Tag Archives: designer

The Design and Copy dance team: who’s the best one to lead?

Added Value At Work! on this printed page, the sidebar about the Covert Collection has bulletpoints with explanations that make them sell harder. Yes, it takes up more room, but this mailer did enormously well to the customer list. They ended up taking that copy and making it value added copy, or content, on the web.

Added Value At Work! on this printed page, the sidebar about the Covert Collection has bulletpoints with explanations that make them sell harder. Yes, it takes up more room, but this mailer did enormously well to the customer list. They ended up taking that copy and making it value added copy, or content, on the web.

Most online and printed catalog managers believe that the creative development of a catalog is based on design. So in most catalogs, designers take the lead in the creative process.

This is an unfortunate assumption, because more often than not, it leads to copy being an afterthought.

“Poor stepchild” copywriting really shows as such, in most catalogs. The result too often is the same old ‘product on a page’ routine, which we know from response numbers is not the best way to go.

A designer alone doesn’t have the background or selling experience needed to make a catalog the strong seller it can be.

Some of the world’s most effective ecommerce sites and catalogs are actually quite copy-driven, utilizing added-value content, strong headlines and powerful, well-directed copy. On the printed catalogs, it helps create a hierarchy on each spread. On an ecommerce site, it can make the difference between a dull nuts and bolts home page, vs. one that is lively and intriguing that keeps the customer in the site for much longer.

Next time you look at working on upgrading your catalog and ecommerce creative, consider these opportunities to make it more effective…

1. Work with a smart, strategic copywriter to look over the existing website and, if you have it, your catalog. Ask them whether they can envision a better way to sell a Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 7.19.21 PMproduct or a group of products. Then, ask them to write a small feature that would make the whole group of products work harder, to sell more.
2. Create a headline for your ecommerce pages and catalog pages that will be caught quickly by search – benefit driven, product name, etc. This is what is often called the long ‘tail’ headline that has so much, you can’t miss when it comes to being found.
3. Try friendly instead of simply factual. Even in business to business, an everyman approach beats out the cold hard factual approach or ‘engineerspeak’ every time. That’s because your customers are human, not machines.
4. Bullet points are easy – but in fact copy leading to the bullet points gives a reader a reason to dig in and spend more time with your product.

 

On this 4 gifts under $50 group, it's from a direct mail self mailer, and it's a great example of how a lead in paragraph will make the bulletpointed copy more meaningful.

On this 4 gifts under $50 group, it’s from a direct mail self mailer, and it’s a great example of how a lead in paragraph will make the bulletpointed copy more meaningful

5. Tell a story instead of telling facts. How did you discover this product? When did you realize this was something you, yourself could use? How did you work with the manufacturer to make it even better than ever? First person is a great way to sell if your writer is seasoned enough to write a good story.

In all of these cases, the one taking the lead is the copywriter, and that lead will alter the design of the spread, in some cases, substantially.

In a website, you can set this copy up to drill down easily to more and more facts. ON a printed catalog, you may lose a little selling space by making the copy less rudimentary.

But here is the other bonus with a seasoned copywriter taking the lead: the better the writer, the more likely they are to be able to reduce the amount of copy by writing it more efficiently! So what space is lost by copy changes may come back to you in brisker, more to-the-point (but not cold and fact-only) copy.

Keep in mind, shorter copy takes more time to write. Yes, you read that correctly. Even Mark Twain wrote to a friend (paraphrased) “I’m writing you a long letter today because I haven’t the time to write a short one.” If a master of words like Twain found short copy daunting, you can imagine it’s going to be a challenge for any writer. IN fact, the less seasoned the copywriter, the more naïve they’ll be about the work it takes to produce a good short copy block.

In the long run, all the suggestions I’ve made here amount to the same thing: selling harder by using one of the most powerful tools in your reach – smart copy!

So instead of making the copy an afterthought, team up your creatives earlier in the process and challenge them to, with both copy and design, make your catalog and ecommerce site really become selling powerhouses.

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5 creative ways to get a new job as a writer or designer

I was recently in a discussion online with a group of creatives, where the topic of interviews came up. The basis of the question was, is it ever OK to ‘cheat’ a little bit in order to get an interview or be hired. By this they meant, exaggerate accomplishments, etc.  As you might imagine, the discussion was quite lively, but the consensus among professionals was that you never exaggerate — you tell the truth and hope you’ll stand out among the fakers who are also interviewing.

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Carol Worthington-Levy c. 1984 – during my first year as a direct marketing creative.

There is a shortage of integrity when it comes to interviewing for jobs, and creatives are not alone in this, but we’re claiming to be creative — so we should be able to develop a more creative strategy to get a job!

I can’t say I’m a bona fide authority on this, but I HAVE gotten my foot in the door a few different ways that I’ve been told were worth sharing in this forum.

