadows all had to be created and, while we still made the press date, there were a few anxious moments that could easily have been prevented if a system fororganizing, managing, and retrieving photos had been in place.
If you’re a multichannel marketer sending out pieces in different media, consider investing in a photo management software system if you haven’t already done so. You’ll find it’ll pay off big time in speed and efficiency, and you’ll have a lot fewer headaches. Your creative staff will thank you.
|WRITE LONG COPY. WRITE SHORT COPY. AND TEST OFTEN|
As someone who started out as a copywriter, I’m happy to say that copy is more crucial than ever in the multichannel world. With today’s short attention spans, your copy has to immediately grab your viewers’ attention, interest them in your product and service, sell the benefits, and differentiate both the product and your company from competitors — and do it all while still maintaining your brand’s voice. Not an easy task.
When marketers first started putting up Websites, it was common practice to pick-up their catalog copy and use it word-for-word on their sites. But enlightened marketers soon realized that a lot of their customers were going to their Websites to get more information about their products.
How many times have you seen the words “For more information, visit www.nameof your company.com” at the bottom of a space ad, direct mail piece or catalog? Savvy marketers realized that content is king (or queen, if you prefer). And for most marketers, content means copy.
If you’re a lucky writer who’s writing for different media with different space requirements, I’d recommend writing the “long copy” version for say, use in a direct mail package or on a Website, first. Then pare down your copy to the two or three big benefits for your shorter copy vehicle, like a catalog or space ad. As any experienced writer will tell you, it’s always easier to cut copy than it is to lengthen it.
Finally, beware of pronouncements that you should always use “short copy on the Web” or that “long copy sells more in e-mails.” Especially be wary of anyone telling you “people don’t read anymore.” Nonsense. If your copy is interesting and intriguing and relevant to your readers, they’ll not only read it, they’ll likely read it two or three times.
The truth is that short copy works best for some products and services and long copy for others. What works for one company may not work best for you.
A case in point: We recently created two e-mail campaigns for two different clients and tested long and short versions within each campaign. The short copy version was the winner for one client and the long copy version was the winner for the other.
The bottom line is, as always, testing. In fact, the single most important “new reality” of multichannel marketing is that testing is even more critical than ever. Sure, it costs a bit more to do two — or more — versions of a creative test.
But knowing what type of creative works best for your particular products in our hyper-competitive world is what, in the end, will not only make your creative efforts stand out, but also make your sales figures soar and your customers keep coming back. And that, in the end, is what all your creative efforts should be aiming to accomplish.
Kevin Kotowski is president of Olson/Kotowski, a multichannel creative and marketing agency based in Torrance, CA.