Copywriting

The Three C’s of Copywriting

Posted by on Jun 8, 2017 in Blog, Copywriting, Marketing | 1 comment

The Three C’s of Copywriting

Guest Post by Debra Jason As creative entrepreneurs and business owners, one of the most important tools you have in offering your programs, products or services is the copy you use to communicate your marketing message. (NOTE: To avoid repetition, I’ll refer to “programs, products or services” as “products” throughout this post). To ensure you create a magnetic message that resonates with your ideal client here are three C’s of copywriting to guide you along a successful path. I. CLARITY – 3 things you should get clear on BEFORE you begin to write. 1. Know your product. What is it physically and functionally? What is your goal with your product (i.e., sell more, gain name recognition, build your brand, etc.)? What’s the single strong benefit – the benefit that harnesses the greatest selling power? How will you tap into your prospects’ emotions and “knock their socks off?” To do this, you need to know what problem/challenge/issue your product solves for them. Are they: Stressed out about past due bills they can’t pay? Frustrated with their job, their boss, or co-workers? Frightened because they lost a job and can’t find a new one? 2. Know your audience. Understand the demographics (i.e., age, career, income, marital status, etc.), but don’t forget the psychographics such as: What are their lifestyles like? Is family important to them? Are they cramped for time? Do they use credit cards often? Do they prefer to dine out or stay at home and cook? What motivates your audience? What keeps them up at night? When you know the answers to questions like these you can then feel confident about offering a solution that your product delivers to make their lives easier. 3. What’s your message? How do you help your prospects/customers? What do they get or gain by using your product? Is there an obstacle or barrier that delays them from getting what they want? And, what are the benefits or results they gain from using yourproduct? When you answer these 4 questions, you’ll have the “bones” of your message. Then, you can review and fine tune (sometimes repeatedly) till you have a magnetic message that resonates with your audience. For instance, “I help heart-centered independent business professionals communicate their message in a way that captivates and converts their prospects into loyal, raving fans even if they have been struggling to transform their ideas into words in the past. SO THAT they can attract new clients, SO THAT they can have a better income, SO THAT they can create the freedom-based lifestyle they’ve been dream of… (Notice that the “SO THAT” portion can continue on with benefits/results). II. CONNECT – 3 things to do WHEN writing. 1. Begin with the concerns of your reader. Tell him/her “what’s in it for me?” (WIIFM). Highlight benefits not features. As a writer, create a picture in your mind of your ideal customer – their lifestyle, their wants/needs, their pains or frustrations. Then, connect with them by identifying with them, put yourself in their shoes...

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Six Writing Secrets You’re Born Knowing

Posted by on Apr 26, 2016 in Blog, Copywriting, Marketing | 0 comments

Six Writing Secrets You’re Born Knowing

Guest post by John Forde, Copywriter’s Roundtable On my way to the AWAI Copywriting Bootcamp recently, I thought back on just HOW MANY things we’ve covered from that stage. One of the many things my frequent co-presenter, the great Jen Stevens, and I revealed are six “natural born” copywriting secrets. “Natural born” because, far as we could tell, these are the kinds of things you don’t really need to learn… because you know them from birth. What kinds of things? Well, it starts by simply acknowledging to yourself that persuading somebody in print, in video, in real life… is often just about having a keener understanding of what makes humans tick. People are complicated, of course. But we picked these six because seemed to get to the core of what a lot of what we — and you — do when writing copy. Without further ado, here’s the rundown… 1) “THE SPARKING MATCH” At the start the movie The Usual Suspects, Gabriel Byrne’s character touches a cigarette to a book of matches. They spark then flame across. He drops them onto a line of gunpowder and the flames race across a burning shipyard dock. The “natural born” insight? We’re programmed to use little details to help us sort out what’s going on. Which is why using them to tell big stories can help make those stories feel present and real. In copy, we call them “actualities.” And using them judiciously has an added bonus: they can also help fix other copy problems automatically. How so? It turns out that, to pick the most compelling details, you also have to think more clearly about the message you want to convey. 2) USE YOUR “SANTOKU” A Japanese “santoku” knife — you can buy one at any kitchen store — does three things well: It chops, dices, and minces. Imagine if you had a mental santoku you could use to chop, dice, and mince your copywriting projects down to a more manageable size. We know this instinctively, when we tackle all kinds of other projects one thing at a time. The secret many writers don’t reveal is that they often write in small pieces too, rather than in a linear way. 3) THE RIVER OF RELEVANCE While details have value, you still need to make sure it’s only the emotionally relevant details you use. What’s “emotional relevance?” It’s the way your prospect needs to feel to be open to your message. For babies, it’s pretty obvious that feelings trump logic. But the truth is, that natural directive never really goes away. It’s how we select what we’ll listen to and what we’ll ignore. That’s why your sales copy has to take those relevant emotions into consideration too. Don’t seek to MAKE a prospect feel. Look for — and return to — those details, metaphors, and stories that connect to emotions your reader is already likely to have. 4) SLAY THE BLOATED MONSTER William Zinsser warns about “bloated monsters that lie in ambush for the...

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20 Things I’ve Learned in 20 Years

Posted by on Mar 30, 2016 in Blog, Copywriting, Creative Process, Graphic Design | 0 comments

20 Things I’ve Learned in 20 Years

In 1996 I was having a blast doing creative projects for friends and family on my first personal computer, while studying the principles of design from library books and the occasional seminar that came near my rural part of northern California. My brother Tim mostly taught me the basics of Adobe Pagemaker (precursor to Adobe InDesign) from across the continent via email. It soon dawned on me that if I started a ‘desktop publishing’ business, I could justify all the toys (hardware and software) I needed to take the fun to the next level. After five years of operation in California’s Napa Valley, constantly honing my craft, my (now) husband and I made the jump across the Pacific, and Kauai Design was born. As I celebrate 20 years, I’m looking back at a few of the essential lessons I’ve learned along the way. CLIENT RELATIONS 1. Listen… …to understand my client’s goals, products, services, and target audience so we’re on the same page, solving the right problem 2. Inform Share design expertise, technical knowledge, and resources, give honest feedback, and communicate throughout the process. I’ve learned it works better to err on the side of over-communicating than under-. 3. Be Generous After meeting with a new client, I summarize our agreement in a written proposal, spelling out the cost, scope of services and timeline for their project. Then I strive to exceed my promises and over-deliver on the goods. 4. Be open-minded Design is subjective. As with all art, personal taste looms large. While I find long-standing principles of good design valid, and generally worth heeding, sometimes they must be over-ridden by the client’s preferences or an inspired but offbeat idea. 5. Small business owners rock I am continually impressed with the vision and commitment, the willingness to take risks and do what it takes to launch and maintain a business. Entrepreneurs are a special breed and I’m honored to have collaborated with so many on their branding and promotional needs. THE CREATIVE PROCESS 6. Get psyched Get my head (and body) in a good space before sitting down with a project. Approach the work with the mindset of being receptive, curious, interested, eager, and open to relationships between the parts. 7. Be willing to walk away For me, a swim in the ocean is the best way to clear my mind, work out my body, and re-boot the creative process when I’m feeling stuck. 8. Stay open to possibility Allow for the unexpected flashes of inspiration, the seemingly off-the-wall ideas, and the breakthroughs that emerge from “mistakes” 9. Trust the process Know that the unfolding requires incubation and marination and sometimes even divine intervention. Stretching to take on something I’ve never done before, though sometimes intimidating, has always made me a better designer. See let-it-incubate-germinate-marinate/ INDISPENSABLE DESIGN PRINCIPLES 10. Start with art The reader’s eye will be drawn to a picture first. Make it count. Fonts, colors, and other graphic elements can take their lead from the art....

