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The Nuts and Bolts of the Creative Brief

Ever feel like your creative and marketing projects start one way, and then develop a life of their own, running off the trail in every direction? Do your projects miss the mark in terms of completion time, budget or outcome?

That means you need a better creative brief.

Now, sometimes creative briefs have fallen by the wayside for ‘lack of time’.  But the time you put in up front will ensure you meet all of your goals on-time and on-budget.

creative briefs sm

Creative Briefs

What’s a creative brief? And why is this so important?

A creative brief is an organizational tool that every project needs to keep it on track. It’s based on a simple form that’s been refined through the years within each organization who uses it religiously – and that is what makes it work.

There are questions or ‘prompts’ in a brief that provide essential information for a creative team to consider as they start a project.

If you work with creatives on any kind of project – copywriting, design, marketing, whatever… you absolutely need a creative brief. It outlines the reason for the project, the nature of the brand, the target audience, the restrictions, the goals of the project … even details like word limits and color/image restrictions are important. It’s all there in black and white.

Now, most seasoned marketers have had the experience of handing over a project to a writer and/or designer, and when you see their first draft back you stare at it and say, “What happened? Why is this so far off track?”

Well, there’s a very good chance that there was no brief — and because of that, the verbal and unorganized written communication provided at ‘kickoff’ didn’t include some essential tidbit of information that would have kept it on track. This can happen also if the creative team just jumps in and ignores the brief.  You must sit down and run through the brief with the players, or nobody will get around to reading it.

What’s included in a creative brief?

Each organization seems to develop their own special version. — but there are basics that really must be there.  A general form of a brief may include:

Project description: why is this being done? Marketing objective- response? Awareness?

Situation analysis: background information, state of the market, customer buying habits, new product change, competitors? What have you done before, and with what result? Solid numbers are really important.

Audience: Age, hobbies, why they may want your product or service, have they owned an earlier version, etc. What is their perception of their need for your product?

How should this change the way your customer behaves? Every effort must change something – from generating more loyalty to turning the tide and getting them to buy from you!

How is your product or service differentiated from the competition? Is it stronger or weaker? Be honest with yourself and your creative team so they can be ready to address such issues.

Offer: What do you have in mind for an offer, and why do you feel that’s a good offer? Are you open to other offers? What is the time limit for the offer to be fulfilled? What must the customer do to take advantage of the offer?

How much per unit/sale of this product or service is expected… in the front end, and in the back end? This will likely determine whether this is a lead-generation effort, or a direct-selling effort.

What is the goal for the number of units/sales? This, with the budget, is key to what the creatives will actually do in the end to make your effort successful.

Deadline to either go to the newspaper, the blog, the website, the printer, or does this coincide with any special event?

Budget: How much do you have to spend on the total project including printing, mailing, creative, etc. *

* I know, this is tough. But, it’s good professionalism to identify your budget and give your team full advantage of it so they can work with you on how to spend it. And you may be surprised … your creative team may put more of your budget into the printing, and pay themselves less, just to make the project more successful.

Whew! Looks like a lot of work!
Who fills out this brief? And will anyone even read it?

This really should take less than an hour if you’re organized! Inside an agency, it’s usually written by the account planner and the client, who is interviewed by the account planner to create the form.

In a freelance environment, there are many iterations… if the client is knowledgeable (as you are now, for having read this article), they kick it off and fill in what they can as thoroughly as possible. Then they work with other managers involved in the project, and in the end, they ask the creative to discuss it to see if there’s missing information — sometimes this will show up through the creative’s questions and knowledge of what’s needed.

A less experienced creative may not even ask for a brief, and they may not realize what can go wrong when there is information missing. But you must do the brief anyway. It’s worth the time to write it, and make sure your creative team really ‘gets it’ before the project starts moving. This will help drive the project to greater success.

Is there anything else that helps a creative team to hit the mark more accurately?

You may have a trove of treasure for them … sales DVDs, sell sheets, database profiles, research results (as recent as possible), samples of prior efforts, current efforts, and brand rules including an FTP site with logos, colors, photos and any other resources you can provide. (Don’t let them in into the FTP site until you’ve made it clear on the brief what they are allowed to use.)

Time for kickoff!

Armed with this information, you are ready for a startup meeting with your creative team. And with this brief, the meeting will go faster, saving you some time. As you review the work in steps, compare what they are showing you to the brief so you all stay on track. The project will progress more smoothly, and you’re likely to have far superior an experience as well as an outcome you can all be proud of.

