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Oct 22 / Viji Iyer

What can our childhood stories teach us about marketing 101?

Photo by Pratham Books

Over the centuries, people have shared and passed on information by telling stories and painting them in our heads with vivid colors. How many of us still remember the stories we’ve heard as children from our parents or grandparents that made us laugh, cry, get excited or be embarrassed! Why did they stick in our heads? Because they created an appeal and elicited a response from us, and those are the stories we carry through our adult lives. So why not use the same principles when it comes to marketing collateral!

Somewhere along the way we get tricked into thinking we need to ‘add more’ when it comes to a marketing layout. We tend to squeeze in more data, wanting to optimize every square inch with dumping all the possible content there is, feeling the urge to explain or elaborate every little component about a piece. Sometimes backtracking is a good thing! We need to step back and remind ourselves why the old-fashioned ways of storytelling still hold true even today!

When it comes to designing any marketing piece – a flyer, a brochure, booklet or maybe even a blog post, look at it from the lens of a good storytelling template. I dug up and went old school trying to see what that meant –

Rule book-

1. Specify your goal upfront : What is the key purpose of this document? What is it meant to serve? Is it informational, awareness creation, to sell your product, or promoting an event? Keep that in focus and steer your overall content and layout keeping that goal in perspective.

2. Key takeaway: What is the ‘one thing’ you want your audience to do after they read this collateral? I say one thing vs. things, as you don’t want to confuse your audience by giving them more than one actionable item to follow-up on. So think hard and assess what is it that you want them ‘to do’, in order to get better results. Many a times, we feel compelled to add several action items in our call to action hoping for ‘more results’. End result, your target audience might slack, as it might seem like a lot of work their end. So keep it easy and really simple for them.

Imagine, how daunting it may seem to you if you came home from work to a long list of to-do list, you are most likely to procrastinate and try to get to it later. As for the type A personalities, they may get farther, probably getting to the first few vs. hitting all of it. So keep it short and easy for your audience and they are more likely to do it!

3. Give your audience and their intelligence some credit! : People are smart in filling out the smaller details and making sense of things for the most part. So don’t patronize them by inundating them with every little tiny detail and information. Respect people’s times, nobody really has the time to read every word and process it in their heads. Stick with the bigger pieces of information you want them to remember, and have the confidence that your intelligent audience will plug in the connecting pieces.

4. Gift wrap it well! : Everybody likes & enjoys a good presentation. So keep your layout pretty. So what does that mean? It could mean a bunch of things here’s a quick list of some of the obvious ones –

  • Always include visuals - People register visuals better. Try to incorporate a relevant picture, graph, table, pie chart, anything will help the reader register the content  visually too. Nobody likes staring at a plain black and white document for too long (yawn!)
  • Typography Try breaking the monotony of the plain text using different font styles  and font sizes making it easier on the eye to read. Also try not going to verbose on them  using long paragraphs (again yawn!) try breaking it down into bite –sized paragraphs.
  • Cohesive color scheme – We have used colors all along to describe our emotions and show how we feel. They’ve played a vital role in setting the mood and ambience of our surroundings. Same principles apply in marketing. Use appropriate colors to set the ‘right mood’ and ensure it is cohesive with your overall goal and purpose of your marketing effort.
  • Don’t get greedy, leave some white behind – Resist the temptation to fill out every white space left and load it with data and information. Keep it pleasing to the eye. The more you fill it with data, the higher the likelihood that your audience may skim over it, or maybe even ignore it totally. So if you want them to read all your content, space it out, break the monotony and leave some blank space. It makes the layout look cleaner, less crowded and more attractive to read through.

5. Humanize your content : This one is the most important in my mind. We tend to get so caught up in the thick of things that we tend to stray far from the classic methods that have always worked! Tell a story, no matter what type of document you are working on. Give them something that they can hold onto and seems tangible. Try to weave in a story, making it relatable. It could be your own experience, what you heard, a customer success story anything that breaks the sterile exterior shell allowing people to latch onto something. If you are successful at creating an appeal you are that much more likely to get a response from them. If they ‘feel it’ they will ‘act on it’ whether it be picking up the phone, writing back, approving, accepting, buying it, whatever it is that you want them to do. You were able to stir a reaction in them.

Got more to add onto this rulebook? Feel free to chime in and share your knowledge!

Additional resources to refer -

Twelve Tips for Writing Better Marketing Brochures – by Julia Hyde
Tips for improving your marketing collateral – by Teresa Wright
Some Tips In Creating Consistent Marketing Collaterals – by Elmar Sandyck  

Photos by Pratham Books and Pierre Pouliquin

  • Chris Moody

    Thanks for the mention Viji. Great post as normal.

    I’m huge on storytelling and was even before it was beaten into our heads when we interned at SAS. :)

    Keep up the great work!

  • Viji Iyer

    Thanks Chris! :) Yeah storytelling is certainly an art that gets better with time & practice!

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