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Let it incubate, germinate, marinate…

Posted by on Feb 19, 2016 in Blog, Copywriting, Creative Process, Graphic Design | 0 comments

Let it incubate, germinate, marinate…

I’ve long been a believer in immersing myself in information and images related to a design or writing project, then backing off, focusing on something completely different. The data then simmers and churns in my unconscious mind, connecting the dots (as Steve Jobs called it), generating new associations and relationships, insights and revelations. In my 20 years as a designer, I’ve learned to relax into a receptive space, to trust the natural ripening or gestation process. In September 2015 I shared a post about the little book, Free Play by Stephen Nachmanovitch. (See “Free Play and Creativity”) That book is packed so full of intriguing ideas that it holds the record for the number of stickies I’ve ever stuck in a half-inch thick book. I marked dozens of passages I wanted to re-read and re-think. Nachmanovitch notes that our language of nouns and verbs contributes to the illusion that we, the subjects, control the creative process (the object). But in the act of creation, there are unseen, unconscious forces doing the heavy lifting. Our job is sometimes to give our analytical, judging brains a rest and let the muse, our intuitive wisdom, our DNA, and the collective consciousness speak. RIPENING In a chapter called “Ripening,” Nachmanovitch writes, “In one phase of the [creative] process we exercise technique and try things out step by step. In another phase the conscious working of ideas sinks down and assimilates with the unconscious. Then there is  the seemingly magical part of the process in which the material resurfaces, enriched and ripened by its unconscious sojourn. It is not, of course the material that resurfaces, it is we who resurface, more ripe and ready to bear the material.” Our stuck places may well hold the greatest potential for creative breakthroughs if we can surrender, drop the struggle, and walk away. The process then goes ‘underground’ to cook, incubate, germinate, marinate (choose your metaphor…) the raw material and emerge with fresh connections, insights and aha moments. “Like a birth, creative expression bursts out, of its own accord, when you and it are ripe.”      -Stephen Nachmanovitch Solutions usually come when we are NOT focused on the problem. Answers usually come when we are NOT focused on the question, but when we are mentally relaxed and open. We could be showering, driving, taking a walk, meditating, lying in bed, floating in the ocean. The bottom line? Take breaks. Chill. Let go. Trust. It’s one of life’s paradoxes that the secret to creative productivity is ‘non-productive’ down time, incubating, germinating, marinating ideas. And I find that having faith in the mysterious creative process is good practice for building faith in the perfect unfolding of life in general. See also How Creativity Works and Learning to Trust Be Sociable,...

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Why Designers Love the Ampersand

Posted by on Jan 22, 2016 in Blog, Copywriting, Graphic Design | 0 comments

Why Designers Love the Ampersand

A ROMANCE THAT DATES BACK TO POMPEII by John Brownlee for Fast Company, January 20, 2016 Cheerily nuzzled above the “7” key like a pear-shaped pill bug, the ampersand is perhaps the most intriguing character on the keyboard. While all letters and punctuation marks look similar enough in abstract, the ampersand feels unique, like a shape-shifter that could transform at a moment’s notice. For type designers and aficionados both, it isn’t so much a character as it is a character, “usually a tirelessly entertaining one, perhaps an uncle with too many tricks,” as Simon Garfield wrote in his 2012 book, Just My Type. No wonder the ampersand attracts such endless fascination. There are coloring books about ampersands, ampersand-a-day Tumblr blogs, and a whole cottage industry of t-shirt makers working in ampersands. Perhaps the most epic undertaking of ampersand-ian tribute came in 2010, when over 400 different designers came together to create an entire font made up of nothing but distinctive and unrepeated ampersands. The project speaks to the ampersand’s individuality: a font of nothing but ampersands is easy to imagine in a way that a font of only lower case “j“s could never be. But if an ampersand feels like it can be anything, what makes an ampersand an ampersand? Where does it come from? And why, exactly, do type designers love it so much more than other characters? Flickr user arnoKath EVERY AMPERSAND STARTS WITH “ET” Ampersand design may seem infinitely variable, but no matter how stylized or abstracted, every ampersand is, at heart, an et—or Latin for “and.” Some typefaces (especially handwritten-style ones) make this more obvious: it doesn’t take too much squinting to see an “et” in the ampersands of Trebuchet MS, Garamond Italic, Casalon Italic, or even Papyrus. But you can see the Latin DNA of “et” even in an Arial, Helvetica, or Times New Roman ampersand, where the “e” has become a half-closed figure eight, forming the cross of a “t” with its bottom descender. And if you’ve ever handwritten an ampersand, chances are you’ve done so by drawing a loopy cursive “E,” bisected lengthwise by a straight line: another stylized “et.” The first known ampersand was scrawled on a wall in 1st-century Pompeii by an anonymous graffiti artist practicing his Roman cursive. It is related, but not identical to, a rival mark created during the same time period by Marcus Tiro, a former slave of Cicero who proposed what is known as the Tironian et (or “⁊”) as part of one of the world’s first shorthand system. Although the Tironian “et” eventually fell out of favor—except, bizarrely, in Ireland, where it is still used in Gaelic signage today—the Latin “et” continued to gain popularity, perhaps because it wasn’t tied to a larger shorthand system that scribes needed to learn in full. Instead, by the 8th century, they had stylized the Latin “et” into a symbol that looks very much like a modern ampersand. But it would take another thousand years for the ampersand to get its modern name. AND PER SE & Technically, the word ampersand is a mondegreen—meaning...

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10 Proven Persuasion Strategies

