I hate the color blue.

Eliminating Personal Preferences in the communications development process.
By Pete Monfre
Evaluating creative work is one of the most difficult processes anyone faces when executing a marketing or communications strategy. The pressure comes from the fact that these decisions can make the difference between the success and failure of an entire effort. It’s not that we don’t all have opinions to contribute, but often those opinions are steeped in the fear of the unknown. Falling into this trap forces us to base decisions on the one thing we do know for sure:  our own personal preferences.

Seasoned pros as well as novices often go wrong by failing to control their personal preferences, or, put another way, by eschewing open-mindedness. For example, the president of a company doesn’t like white space. He demands that every space be filled with copy or product shots or his big, red, smiling face. This makes the piece hard to read, and it frightens small children too. Yet, too often, marketers succumb to personal preferences like this, throwing the goals and strategy right out the window.

Good marketers know how ignore personal preferences and solve visual problems according to the goals set forth in the creative strategy. For example, personally, I don’t like the color blue. But if one of my clients had years of equity in my least favorite color, or if it’s been proven that blue packaging sells more product, you can bet that marketing piece is going to be blue. It’s not my job to make everything pleasing to my eye, but rather to meet the goals set forth at the beginning of the project.

Easier said than done? You bet. The trick is to continually remind yourself of these goals. Measure each incremental decision in terms of whether or not the decision moves you closer to these goals. Often, time and money are lost making changes that are at best inconsequential, or at worst, detrimental to the effort.

For example, many managers want copy in CAPITAL LETTERS. What they don’t realize is that, in their effort to add power and emphasis, they’ve made the piece harder to read. Good marketers know this. They work to give the message the emphasis it needs, while making it easy for the reader to find and retain the information.

When we let our egos get in the way, more often than not, bad decisions are usually made. Another common mistake is making the company’s logo too large. This is a classic case of bigger not being better. That huge logo is probably taking up valuable real estate that’s better served by placement of a toll-free number, benefit or some badly needed white space. Create desire for your product or service first. They’ll find the logo when its time to buy.

Professional marketers know how to effectively speak the language of communication. The seemingly arbitrary decisions they make are based on experience, psychology, and marketing strategy, as well as an understanding of how people receive and process visual information. All of this is balanced with knowledge of technology, technical processes, corporate culture, social conventions, and the rich history of visual communication.

This is not to say that you should blindly accept anything your marketing or design team places in front of you. But if you trust them, give them both the benefit of the doubt–and the opportunity to explain why that new brochure just has to be blue.

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