 

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EVERY project needs a creative brief. Here’s why. And how.

Almost every creative I speak to has a universal complaint. No, it’s not how much we’re NOT being paid for our work. No, the complaint is all about organization. Or lack of it, when we’re given projects.

These can be internal projects as well as jobs we’re getting from the outside.

The Big Fix: in the advertising agency world, ‘they’ realized that they were losing money hand over fist whenever a job started running off track. It wastes time… and of course time is money. That’s why ‘they’ invented The Creative Brief.

If you work with creatives on any kind of project – copywriting, design, marketing, whatever… you need a Creative Brief. It outlines the reason for the project, the nature of the brand, the target audience, the restrictions, the goals of the project… Also details like ‘how many words’, if that’s an essential part of the project instructions. It’s all there in black and white. It’s written by the client, or sometimes the client and the creative director on the project will do it together.

mick jagger creative brief sticky fingers andy warhol

Mick Jagger’s rough but effective creative brief to Andy Warhol for the album, Sticky Fingers. The album cover had a working zipper! Imagine control-freak Jagger actually writing, “I leave it in your capable hands…” and “How much money would you like” … clearly he trusted his designer (and who wouldn’t?) It made me smile to see Mick’s comment that Warhol should “take little notice” of the deadline! We don’t recommend that for most briefs!

In an agency environment, the Account Executive works with the client to develop the brief, sometimes getting the Creative Director’s input. Internally, while Creative Briefs don’t seem necessary, they will save hours of messing around or heading in the wrong direction.

Yes this takes time. Ah, well! It’s time that nobody has, it seems – but it always reduces the screwups down the road that are caused by misdirection. A Creative Brief to follow reduces the relentless impromptu decision-making that starts to take place when there’s missing information and a deadline to be dealt with.

Years ago a client said, “Show me crappy work/results, and nine times out of ten, I’ll show you a crappy brief.”  Her exact words. Inside the agencies she worked with, she would review some of the latest work, and if she made a comment that something was not as she had expected or requested, the eyes would slowly start round the room, everyone trying to figure out who missed that essential element in the creative brief. Heads would silently explode.

Now, in the agency world, this is enough of a reaction to end relationships for even minor infractions. In the non-agency world we try to be a little more even-handed. But the bottom line is, the discipline of a solid brief takes care of all problems that are possible to avoid, and sets the project up for faster completion and a happier conclusion.

A colleague of mine recently noticed that even after a long standing relationship he has with one client, he still gets consistently good, short briefs from them. This is a client who works with a number of different creative teams – and their work performs so consistently that they are ‘return Echo award winners’. So, what is the element that makes every creative team they work with a winner? The Brief. While those creative teams are very talented and deserving of a lot of credit, the common thread in this consistency is the input process — a well written, cohesive and thoughtfully worked Creative Brief.

Every day, there are marketing articles, news items and blogs in which pundits (usually young enough to be my kids) offer reasons why ‘impression fatigue’ seems to be happening to marketing campaigns these days – that’s their excuse for campaigns not working.

That’s just plain hooey.

It’s easy to blame too many impressions, disintermediation of media, and viral marketing for failure.  Sissies blame the rest of the world for failure – winners find ways to make things work in new conditions.

There are still plenty of campaigns, large and small, that do just fine because they have good solid roots. And those winners started with a pretty good creative brief.

Next time you’re looking for a project – internal or external – to work better, sit down (even on the phone) with a smart, experienced creative, a marketing manager, and a blank for a Creative Brief. That hour you take will save you hours later and make the project fly more successfully.

Look for my next article: THE NUTS AND BOLTS OF THE CREATIVE BRIEF.

 

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A baker’s dozen creative ideas make your catalog more responsive.

It’s said that “enough drops of water can become a river”. That’s true in your catalog effort too. Every little step you do to make your catalog more successful will add up. With perseverance and great product, and utilizing the following ideas, you can get a river of sales flowing into your coffers.

  1. Add copy to your covers:Testing proves time and again that a catalog cover with copy outperforms one without — much to many creatives’ chagrin. But this makes sense. The most newsworthy things get our attention most quickly. Notice the newsstands near grocery checkout and you can see, they’ve figured out how to get someone to take a look! Even with a photo of a popular celebrity, it’s still not enough “juice” to get away with plain cover that doesn’t tell the customer why they need to open up and look.