Posted by on Apr 20, 2015 in Blog, Copywriting, Marketing | 0 comments

10 Proven Persuasion Strategies

A guest post by John Forde, Copywriter’s Roundtable Persuasion, the good kind, isn’t about manipulation. It’s about tapping into those natural instincts we all have for self-preservation, and aligning those interests in somebody else with your own. Does that mean there are “click, whir” built-in triggers you can use to persuade? It does. Here’s a checklist with a few… ROUND UP THE HERD Teenagers all want to wear the same sneakers, only the crowded clubs seem cool, everybody wants an iPod. What is it about humans that they love to run with the herd? Trigger this response with statements about how many customers you’ve had so far, how orders have poured in, how high you rank in popularity compared to the competition. THE BUDDY BUMP You can “bump” up the likability of your product if friends, authorities, or even similar customers give your product a conspicuous nod of approval. Include pictures of people like your prospect using the product, tell the down-to-earth success stories of those similar customers. This technique is everywhere for a reason. FORCE THE POSITIVE Ask a question, any question, that’s going to get a “yes” response. And ask it early. Relevant questions may work even better, but research shows that almost any time you can get someone to say “yes,” they’re much more receptive to the rest of what you have to say. Just saying the word has a bond-building effect on both people in the exchange. IRRESISTIBLE CONSISTENCY We hate to be seen as inconsistent, simply because consistency is key to building trust in a relationship. Which is why so many who use the “yes” technique above ask small questions that they know they’ll later refer back to so they can get a larger commitment. e.g. “There’s nothing like ice cream on a hot summer day, am I right? It’s one of the sweetest memories any child could have.” And later, “You agreed with me about the cool satisfaction of a cone of ice cream in summer, I’m sure. Or you wouldn’t have read this far. That’s why I want to show you the new auto-cranking ice cream maker from…” THE BECAUSE CLAUSE Dr. Robert Cialdini found, in one of his studies, that dropping the word “because” into a rationale — even for an explanation that’s irrational — had the strange effect of getting people to respond to even unusual requests. In his case, his students used the trick to get other students to surrender the copy machine in the library. (e.g. “Can I jump in front of you and copy these 25 pages in my book? I need to because my parrot has dysentery…”) MAINTAIN THE MYSTERY No matter how cliché you think it is, teases and opportunities that are “hidden”… “undiscovered”… and “secret” have pulling power. Secrets capitalize on our fear of missing out or not being included. Shared secrets (real ones) help develop bonds. ACHILLES HEEL Have you ever noticed how the comedians that make fun of themselves make us laugh harder and...

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Acting Happy Helps Us Stay Healthy (Duh.)

Posted by on Feb 27, 2015 in Blog, Copywriting, Creative Process | 0 comments

Acting Happy Helps Us Stay Healthy (Duh.)

One of my favorite subjects: happiness. SO many benefits SO worthy of cultivating. Dr. Anderson lives it and backs it with science. Ok, so how exactly is this subject related to this blog’s stated parameters of graphic design, marketing and the creative process? Well, there’s some creative writing in here…you start writing your own scripts where you’re the hero or heroine (not the victim) and there’s always a happy ending. And what could be more creative than creating your own quality of life? As Dr. Anderson models (and Pollyanna before him), attitude is always a choice. Guest Post by JEFF STRICKLER, MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE February 25, 2015 – 9:32 PM Acting happy helps keep us healthy, says a [Minneapolis] doctor who employs the upbeat philosophy in his practice — and in his own life. Dr. Dale Anderson’s background includes extensive training in surgery, family practice, emergency medicine and the Stanislavsky method for actors. No, he’s not a frustrated Broadway star. In fact, other than for a couple of roles in school plays 60-plus years ago, he’s never done any acting. At least, not on stage. But every day he acts happy, which helps keep him healthy. “A happy body produces endorphins,” he said. “Endorphins are part of the opioid family. That’s the same as opium and morphine. We have our own internal pharmacy that is always open and has no copay.” A retired clinical assistant professor at the University of Minnesota, Anderson has focused on studying and promoting the connection between a happy outlook and a healthy body. He’s convinced that we have the ability to make ourselves happy — or, more to the point, make our bodies react as if we were happy — and, thereby, make ourselves feel better. “By learning to act as if you are happy, healthy and vital, even when you don’t feel that way, you can change your body’s chemistry and begin to feel the way you act,” he argues. The flip side, acting unhappy and making ourselves unhealthy, can happen, too, he warned. “The surly bird gets the germ,” he said. (Anderson is a master of the pun, a verbal machine gun throwing out terms such as the “individu-well” and the “well-derly,” along with directives to “inner-tain” yourself for “the health of it.”) His interest in acting happy for better health stems from treating a patient who made him unhappy because he couldn’t help her. “She was an actress who came to me complaining of aches and pains,” he said. “We tried everything from physical therapy to chiropracty, but the pain didn’t get any better. It’s very hard for a physician when you can’t do anything to help.” She mentioned that her current role involved playing someone who was angry. A few weeks later, that play closed and she switched to a role that was upbeat. “All her aches and pains went away,” Anderson said. “I started reading everything I could about method acting.” He conducted a survey of the Twin Cities acting community. The performers who described themselves...

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The Element of Surprise

Posted by on Dec 23, 2014 in Blog, Copywriting, Creative Process, Graphic Design | 2 comments

The Element of Surprise

SURPRISE DELIGHTS US, PLAYS WITH OUT HEADS, de-rails our train of rational thought, throws our expectations and stories about the way things are out the window. Studies suggest that incorporating an element of the unexpected (something surprising or novel) into messages helps make them stick in people’s memories. (See Making Your Message Stick.) The element of surprise was also famously called “the secret to humor” by Aristotle. A sudden, unexpected twist (or surprise) underlies much of what makes us laugh. Surprise gets our attention, it’s memorable, often funny or ironic, and it stimulates our creative juices. In his book Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention, Mikhaly Csikszentmihalyi suggests that the first step toward a more creative life is to cultivate more interest and curiosity. He writes, “On this score, children tend to have the advantage over adults; their curiosity is like a constant beam that highlights and invests with interest anything within range.” Experiencing the fresh perspectives and insatiable curiosities of youngsters can reawaken us to the large and small wonders of life on earth. Csikszentmihalyi proposes that interest and curiosity can also be boosted by 1) trying to be surprised by something every day and 2) trying to surprise at least one person every day. If we deliberately invite more novelty into our daily lives (in the form of playfulness, exploration, adventure, openness, humor, spontaneity, fun), it’s almost sure to generate more of the connections and associations that seed creative ideas. Similarly, cross-pollinating different disciplines and cultures with fresh influences often generates fresh, innovative breakthroughs. Number 4 on Csikszentmihalyi’s how-to list for cultivating more interest and curiosity? “When something strikes a spark of interest, follow it.” Of course it’s a luxury to have time to pursue one’s interests. For many, basic survival needs preclude any in-depth commitment to a craft or creative direction. “But often the obstacles are internal,” writes Csikszentmihalyi. “If a person is concerned with protecting his or her self, practically all the attention is invested in monitoring threats to the ego.” Albert Einstein believed that “the most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.” If we believe it’s a friendly universe, we need not bind up our time, attention, resources, and psychic energy in defending against others who we think are out to take us down. We can instead spend that energy focusing on what we want, and create positive change for ourselves and our societies. A sense of safety allows openness, expansiveness, receptivity, attunement to our intuitions, gut feelings, and glimmers of genius. Once the brilliant idea is born, however, we must paradoxically flip into a closed mindset to implement it. After the creative breakthrough, the work is generally reductive, highly focused, defended against distractions, analytical, judging, and detail-oriented. So the creative person must be skilled in both opening the mental gates to receive the input and generate the vision, then closing them to successfully execute the plan. “Graphic design allows me...

