Guide what your audience thinks and feels, otherwise your brand won’t have a voice.
Before you’ve said anything, your audience has decided how you’ve said it. Let that sink in. The second they notice your presence, their emotional brain builds a frame around you that bounds everything you could say. Call it a preconception.
The old proverb that you only get one chance to make a first impression is true, but it should continue to say you only get one second to make it. Now, there’s not a lot you can consciously and actively do in one second. You can read about 3 words, you can recognise a logo, you can go ‘huh?’. In one second, however, your brain does a lot subconsciously and reactively.
This post is about how Mash works with the subconscious reactions of that one second. Because, while you can’t say anything precise in one second, you can convey personality. Call it a brand.
Communicating without saying
Differing strategic emphasis is a common reason you and your marketing agency don’t ‘get’ each other.
Your agency often takes the point of view that there’s a bunch of potential customers milling around who are assailed by countless marketing messages each day. To those people, your message is just more noise. As a client, you often start from “This is my business need and this is what I have to say”. Neither way is wrong … or right.
Using the ageless marketing rubric of Attention-Interest-Desire-Action, your agency works deductively from the first step to the last: AIDA. However, because your starting point is the action you need your customers to make, you’ll probably think inductively, i.e. starting from the result and working back: ADIA. It’s frustrating all round when the people across the table seem hung up on the ‘wrong things’.
So, where should the two approaches to the same problem cross? That depends on the campaign.
A pure branding campaign goes large on attention (maybe paying lip service to interest) while leaving desire and action subjective. While a time-limited sales campaign will be an all-action blockbuster. Neither is wrong – both types of campaign do what they are intended to. Few campaigns are so extreme of course. The point here is that people feel context by reflex, but receiving your messages takes effort.
Blink and you can’t miss it
Mash Media graphic designer Holly Shires is an expert on context. In a way, working with context is the real value-add of graphic design. Everything else is training and technical knowledge.
“Graphic design is absolutely about clearly communicating a message to a reader or user without them having to think about it,” Holly says.
“The details and the text of a website or a flier or an ad only matter after the reader or user is paying attention.
“It’s the blink test.”
This guiding of audience preconception – this framing – of messages is everywhere. For example, it’s no coincidence so many financial institutions have blue logos. Blue, Holly says, connotes security, confidence, calmness and safety – all things banks want to be associated with. Similarly, she says, nearly every country’s police wear blue for the same reasons.
How much to show? How to much say?
“When you’ve got someone actually paying conscious attention to your message, that’s when you can begin the sales pitch, however the context through which they’re giving that attention has not gone away.
“When a message allies with its context to it reinforce the “vibe” of the piece, it’s branding.”
Often, what you want from your campaign’s audience is the same feeling you get from a really good movie trailer: anticipation, but no pay-off. In the case of the movie, you can only get satisfaction from seeing the movie. In the case of your campaign, your audience can only get satisfaction from doing the thing you want them to do:
- Visit today.
- Buy now.
- Get a quote.
- Find out more.
Room to muse
“People are curious creatures and curiosity grows larger when it has gaps to fill in,” Holly says.
“This is why I remind clients about negative space. That visual ‘room to breath’ let’s the reader think about what you’ve just said. If they are overloaded, it turns off them off completely.”
The Japanese use the word ‘ma’ for the concept of leaving space. They use it a lot. It’s part of the reason Japanese art and style is so distinctive – or, in other words, has such a clear ‘brand’.
Sometimes though, you’re selling hard in a market where the only thing the user needs is information – discount stores and impulse purchases, say. In that case, maximal messaging works. The rest of the time, you need to build some sort of frame for your audience to know what you’re about. Once you’ve done that, you must leave them some space to imagine themselves doing business with you. And action usually follows where the mind leads.