Now, I am not an ivy league graduate or even a grad of a private university. I went to a state university of 12,000 out in western Pennsylvania and my final degree was not in copywriting or design or art direction — it was in fine arts and teaching. There were times when I wondered how in hell I’d get into advertising. Here are some of the things I did that proved helpful for me to get not only my full time jobs, but also, eventually, a vibrant freelance career.

For stark beginners or those ‘starting over’…

1. Learn specific skills outside of your scholastic environment.

Beginners need examples of their work. But work done in a classroom has limited appeal, often being irrelevant. We rarely graduate with a skillset that makes us ready to walk into an agency unless we happen to be a grad of a place like Art Center or RISD.

So after my first 2 or 3 unsuccessful interviews, I realized that I was missing some essential skills to work professionally in the field of design.

A conversation with a friend opened a door — his stepfather was representing a company that had a four-book-course on doing layout for advertising. He GAVE me a set — I will always appreciate his generosity, and I still have the books as a memento of an important step in my career!

Much of this was very new for me. So I paged through the lessons in the books and learned how to hand-letter and lay out ads the way an agency would. This did not actually take much time to learn! I really worked at it, with the goal of filling a portfolio with quality examples – just enough to show a potential employer that I knew how to do it, and was willing to work hard.

From there, I looked in magazines for ads that I thought were missing the mark. And starting from scratch, I redid about 10 of them, writing my own headlines, drawing marker comps and using techniques i had learned from the books.

When I next interviewed, I was very clear with my interviewer that I had not been trained in this specific field, so I self-trained using a great course, and then I developed these concepts as new options. I even showed the original ads so they could see I hadn’t copied anything from the ad.

By building my own portfolio as I did,  potential employers could see that I wasn’t a whiner and I wasn’t afraid to work hard. And they could also see how I liked doing this work. They were impressed, and I got a job quickly after that, as a junior… just starting and a crap salary … but so grateful to finally have my foot in the door!

For any interview at any level:

2. Listen, ask questions, and accept constructive critique.

In addition to showing the examples (now, my portfolio) to new interviews, I called one of the folks who had interviewed me before, who had very kindly told me that I was missing these skills, and he allowed me to show him what I’d done. While he’d already hired someone, he assured me that I was ready and was proud that I’d used his critique wisely.

I had asked this potential employer specific questions about why he didn’t feel I was ready (when I was in the interview) —  and he provided it! So while he did, I listened and came back later to show I’d listened.

He was impressed enough that he referred me to another art director for an interview!

3. Don’t dwell on your old examples.

If you were lucky enough to be trained in your creative field, It’s worth it to keep and show some assignments you had for your first interviews, but after your first job, put it away! Interviewers want to see real work.

If you have work that’s over ten years old in your portfolio, you probably should remove it before going out again. It looks odd to employers to see old stuff, and it requires too much explaining. Often it just looks old, and employers don’t like that.

4. A foot in the door is great — but will a toe do the job?

Connect with a company like Aquent or CreativeGroup, who specialize in employment of part time or freelance creatives. If you believe your days are numbered at your current job, it’s worth it to go through the process of qualifying before you’re without a job, because you’re more confident and more attractive as someone who is working. Accept assignments that are short term or freelance, then perform your stuff. Often they continue your assignments until it makes sense for them to just hire you on full time.

Why is this a popular resource for agencies? It’s an easy way for agencies and businesses to ‘test drive’, hire and try talent to see who fits into their organization best. Now that our nationalized healthcare situation is happening, you can work like this and still have health insurance.

5. Join and participate.
All over the country there are professional organizations that meet monthly or quarterly, and sometimes even weekly, Local branches of the DMA and the Advertising club are typical. Despite the cost of the meetings, plan to go to meetings, get there early, put on a smile and work the room. Ask questions of other people – find out what kind of biz they have etc.  Make friends, and you’ll meet potential clients.

If there is a BMA – business marketers association – those meetings can be fun and it’s rare to find a creative coming to the meetings. But these people need love (and great creative) too!

The organization you’re going to for the meetings is undoubtedly a volunteer organization. Offer to help the organization with promotions and so on. This is a good place to meet people for potential business or a job, too. As you have gotten to know them better put it out there that you are looking. (But wait til you know them a little bit so you don’t look like you’re only there to find a job.)

The bottom line is, keep your integrity, don’t feel desperate enough to show work you didn’t do or exaggerate. Instead, show them what a go-getter you are through some of these suggestions. Persevere, keep an open mind, and eventually you will find work you really enjoy.  You might end up moving from job to job more than you may like…. but remember, it’s all part of the adventure of developing a career! And wherever you go, there is something you can learn from someone there.

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Filed under Copywriting, Creative Strategy, Design, Marketing Strategy