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How to Create Advertising that Sells

Posted by on Apr 12, 2014 in Blog, Copywriting, Marketing | 0 comments

How to Create Advertising that Sells

By David Ogilvy [Editor’s Note: David Ogilvy has been called “the original Mad Man.”  Read and heed his now classic advice, originally shared in an agency ad from the 1960’s. As a student of copywriting, David Ogilvy was required reading. Take it away, Mr. Ogilvy…] Ogilvy & Mather has created over $1,480,000,000 worth of advertising. Here, with all the dogmatism of brevity are 38 of the things we have learned. 1.  The most important decision. We have learned that the effect of your advertising on your sales depends more on this decision than on any other: how should you position your product? Should you position Schweppes as a soft drink – or as a mixer?  Should you position Dove as a product for dry skin or as a product which gets hands really clean?  The results of your campaign depend less on how we write your advertising than how your product is positioned.  It follows that positioning should be decided before the advertising is created.  Research can help.  Look before you leap. 2.  Large promise. The second most important decision is this:  what should you promise the customer?  A promise is not a claim, or a theme, or a slogan.  It is a benefit for the consumer.  It pays to promise a benefit which is unique and competitive, and the product must deliver the benefit your promise.  Most advertising promises nothing.  It is doomed to fail in the marketplace.  ”Promise, large promise, is the soul of an advertisement”  – said Samuel Johnson. 3.  Brand image. Every advertisement should contribute to the complex symbol which is the brand image.  95% of all advertising is created ad hoc.  Most products lack any consistent image from one year to another.  The manufacturer who dedicates his advertising to building the most sharply defined personality for his brand gets the largest share of the market. 4.  Big ideas. Unless your advertising is built on a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night. It takes a big idea to jolt the consumer out of his indifference – to make him notice your advertising, remember it and take action. Big ideas are usually simple ideas. Said Charles Kettering, the great General Motors inventor: “this problem, when solved, will be simple.” Big, simple ideas are not easy to come by. They require genius – and midnight oil. A truly big one can be continued for 20 years – like our eye patch for Hathaway shirts. 5.  A first-class ticket. It pays to give most products an image of quality – a first-class ticket. Ogilvy & Mather  has been conspicuously successful in doing this – for Pepperidge, Hathaway, Mercedes Benz, Schweppes, Dove and others. If your advertising looks ugly, consumers will conclude that  your product is shoddy and they will be less likely to buy it. 6.  Don’t be a bore. Nobody was ever bored into buying a product. Yet most advertising is impersonal, detached, cold – and dull. It pays to involve the customer. Talk to her like a human being....

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The Psychology of Storytelling

Posted by on Mar 7, 2014 in Blog, Copywriting, Creative Process, Marketing | 2 comments

The Psychology of Storytelling

10 PROVEN WAYS TO CREATE BETTER STORIES (AND WHY STORIES SELL) Guest post by Gregory Ciatti  Stories are a very integral part of being persuasive. You’d think that as a guy that loves research and data, I’d be averse to storytelling as a whole. As a marketer though, I can’t be: those in sales and marketing have known for a long time that stories trump data when it comes to persuasion because stories are easier to understand and relate to. Are you incorporating stories into your copy? Are you utilizing them on your blog? WHY YOU NEED TO INCORPORATE STORYTELLING Storytelling works. But a lot of folks are averse to telling stories because they believe that “the facts” are the most persuasive pieces of content they can deliver. It’s not. How you say something is just as important as what you are saying. While we are all often resistant to the idea of being told what to do, we are very susceptible to agreeing with the “moral of the story” due to how it is presented to us. HOW STORIES AFFECT THE MIND The reason that stories work so well on us is that we are susceptible to getting “swept up” in both their message and in the manner of their telling. Quite literally, stories are able to transport our mind to another place, and in this place we may embrace things we’d likely scoff at in the “harsh, real world”. Think about this example: You’ll often see politicians create a “story” for their campaign, and focus a lot of their efforts speaking with the public in crafting and standing by these stories. Creating the story of “tough guy who is harsh on crime and supports states rights” is easier to understand than discussing the complexities of how the administration plans to actually tackle the crime rate. You see this being utilized every day on platforms as big as TED talks to speeches by world leaders. Instead of only discussing the “information”, they begin talks with phrases like, “Imagine if you will…” Stories help sell arguments of all types. HOW TO CREATE BETTER STORIES The #1 trait of a persuasive story is how “engaging” the story is. A study conducted by Green & Brock addresses just what makes a story engaging. 1.) Suspense Our brain just can’t “get over” suspenseful moments: it’s a relationship that just won’t die, we will always want to know what happens next! In fact, suspense works so well that the hotly debated Zeigarnik Effect would have you believe that it’s the best way to kill procrastination. Research in that area seems to point to humans being much more inclined to finish something that has already been started (researchers interrupted people doing “brain buster” tasks before they could complete them… nearly 90% of people went on to finish the task anyway, despite being told they could stop). Suspense in stories really allows you to create addictive content, as long as the suspense appears early enough...

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How Creativity Works

Posted by on Nov 30, 2013 in Blog, Copywriting, Creative Process, Graphic Design | 0 comments

How Creativity Works

In his book, Imagine: How Creativity Works, author Jonah Lehrer takes us on a ride through the creative process. He shares research on innovation at both the individual level (in Part One: “Alone”) and the collective level (in Part Two: “Together”). Following are some findings from Part One that may surprise you. ON BEING STUMPED The author reminds us that every creative journey begins with a problem to be solved, and that before there can be a breakthrough, there must be a block. We tend to leave out this frustrating but essential part of the experience in our stories about creativity and jump to the happy endings.  When the aha! moment of insight finally arrives, it’s typically fully formed and seems surprisingly obvious. Thirty milliseconds before such a breakthrough, the brain generates a spike of high frequency gamma-wave activity, which is thought to be generated when neurons bind together in a new neural network. ON ALPHA WAVES AND BREAKTHROUGHS Research at Goldsmiths, University of London, has  shown that eight seconds before an insight breaks through to consciousness, the brain emits a steady rhythm of alpha waves from the right hemisphere. Alpha waves are associated with relaxing, unfocused activities such as daydreaming, meditating, and taking warm showers. When we’re emitting alpha waves, we’re more likely to be focused inward, connecting the dots of stored data that might lead to solutions. An outward focus may be necessary for analytical solutions, but it actually interferes with innovation by inhibiting the creative associations that generate insights. “Trying to force an insight can actually prevent the insight.” Taking stimulants is known to sharpen one’s attention and external focus, but it simultaneously shifts attention away from the bubbling network of stray associations in the brain’s right hemisphere, making creative breakthroughs far less likely. It seems insights only arise when you’re not looking for them. In one study, eighty-six Harvard undergraduates were tested on their ability to ignore outside stimuli, a skill typically considered essential to productivity. But the students that had a tougher time ignoring distractions were seven times more likely to be rated as ‘eminent creative achievers.’ Another study at University of Memphis found that subjects with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) scored higher on measures of creativity (i.e. winning prizes at juried art shows or being honored at science fairs) than their “normal” counterparts. The conclusion? “The inability to focus helps insure a richer mixture of thoughts in the unconscious.” Our minds are very busy during the so-called absentminded state of daydreaming. When we aren’t engaged with the outside world, our relaxed, de-focused brains go exploring our inner databases. Right brain activity increases. There seems to be an elaborate electrical conversation between the front and back parts of the brain that isn’t there during other patterns of thought. In addition to being a prolific daydreamer, a successful inventor has to be attentive enough to capture the glimmers of insight generated by those daydreams. Alcohol induces its own state of mind-wandering or zoning out, but a solution...