    For this Crazy Shirts catalog, the cover with
    the teasers pulled in 124% more in sales.
  2. Make a list of your core competencies and your unique selling propositions. Often catalogs are so merchandise-focused that they can’t separate themselves long enough to see that, from the outside, consumers need more clues as to what makes you the one they should buy from.  It’s time to interview customers and ask them, what words or phrases that describe why they come to you. If there are benefits such as exclusive products or handmade goods or exceptional customer service, that don’t show up in the discussion, it’s time to rethink your positioning.
  3. Make the back of your catalog work harder. Got one product for sale on the back cover? Try two or three! Got any teasers into key spots inside the catalog? If not, it’s time you did! Got different price points and categories of products on the back cover? If not, you’re not telling the whole story. Your back cover has to tell a more complete story and work even harder than the front cover. Remember that when you put it off ‘til the last minute… like everyone else does. This back cover is actually the thing you should be working on FIRST.

    For both B2B or consumer catalogs, the back cover still has a lot of work to do. Its most important jobs – selling product, and getting customers inside. 
  4. Think of your catalog as a “Paper Salesman”TM it represents all the best of who you are to your prospects. It steps through all the selling steps to engage a prospect, answer their questions, and call for action. It keeps your customer or prospect interested via design and copy that is thoughtful and compelling. Every product in your catalog deserves its day in the sun – and you don’t feel it’s worth it to do a 100% sales effort for a product, then that product is wasting space in your book. Don’t fall for the ‘it’s there because it just has to be there.” even if it’s a poor performer.  Put those things on your website where space is cheap.
  5. Paginate for sales, not for merchandising.   I’ve seen some extraordinary leaps in response when we repaginated a book that had been plugging along at a low level for many years. People have changed so much in terms of shopping habits, and even what kind of features get their attention, and they continue to change. Create a smart, marketing-driven pagination that is reflective of your customer base and who you are marketing to – and who YOU are.
  6. Make it easy to find things in your book. I’ve heard a million reasons why catalogs don’t have tables of contents, and none of them are in the customer’s best interest. A table of contents does not need to take up much room, but it’s one of the most commented-on and called-upon features in your entire catalog! How do you know you need one? When your customers give up on the catalog completely and only go online when they need something. Beware – your catalog is the thing that works harder to establish your brand and customer loyalty, so if you become only a website to them, you’ll eventually lose their business.
  7. Make it easy to read your book. Teeny little reversed-out type might please a twenty-something graphic designer, but to anyone with money it’s a total turnoff. And it’s not about taste or even style, it’s about human physiology. You can’t make someone read something they find uncomfortable to read. While magazines get away with it on occasion, most have turned back to a much more practical and easy-reading format.
  8. Add an offer to your catalog.A good offer is what’s needed to get customers  moving right NOW to order. Those of you who have been disappointed with offer strategy just haven’t tried enough offers and tactics. If you need to brainstorm on this to find the best offer, go outside and speak with experienced pros who have done lots of offer strategy in a wide range of products and services.  And don’t be afraid that once you start doing an offer, you can never go without one again. Just use different levels of offers so that people won’t “expect it” every time, and you can do it without it costing you a lot of money. And meanwhile you can also increase customer loyalty.Testing of offers is an essential step to finding the right one.

     