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The Golden Key of Persuasion

Posted by on Jul 4, 2013 in Blog, Copywriting, Marketing | 0 comments

The Golden Key of Persuasion

Excerpted from Gary Bencivenga’s Marketing Bullet #25  •  www.marketingbullets.com As Aristotle said about the art of persuasion, “The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor.”  Nothing persuades as quickly, effectively, memorably, or permanently as a well-crafted metaphor. With a good metaphor, you fuse at the hip two different things and, by a mysterious alchemy, instantly transfer the qualities of one into the other. Good metaphors are wizardry that work real magic in your prospects’ minds. That’s because this process of transferring the qualities of one thing into another takes place instantly, bypassing critical analysis and resistance. All you do is compare A to B in an effective way and voila! your point is made instantly without disagreement. This can make you a magician of persuasion! Let’s say you are writing about the wisdom of starting early to invest for retirement. You could write a sleep-inducing treatise on the subject. But look at how effectively master investor Warren Buffett does it—with a simple metaphor… “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” Or consider Ben Franklin on the wisdom of frugality… “Small leaks sink great ships.” Do you see how tight, how irrefutable, how powerful such arguments are when phrased in an apt metaphor? They yield instant agreement, and that is their magic. Muhammad Ali in his prime was as quick as his left jab. In prefight banter with reporters, Ali could verbally out-shadowbox even the cleverest reporters, leaving them laughing with metaphors like these: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” “I’m so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and was in bed before the room was dark.” A personal story: When Pauline and I were young, we came upon an adorable little cottage for sale on a little bluff overlooking the ocean. We fell in love with it. We bought it, signing a contract to close in May. We couldn’t wait for our dream summer at the beach. But as the closing date drew near, the scheming seller realized he could make even more money if he rented the cottage out to someone else for the summer, so he insisted that he had to postpone our closing until mid-September. “No way!” howled my lawyer. And then he lowered the boom on the seller’s gambit with this telling metaphor: “You want to sell Gary and Pauline a toy store on the day after Christmas. No fair!”  The seller caved; we closed in May and enjoyed the first of many enchanting summers in our cottage by the sea. Your richest sources of metaphor include the Bible, fairy tales, sports, the movies—any source of images that we all know by heart. And I do mean “by heart,” because the mere mention of certain images will automatically trigger in your audience powerful emotions they already harbor, which often enables you to persuade instantly. For example, when writing to investors, I would shamelessly massage their greed glands...

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Brand Thinking

Posted by on May 6, 2013 in Blog, Copywriting, Creative Process, Graphic Design, Marketing | 0 comments

Brand Thinking

Excerpts from Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits, by Debbie Millman Debbie Millman is a design visionary who has shaped global brands like Pepsi, Gillette, Colgate, Campbell’s and Nestle. She has authored several other books (including How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer) and hosts a weekly radio talk show about design on the Internet,“Design Matters.” She is President Emeritus of the AIGA, the largest professional association for design, a contributing editor at Print Magazine, a design writer at FastCompany.com and Chair of the Masters in Branding Program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. In her latest book, Millman interviews 22 thought leaders in the fields of marketing strategy, corporate identity, design, art, anthropology and related disciplines, extracting nuggets of insight from a veritable ‘who’s who’ of branding professionals. Their dialogues explore human nature in relationship with the material world, why we make the choices we do as consumers, and why we affiliate and identify with symbols. They examine the role that branding plays in society, politics, economics, psychology and technology and consider why, in this age of infinite choice, brand remains more essential than ever in advertising, marketing and public relations. Millman writes, “Ask anyone in the world what the definition of BRAND is and you will likely get a different answer every time. Why is that? Brand is a squishy word with a lot of associations and meanings.” Here’s a sampling of what her interviewees offered up as definitions and observations about branding in the 21st century: WALLY OLINS   Branding is a profound manifestation of the human condition. It is about belonging: belonging to a tribe, to a religion, to a family. Branding demonstrates that sense of belonging. It has this function for both the people who are part of the same group and also for the people who don’t belong…I need to belong. And when I belong, telegraphing this affiliation demonstrates loyalty, affection, and the durability of my relationship. It’s not cerebral at all. It’s visceral. We don’t even know we are doing it. The commercial, anthropological, and sociological branding process that professionals engage in now creates visceral distinctions to evoke immediate responses in people. GRANT MCCRACKEN   Branding is a process of meaning manufacture that begins with the biggest, boldest gestures of the corporation and works its way down to the tiniest gestures.   PHIL DUNCAN   A brand is something you have an unexplained, emotional connection to. A brand gives you a sense of familiarity. STANLEY HAINSWORTH   A brand is an entity that engenders an emotional connection with a consumer. Every brand has a story, whether it’s the founder’s story or the brand’s reason for being. Some brands have never told their story well, or have lost their story. CHERYL SWANSON   A brand is a product with a compelling story—a brand offers “quintessential qualities” for which the consumer believes there is absolutely no substitute. Brands are totems. They tell us stories about our place in culture—about where we are and where we’ve been. They also...

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FAQ’s

Posted by on Mar 10, 2013 in Blog, Copywriting, Creative Process, Graphic Design, Marketing | 0 comments

FAQ’s

We don’t know what we don’t know, right? And being in the dark about a process or a discipline can keep us from taking advantage of its many benefits. So, if you’re considering an upgrade to your organization’s graphic identity or advertising strategy or packaging, here’s what others in your shoes have asked about how things work at Kauai Design. Q:  I don’t know where to start. How does this work? A:  Part of my job is to take the ‘overwhelm’ factor out of the process. I offer a free consultation to explore your needs and wants and discuss possible directions. Once the conversation gets started, juicy, creative ideas typically bubble up to inspire and feed the process. My 17 years of experience gives me a broad and deep perspective on solutions that you may not have even considered. Kauai Design has professional relationships with local printers, sign makers and publishers and can shepherd your job though the printing / fabrication process or prepare it for publication. To get started, just call me. Q:  I know exactly what I want. Can you help me bring my ideas to life? A:   I love working with clients who know what they want. Nobody knows your business and your clientele like you do, and you probably have ideas about what could take you to the next level. You can be as active in the creative process as you like, or just share your vision and turn me loose to flesh out your concept. When appropriate, we may invite an illustrator, photographer or web developer into the collaboration. Q:  What’s the process and what do you need from me? A:  I start by gathering all the information I can related to your objectives, the ‘look’ you’re after, and your positioning in the marketplace. If it feels like a fit, we move forward with a written project proposal, which includes a cost estimate, project timeline, scope of services and a list of any graphic or text files to be provided by you. A signed proposal and a 50% deposit gets you on the production calendar and off we go. I stay in close communication throughout the project, and you have multiple opportunities for input and feedback. Q:  How do you charge? A:  The initial consultation (up to 1/2 hour on the phone or 1 hour face-to-face) is free. You get an estimate in writing before we begin. Though I may quote a flat rate on a large or complex project, most smaller jobs are estimated at the hourly rate of $80. Along with the more tangible (and billable) design and production services provided, you are also likely to benefit from the ideas, experience, education, expertise, writing skills, contacts, design resources, and local market knowledge that I bring to the table. Q:  Why is professional graphic design important to my business?  A:  Your visual identity serves as the solid foundation on which to build your business and makes that all-important first impression. It communicates quality to your customers and generates trust and...

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Benefits 101

Posted by on Mar 10, 2013 in Blog, Copywriting, Marketing | 0 comments

Benefits 101

Three or four years ago, I invested many, many hours in sales copy writing self-study courses. Clayton Makepeace was my first teacher. I recently re-discovered this gem of a post, “Benefits 101” (from THE TOTAL PACKAGE, 9/27/2010), and I’m sharing the complete “semester” here. One of the first things a new copywriter learns is to emphasize, not the  features of a product, but its benefits. This crash course takes benefits many layers deep. If you have a product or service or even a cause to promote, read on. Thanks for everything, Clayton!   Benefits 101 Let’s start with four basic facts … Every product has features: Features are merely objective facts about a product (or the company behind it). In three-dimensional products, features include size, shape, weight, construction, color options and more.In information products, features include number of pages, size, frequency of publication (for periodicals) and the types of information that are presented. Fortunately, most features are there for a darned good reason: Prospects don’t want features. They want you to change their lives for the better. Product features are merely the means to that end. That means features can have a place in ad copy – like telling prospects how many issues they’ll get per year … how many big pages are in your book … or that your widget is made from carbon steel for strength or carbon fiber for lightness.Beyond that, features are a yawn because they’re about the product; not about the prospect. Or, as in the examples above, they can help demonstrate how your product delivers a benefit. The good news is, just about every product fact – every feature – is there to provide a benefit that your prospect IS willing to pay for. There are more benefits associated with each product feature than are dreamt of by most copywriters: Benefits are like bunny rabbits: Give them a little time and they’ll begin multiplying – each benefit or combination of benefits producing one, two, three or more new benefits you never thought about before. The secret to kick-butt sales copy is to identify each and every benefit a product provides – and then to look at each benefit and ask, “What does THAT do for me? What additional benefits does that benefit provide?” Your prospect has strong feelings about every dimensionalized benefit you present: Connecting each fully dimensionalized product benefit with a strong emotion that your prospect already has about the benefit (or the lack of it in his/her life) makes sales copy irresistible. Benefits that sing and soar – in five simple steps Here’s a little exercise to help you drill down to the benefits prospects are willing to pay for … fully dimensionalize those benefits … and then connect those benefits with powerful response-boosting emotions that your prospect already has about those benefits (or the lack of them) in his life. By the time you’re through, you will have a complete list of company and product features … you will have squeezed every possible benefit out of those features … you will have fully dimensionalized those benefits … and you will have connected...

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The Art of Planting Ideas

Posted by on Jan 7, 2013 in Blog, Copywriting, Creative Process, Graphic Design | 1 comment

The Art of Planting Ideas

Guest post by Donnie Bryant As a marketer or copywriter, can you imagine anything more powerful than the ability to plant an idea directly into the minds of your prospects? An idea they think is their own? One that makes selling your product or service effortless? I remember when I first heard about the movie Inception, this thought came to mind. Inception, if it were possible, would be the ultimate tool for marketers (not to mention politicians, teachers, lawyers, etc.). But I couldn’t see any real, practical way for it to work in real life. After seeing the film and reading some of the commentary, I see that I was dead wrong. Not only is inception possible, but it’s happening every day. THE SCIENCE Dreams are places of … unreality. Dreams don’t have to be realistic, logical or even possible. That’s one of the reasons we like them and their daytime counterparts. To the human mind, dreams and Hollywood movies are pretty much identical. In his article for Wired, “The Neuroscience of Inception,” Jonah Lehrer explains that the processes going on in the brain while watching a movie are the same as the ones that taking place while dreaming. In other words, the movie theater is a “dreamshare” device, like the one used in the film to steal secrets and implant foreign ideas. The thing that needs to be noted is that during the movie-watching experience, while the visual cortex is working at peak levels, the prefrontal cortex (PFC) goes dormant. Why is that significant? The PFC is where the executive control of your brain is housed. “’Executive Control’ is the ability to guide thought and action in accordance with internal goals.” Can you think of a better time to introduce a new idea into someone’s mind than when this function is in hibernation? Rather than guiding your thoughts according to your own internal goals, the producer can theoretically guide your thought with external objectives of his own. Watching Inception may be the perfect opening to have inception performed on you. THE SUSPENSION Funny how Jayme compared marketing to theater with regard to the suspension of disbelief. When you’re selling something, the biggest hurdle you have to overcome is disbelief in one form or another. People are: skeptical (disbelief in you and/or your proposition) risk adverse (doubt about whether they’re making the right choice) and resistant to change (disbelief that they need to do something different than what they’re doing now) An effective marketing message or sales pitch gives the potential customer enough reason to suspend that disbelief and make a purchase. (People have a strong desire to believe in certain things, so they may be very willing to suspend their disbelief in some cases.) In theater, you voluntarily suspend disbelief so you can enjoy an experience that is fiction/fantasy. Without hesitation, you put your critical thinking cap on the shelf – for 90 minutes or so. The forces that work in theater can also add strength to your...

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The Power of Story

Posted by on Nov 8, 2012 in Blog, Copywriting, Marketing | 1 comment

The Power of Story

Originally published October 31, 2012 in The Garden Island newspaper (Kauai, HI), this article is specific to my other work, facilitating groups at the YWCA. Yet it illustrates how story can deliver a powerful message about most anything, and indirectly but deeply influence an audience. Experience teaches, not words. But sometimes words remind us of what we already know — the truths that we know not just in our head, but in our body, in our soul, in our DNA. Story works on that primitive level of consciousness. October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month and it’s important to recognize those that are suffering and those who are working towards healing. When an adult is convicted and sentenced for abuse of a family or household member (spouse or former spouse) the State of Hawai‘i requires participation in a 26-week domestic violence intervention or batterer intervention program. The YWCA’s Alternatives to Violence (ATV) Program has been meeting or exceeding the state standards for treatment since 1985. The skill-building curriculum of the ATV Program is rich with content for the mind, but it’s the stories that are the heart of the program. The group process allows participants to learn, not only from their own experiences, but from each other’s. The program’s rolling admission policy means that people can start when they’re ready, and that newcomers fold in with group members who already have months of practice with life skills such as: • managing their negative feelings • communicating in assertive and respectful ways • adjusting their attitudes, beliefs and behaviors in relationship to others • being accountable for their actions New arrivals can benefit from the experience of these “uncles,” as someone new to substance abuse treatment can benefit from the “experience, strength and hope” of those who’ve gone before them in recovery. Clients have typically been through a long legal process by the time they’re court-ordered to ATV, and understandably come into treatment with a defensive mindset. They may feel like victims of the system, or their partners, or both. It’s often late in the 26-week program that “the light comes on” and a shift in attitude and behavior happens. This involves taking responsibility for their part in creating their circumstances. Only then can the real work of recovery begin. Cutting corners on the 52 hours (26 weeks) of treatment required by the state judiciary can mean cutting offenders loose before the light even comes on. Clients may still be going through the motions when they “graduate” from a short program, paying lip service to teachings without working the program. Change takes time. And practice. And motivation. In the case of “Kimo” (all names have been changed to protect confidentiality), motivation came from catching himself behaving like his own abusive father, something he swore he would never do. He was determined to break the cycle of abuse, and voluntarily enrolled in the ATV Program. He practiced “re-thinking instead of re-acting,” as he put it, and developed patience and understanding he never...