  9. Consider how the human brain is wired. Reader gravity is an extremely powerful way to choreograph your customer’s movements across a spread, picking up items for their shopping cart. Many consider it hocus pocus, but I’ve seen with my own eyes (and by the response clients have told me about) that this kind of thoughtful and strategic thinking is well worth the extra bit of time it takes to get it right.
  10. Use a designer that embraces response and makes it a priority.  Probably only 1 out of 100 designers know about reader gravity or comprehension through proper use of typography and color. And sadly, the great majority of them simply don’t care. But, it’s not THEIR money being spent to mail the catalog — it’s YOURS. And it certainly is your problem if your income and your job are depending on this being a successful mailing.How do you find out if a designer is an advocate for your success? Ask them how past work has done. Ask them for response numbers – not just ‘it did well” or “customers loved it” or “the client loved it”. These are mealy-mouthed phrases for “I don’t know and I didn’t ask”.
  11. Use a real copywriter who loves to SELL.Often the copy for catalog products ends up being the merchant or — oh NO! — the designer. A great copywriter knows that selling is their business, and they write copy to sell your product, not just describe it. A great writer will ask you for unique selling propositions, and they want to see, touch and try the product so they can understand why someone would want it. They don’t rely solely on product sheets to get their information.Yes, this takes time and it often costs more than hiring a “wrist” who calls themselves a writer. But I’ve seen great copy alone increase sales by hundreds of thousands of dollars in tests I’ve participated in. Not sure to hire? Ask around, or (to be self-serving!) talk to us! We enthusiastically sell our clients’ products through compelling copy, every day, and we love to see our clients thrive through stronger creative!
  12. Wondering if your catalog will do better with a change in creative (or anything else)?  Test it! Testing does not have to cost a fortune and if done properly and scientifically it will prove itself a valued ally in the drive for better response. It is so worthwhile to test creative and offers that it should be built into every annual mailing plan and budget. Test first using email or your website, and then once you have a feel for it, do a real on-paper test to confirm results.
  13. Can’t afford to test it?  Research it!  For a smaller budget, it’s possible to utilize research such as eResearch (not focus groups and certainly not ‘grandmother research’) to figure out what rings the bells of your house file customer, and your prospect.  To get the most accurate research done, I highly recommend you look outside your company for an unbiased research pro.Why? First, you’ll get the best and truest readings when you use an outside resource who’s expert in eResearch. My experience has been that research done internally (by an internal team who answers to an internal boss) will always be tainted to some degree regardless of all best intentions. It’s human nature to tend to turn things just a tiny bit to create a hoped-for outcome… especially when everyone wants it to be so.  A proven professional research specialist will tell you the truth and has the discipline and the lack of buy-in on the outcome to keep the study on the straight and narrow – and they’ll work with you to interpret results at the end so you can plan your next steps.

If you’re looking for ways to incorporate any of the ideas I’ve presented here into your own catalog, feel free to give me a call at 408-269-6871 and we can discuss what’s worked for you and what’s not working. Together we can determine a course of action to get your cash register ringing!

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A bit of fun makes rough times feel smoother

Everyone’s been grumbling for months, it seems, about something and  everything.  The economy is the most prominent object of our  handwringing, but there are many sub-topics to keep it in  motion—bailouts, bonuses, bankruptcies and more. And since “bad news  sells,” the media has had a field day, building these and other  depressing stories to epic proportions. The American public is offered little relief from the continued spin.

That’s why it can pay off to have a little fun.

To offer up an opportunity to smile and forget the junk  that’s filling the air and the airwaves is to make a potential customer,  or an existing
customer, a little happier.   And with that, an  association with well-being takes place: good feelings come from a  contact with YOU, in their minds.

Even in not-so-bad times this has been a pretty solid  direction to take. One of my longtime clients, who does TV commercials  for
attorneys, had a prospecting newsletter that promoted the  advantages of using TV commercials to tout a law firm’s capabilities.  One
year, we changed the newsletter so that instead of it being simply promotional and informative, we used stories about attorneys who were
living much better lives as a result of using these commercials.

The Strategist Summer 2011
Stories about attorneys who enjoy life more, as a result of smarter marketing provide other attorneys a chance to consider the pros and cons of their own practices

We  showed photos of them with their friends and families, and described  through interviews how their time was easier to manage. We  demonstrated the ultimate benefit of my client’s service:  attorneys were able to make better money from higher quality clients—which afforded them time to coach their kids’ Little League teams or go fishing or write a novel.

The response to this reformed and more  personal (and frankly, more fun) newsletter has been extraordinary, and  it’s continued to be an ongoing source of leads.

Businesses are showing strong imagination and fun  through their email and web promotions. Lehman’s has a wonderful, brief  newsletter called Lehman’s Front Porch that has as much space devoted  to stories and philosophical country wisdom as it has to product.  It’s a great ‘read’, so be sure to sign up for it!  I  always look forward to their latest email. It’s true to their  company’s personality and its sincerity makes it work.   Simply put, this makes you want to  spend more time with these people!

Another one that’s quite different but highly personal is  Annie’s Annuals.   If you’re not on her email list, it’s one that will give you a big blast of fun every time.   Her sales always seem to have a  kooky theme that steps beyond the usual bland ‘spring sale’ approach. And to spice it up more, she encourages readers to write back with  ideas.   One of my all time favorites is an email where she encouraged  customers to name a very unusual and suggestively shaped plant she had  acquired.  Customers wrote in with many imaginative suggestions and in the next email  they named a winner, who received a $50  gift certificate to Annie’s.

But here’s the interesting part:  It was so engaging that the product continues to be a bestseller.

Telling stories works well, too—one story Annie told about a plant actually germinating from seeds in her damp  sweater was such an attention-getter that the lead plant on that email  sold out by noon the day of the email blast.