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Why Ask Why?

Posted by on Sep 3, 2012 in Blog, Copywriting, Marketing | 4 comments

Why Ask Why?

Guest post by John Forde. Excerpted from  Copywriter’s Roundtable  7.24.12   Why ask why? Because it could be the single best way to inspire anybody — prospects, co-workers, or otherwise — to do anything. Let’s say you have a circle in front of you. In the center, you write that question…”Why?” Around that, draw another circle. It will look like the start of dartboard, only in this next circle you’ll write “How?” Around that, draw a third circle and in this one write “What?” Working from the outside in, most people know “what” they do or want to do in a business life or other venture. Telling your customers the same is pretty basic stuff, and not all that exciting. Most people also have some idea of “how” they do what they do or how they intend to do it, technically speaking. But that, too, isn’t the information that’s going to make either you or your prospects want to jump their metaphorical motorbikes over metaphorical swimming pools filled with flesh-eating goldfish. When you ask “why,” however, you get to the root of your existence…as in why are you here in the first place? It’s a chance to expose the things you believe in and therein…to inspire others too. The average organization presents themselves and communicates from the outside of these three circles inward, as in: What we are… How we do it… Why we do it… But inspired leaders, simply work from the outside in, like this: Why we’re doing this… How we do it… What we do as a result… Suddenly, it’s not just a thing in front of you. It’s a belief that gives you [and others] a vision of that belief in action. People DON’T buy what you do. They buy WHY you do it. TED speaker, Simon Sinek, calls this the “Golden Circle.” And, he says, it’s not just a nifty way to explain inspirational communication. It’s biology. Your brain is actually built this way, so that on the outer level you’ve got the part of your brain that handles all the logical, rational stuff. Here, people can understand lots of facts and figures. They can evaluate your lists of features and benefits. They can “get” the mechanisms you use to do what you do. But none of this is tied to action. For that you’ve got to move more toward the limbic center, where your brain is all about gut-reactions, feelings of trust, and…maybe most importantly…action. The limbic center is, if you will, your “animal” brain. Words mean little here, except for the emotions to which they’re attached. This is where the “why” resides. If you’ve ever looked over all the details of a decision, done all the cocktail-napkin math, come to a conclusion…and STILL decided to do the opposite because “it just didn’t ‘feel’ right”…and believe me, you HAVE done this over and over again…this is where in your brain that you made this decision. It’s also why. Short version: In any instance that you have to inspire anybody to do anything, you’ll go a long way toward success by simply asking yourself “why” you want the result you’re after…and then making sure it’s a “why” that’s going to feel good to your prospect too.   Editor’s note: I’ve been inspired and informed by John Forde’s...

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Proximity: Why It Matters

Posted by on Aug 1, 2012 in Blog, Copywriting, Graphic Design, Marketing | 0 comments

Proximity: Why It Matters

An essential principle of graphic design that I appreciate more over time, is proximity. It contributes to clean, clear, reader-friendly design, and is one of the handful of Gestalt principles of visual perception and organization (developed by Austrian and German psychologists in the 1920’s). These principles  explain how the eye organizes visual experiences and how the brain interprets them — especially in the context of their surroundings. We humans are pattern-seeking beings. The Proximity principle states that objects that are close together are seen as being associated or linked with one another. The closer the objects appear, the more likely we are to perceptually group them. SO WHAT? Artful grouping of design elements on a page, whether text or graphics, creates a bond between them, a relationship, a cohesive whole. We see a family of related objects, a visual ‘unit’ that we can mentally batch process. No sorting required. (See also Visual Hierarchy.) In page layout, a few well-defined clusters of information communicate more clearly than content scattered to the four corners of the page. If you have a lot of verbiage, consider combining your information into two or three (maximum five) distinct clumps, allowing enough white space between the clumps to set them apart. Resist the temptation to use lines to separate elements or boxes to group them, as this just adds noise to the page. Try letting the space between the elements (proximity) tell the story of their relationships. Some natural clumps or groupings might be: multiple bits of contact information packaged in a cluster a heading with the paragraph close below it the date, time, location and RSVP information for an event a photo or illustration with caption and/or credit a pull quote with author’s name, affiliation and/or credentials a logo with tagline and web (or physical) address a business person’s name, company and title For Western readers, who read left to right, there is an even closer association perceived between objects when they are side by side than when they are above and below each other. So placing a news story beside a photo rather than under it goes with the (visual) flow of most readers. Once you have your clumps, use alignment (with margins or with other elements) to hold the groupings together in a balanced, integrated page layout. Squinting at your layout can tell you in an instant whether it’s unified or scattered, clear or confusing, focused or distracting. Start with a single, strong focal point whenever possible (See One Focal Point) and tie the rest of your content to it for a cohesive, organized whole.         Be Sociable,...

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How We Remember

Posted by on Jul 5, 2012 in Blog, Copywriting, Graphic Design, Marketing | 3 comments

How We Remember

The title literally called me out: 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People. I’m a designer. I’m into Psychology. Do I know this stuff? Do I need  to know it? Somebody thinks so. Skimming through, I stopped at Chapter 21 about making information stick. The author, Susan M. Weinschenk, Ph.D., says we have to use information to make it memorable. She offers up two practical ways to do that: #1  REPETITION Information sticks if we repeat it enough times, thereby changing the brain’s wiring and creating new circuits. ‘What fires together wires together,’ forming new connective patterns between neurons, and moving information from working memory into long-term memory. So what?  So what advertising executives say about the need to repeatedly expose a target audience to an unfamiliar new message may be true. People tend to resist new ideas. But repetition creates a ‘memory trace’ in the consumer’s mind, generally increasing acceptance of the idea over time, and impacting purchasing behavior. There does appear to be a point of diminishing returns though, and a message that draws a negative response the first time may be increasingly disliked with repetition. #2  MENTAL MODELS  If we already have a working mental framework about a subject in our minds — a schema — it’s an easy container for uploading new, related information. ‘Head,’ for example, can serve as a schema for holding the details of eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hair, etc. This makes it easier for us to absorb and organize new information related to heads, to keep it in long-term memory, and to retrieve it later. So what?  If we know, or can guess at, an existing schema our target audience holds related to our message, we can reference that schema, suggesting where in their mental models of the world they might attach or plug in this new information. To help others absorb and retain our message, we can provide them with general background information that helps ‘frame’ or contextualize our specific piece of information … or we can remind them of what they already know. Abstract concepts are best built upon an already established foundation of relevant, concrete  information. We are more likely to notice (some would say attract) things that fit into our existing schemata (plural for schema), and tend to re-interpret information that contradicts our pre-conceived ‘scripts’ or ‘frames’ or ‘worldview’ of how things are. We might ignore or forget new information that doesn’t fit or hang well on our existing framework … or we might see new conflicting data as an exception to the ‘rule’ … or we might distort the data to make it fit. When the new information cannot be ignored or revised to fit, existing schemata must be changed to accommodate it, or a new schema created. Schemata are resistant to change, even in the face of contradictory information. Many would rather live with inconsistencies than give up a deeply-held belief  or value. Metaphor and story can help bypass this resistance by speaking to, not the analytical cognitive...