Among B2B clients, New Pig continues to impress with success, with their line of silly, inexpensive and collectible gifts, ranging  from pig mugs
and tee shirts to clocks.   They refer to this as their  ‘Squeal Deal.’  I must admit, I ordered a few safety kits for our home  (my excuse: we’re in earthquake country and our kits are old…) just to  get a cool mug shaped like an industrial drum.   OK, I admit it, salesmen (that’s me, as a creative) are often the biggest suckers, but I love the mug and the kit is great too.

Do you have a story to tell?  A special voice you may be able  to develop? I’ll bet you do.   Notice that in none of these cases is  the product itself funny—it’s all in the way the story is told, or the  sale is presented.   The outcome is not always funny, but it is  engaging, as is Lehman’s Front Porch.

By doing a little bit of extra work on the way your sale is  announced, or your story is told, your emails can become something your  readers will
open first—and respond by making your cash register ring  more than ever.

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Jumpstart your creatives’ energy and ideas, through conferences!

Conferences have frequently been perceived as a playground by management, unaware of the quality education that can often be found there. Ergo, these days it’s harder and harder to get permission to attend a conference—and this is a shame, because if you choose your sessions right, it can provide education that no university could ever give you:  rubber-on-the-road experience by successful purveyors and mentors.

For a brief moment in time it actually looked like the conference format was dead in the water. They were taking one hit after another—first with 9/11 (the DMA was empty in October, following that terrible event), followed by the dot com bust. Now with our current recession, companies are dramatically limiting who can go to shows, what they must accomplish, and how many they’ll participate in over the course of the year.

We watched Comdex go from being so massive, booths overflowed into the convention center parking lot…to being simply a memory. The real shocker this year was in seeing Apple pull out of MacWorld.

Like the phoenix, rising from the ashes…

I’ve been attending DMA conferences since 1986 and speaking at them since ’89, and it’s been interesting to see the DMA regroup and continue to work at making the shows relevant to a very rapidly changing marketplace. So it’s been even more compelling for me to participate in the programming committee for the conference of Fall 2010 and 2011.

I’ve been incredibly impressed with the committee I’ve been working with on this task—deeply experienced marketers on both the client side and vendor side who are donating days and days worth of time to try to make this DMA the best ever. Not only are we dedicated to the highest quality education available, but we’re also committed to eliminating all sessions that would potentially turn into a sales pitch. After awhile we’re able to spot ‘em—the people who are telling a story that only they can tell, because it involves some system that only they sell. So, no “tell ‘n sell” has been an important goal.

So, what does this have to do with creative?

Well, years ago I headed up the first DMA Creative Conference with my colleague Melinda Risolo—the DMA hoped that with special programming, creatives would show up and attend not only their own special sessions, but other sessions on marketing, to broaden their education. Educated creatives are typically more attuned to the challenge of selling, and excited about all the ways they can sell your products and services.

Alas, with about five creative conferences under its belt, the DMA ceased trying to make it fly. Why could they not make a creative conference strong enough to stand on its own? The answer is:  creatives weren’t coming!

Three reasons:
1. Creatives are treated as ‘worker bees’ and are rarely given the freedom to leave the office for events such as this. Their time is never planned well enough for them to leave. Going to a conference requires some substantial planning on the part of attendees and their managers.

2. Perception that sending creatives will be a waste. When budgeting for conferences, it’s imagined that creatives will be the ones frittering their time away by the pool or the bar, and not attending conference sessions… a bad investment. But in contrast to that, when I had my own studio I always offered my art director the chance to go to a conference, knowing that when she went she’d be attending session after session, absorbing all she could to bring back to the office. It was a great investment.

3. Creatives don’t request to do a conference or even take course work… More often than not I’ve found staff creatives seem disinterested in the idea of becoming better educated. In fact, many of today’s creatives can’t imagine what they could learn, and so they don’t make the effort to go. Sometimes they even resent the idea that they may not have the best creative solutions.

It’s surprising but true: the years of creative strategy sessions I taught at San Jose State and UCLA were never attended by art directors or designers—and only one writer ever attended my course. My attendees were project managers who were trying to figure out how to manage their creatives and provide them direction.

Our creative strategy post-conference intensive at the DMA is a class filled with international attendees who are creative…plus project managers from U.S. companies, and a few writers. I’m still waiting for an art director or designer to show up. And people wonder what the factors are that make so many Echo awards go to international entries. One is that the international crowd sees value in sending their creatives to the DMA conferences.

Creatives and their managers don’t realize that some of the most interesting and useful sessions at conferences are not even the creative ones! Years ago I attended a fantastic merchandising session that was run by Bill Nicolai—now a LENSER senior partner, but at the time with Good Catalog Co.—that provided me knowledge I’ve used again and again. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing some of the most noted speakers in marketing over the years—from down-in-the-trenches folks to visionaries like Stan Rapp and true mentors like Herschell Gordon Lewis. The generosity of their teaching is unforgettable.

Consider fighting to get to more than one conference this year, for the sake of education and the future of your business. Anyone who says they already know this stuff is in trouble—the programming is more relevant than ever as these organizations like the DMA strive to provide outstanding value.

And, consider inviting a creative from your team to join you. Work with them to plan days filled with sessions that will give them a broader view of your business. Toss in some great fun and networking, and enjoy their new knowledge as it contributes to your success.

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And the winner for best legibility and response is…

Over this past month I’ve been made hyper-aware of the lack of good old-fashioned common sense in the web design world.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve been speaking at conferences, reviewing and critiquing websites and emails at a much greater than average rate.  The upshot is, I feel visually assaulted by the result of thoughtless web design.

While this topic—that is, brainless web design—is something one could write an entire book on, I’d like to focus on one of the simplest and most easily remedied problems in the web world:  lack of understanding of color and typography.

I’m amazed at the number of sites I go to where the type on the site is light gray, orange, pale green and even yellow.  So I’ve put a small diagram together here to give you a quick lesson on what makes something easy to read.

newsletter_1109_clip_image002_0000

Since you’re reading this in a digital format you’ll have a chance to see this demonstration in the environment in which the biggest transgressors are practicing their trade—online.  The digital nature of a monitor, and the resolution thereof, takes what we know to be already bad practice with regard to reading and understanding website content—and makes it even more dramatically detrimental to the cause.

Before I go further, I should quickly revisit some of my earlier articles on legibility and response.  The human eye is enormously sensitive to contrast—it seeks it out.  On the other hand, it is over 2000x less sensitive to color changes—and this is where the problem lies.  When your prospect or customer can’t easily read what you’ve written, their comprehension goes way, way down.  And this is when we lose them.  We fail to make our case for why they should buy this from US.  And the other site—the one that’s easier to read—is the one they’ll most likely buy from, because that is the message they remember.

So…now check out my diagram with color and type.
Looking at the diagram, I don’t need to ask anyone which of these is the easiest to read—and where the eye goes first.  The black type on the white background is always the winner.  The black type on the warm orange background is the next most successful at getting my attention and comprehension, because the color is warm and there is still quite a lot of contrast between the background color and the black type.

You get into darker colors like red or blue, and put black type on them, and the contrast is much lower.  You can read it, but not without some work.

The white type on the black background (we call this “reversed out”) gets high points for contrast, but for more than a violator like a dot whack it’s an annoyance that chases customers away quickly, according to all studies done on this topic.  The more type you set in white on black or another color, the worse it gets.

The red block with the green type is the one that makes your eyes seem to ‘wiggle’—that’s because the green and the red are both the same value of dark to light.  This is intriguing in a painting if done with some limits, but amazingly annoying to people trying to read.

I know it’s too late for most of you who did your catalog covers using green type on a red background, but, knowing this, at least you can fix your website before the bulk of your holiday customers come to visit.  Just seeing that and staring at it for a few seconds gives you the idea of how bad it feels to read it.

Those who use cool and subtle treatments like pink on light blue, or white on a pastel…well, you can see how successful that is.  And I can’t tell you how many white on pastel headlines I’ve seen this year.  In a world where others are making their sites and their emails easy to read, this is a complete loser.  Your designer may be in sheer bliss over how tender and lovely it is, but your customer is not moved, because it’s too hard to read.

And then, consider your older market, who may have lost some degree of their color vision.   It’s even harder for them to read what you’re looking at now.  And let’s not forget, this is an audience with time to shop and money to spend.  Do you really want to alienate them?

We humans are smart enough to pare away the things in our lives that are too difficult, unless we really want to do those things.  And reading copy and headlines on a website is very, very low on that list for all but a few of our most loyal customers.

So if you’re trying to figure out how to improve your bottom line, it’s time to take a good, hard look at your emails and websites, find what’s hard to read and fix it now.  Making your site and emails easier to read truly is one of the least costly and most effective ways of increasing your sales.

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