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Grab Attention with Your Message

Posted by on May 1, 2012 in Blog, Copywriting, Creative Process, Graphic Design, Marketing | 0 comments

Grab Attention with Your Message

The old advertising acronym AIDA stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. To influence or persuade anyone of anything, we must first get their attention. Only then we can turn our energies toward arousing their interest, piquing desire and prompting action. It’s been reported that every year 65% more information is strewn out into the world.1  The business world, like the academic world, seems to have adopted a publish or perish mindset, posting massive amounts of content online everyday. (And yes, I joined in the fray 8+ years ago with this newsletter-turned-blog and more recently with my Facebook fan page.) With more information than ever competing for attention, why should anyone care about our input? To break through the clutter and noise, we can bump up the PUVV factor…making our message Personal, Unexpected, Visual, and Visceral.2  Otherwise we might as well be designing like nobody’s watching and writing like nobody’s reading. Because they probably aren’t. So how do you do that? Here are a few strategies drawn from the schools of design and copywriting, with a splash of brain science thrown in. Personal.   Create a personal hook. Call your reader out with relevant headlines, images, and concepts. How are you one of them? Invite them to spend time with you. Share a meaningful experience. Offer inside information. Write from your heart. Address shared needs and desires. Tell a story. Build comfort and trust. Unexpected.   Humor often springs from the unexpected. A surprising twist helps make a punchline (or anything else) memorable. Stay playful. Pique curiosity. Create gaps that the mind wants to close. Lead with an intriguing question, a surprising statistic, a shocking confession, a provocative quote, an unusual solution. Consider what might be ironic or counter-intuitive about your message. Visual.  Show, don’t tell. Paint a picture…one that’s worth a thousand words. Humans remember 85-90% of what they see, but less than 15% of what they hear.3 Some visuals are especially effective in attracting the eye and engaging the viewer, including big, bold and/or brightly colored elements, faces, motion (real and simulated), contrast in all of its forms, a clear focal point, especially when surrounded by negative space, a path that leads the eye along it, an incomplete image that the imagination can fill in, repetition of elements… Visceral.  Engage the senses, especially sight, sound, and scent. Arouse emotion. Speak to the primitive brain by tapping into gut feelings, instincts, primal memories, dreams, the wisdom of the body. Music is especially good for evoking visceral emotional responses. Certain scents can take us back in time, and are closely associated with memory in the brain. Buzzwords specific to your audience can kindle meaningful associations and feelings. With that said, if all this feels contrived to you, or as if you’re running a foot race against all the competing messages out there, temper it with this viewpoint expressed by my esteemed mentor, John Wade, of Before & After magazine: “As designers, I believe that ‘standing out’ is not our guiding light. Most companies don’t need to stand out. They simply need to...

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Buyer Personas

Posted by on Feb 12, 2012 in Blog, Copywriting, Marketing | 3 comments

Buyer Personas

I needed an idea for a radio spot for my graphic design services and was struggling with how to translate such a visual medium into sound. I was also aware that Kauai Design is primarily a B2B (business to business) business and that the vast majority of the radio audience are not business owners or executives. So how could I reach out to that small percentage of listeners who need my services? It came together while reading The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott. Buyer personas. Scott insists that ‘push’ marketing (hawking your product’s features and benefits to the world) is old school and no longer effective in a mature (and skeptical) market that has heard it all. He says that ‘pulling’ your potential customer is where it’s at in the ‘new rules’ of marketing. He suggests clarifying who your customers are and what they want, then creating a buyer persona for each of your market segments, including a name, gender, age, details about their lifestyle, and the specific concerns that you can help them resolve. Then speak to the needs of each subset of your customer base directly in your promotional materials. Recent political campaigns have successfully segmented voters into ‘voter personas’ and reached out to them by addressing their specific issues. You can attract a certain type of customer, donor, subscriber, member, applicant, or other target group by appealing to their unique set of needs and values. My client, Rob’s Good Times Grill, calls out different segments of their customer base on their rack card. They offer a quiz for readers to self-select their reasons to visit Rob’s. Are you looking for atmosphere? Fun? A sports venue? Karaoke? Food? Tropical drinks and happy hour specials? “Did you answer YES to any of these questions? Then THIS is where you should be!” My clients generally fall into these categories: the start-up entrepreneur that needs branding or the established business that needs its look updated and refreshed (often due to a name change, new location, new ownership, or just a tired old logo) the mid-sized organization that can’t do it all in-house and needs a creative partner to help with annual reports, membership campaigns, fundraisers, media kits, programs, newsletters, portfolios, menus, and the like the small business owner with a product, service or event to promote who needs an ad, a brochure, rack card, poster, etc. So back to the radio ad. With this ‘buyer persona’ concept marinating in my mind, my board of directors (ok, my husband) came up with the phone tree concept (auditory, right?) for calling out these three buyer personas and letting them know that Kauai Design can help… (Sound of a phone ringing on the other end of the line. Phone is answered by an automated phone tree.) FEMALE VOICE: Thank you for calling our solution center. If you’re a start-up business in need of a logo…or if your company’s branding needs a kick-start, Press 1. (Sound of “1” button being pressed) MALE...

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Break Up Your Text

Posted by on Jan 17, 2012 in Blog, Copywriting, Creative Process, Graphic Design, Marketing | 1 comment

Break Up Your Text

Your readers will love you for breaking up long blocks of text into manageable chunks of information, and you can make your pages more attractive and interesting in the process. White space, photos and illustrations are commonly used for this purpose. Other devices… Be Sociable,...

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The Creative Process Illustrated

Posted by on Oct 1, 2011 in Blog, Copywriting, Creative Process, Graphic Design, Marketing | 0 comments

The Creative Process Illustrated

Review of W. Glenn Griffin & Deborah Morrison’s The Creative Process Illustrated (How Advertising’s Big Ideas Are Born) Griffin and Morrison take us backstage and introduce us to 36 successful ‘creatives,’ (creative directors, art directors and writers) and share their backgrounds. But the best part is getting into these folks’ heads as they unveil their processes for getting to the ‘Big Idea’… Be Sociable,...

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What’s Emotion Got to Do With It?

Posted by on Jan 1, 2010 in Blog, Copywriting, Marketing | 0 comments

What’s Emotion Got to Do With It?

With thanks to Dan Hill, author of Emotionomics: Leveraging Emotions for Business Success (and an apology to Tina Turner) Breakthroughs in brain science have confirmed what we all instinctively know. People are primarily emotional decision makers, who evaluate matters quickly and intuitively, and communicate their truest responses non-verbally. Emotional reactions are then justified with rational thought. Two scientific tools, facial coding and eye tracking, can help… Be Sociable,...

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Word Art

Posted by on Oct 1, 2009 in Blog, Copywriting, Graphic Design | 0 comments

Word Art

Wordle is a toy for generating ‘word clouds’ from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends. Be Sociable,...

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7 Editing Tools for Clear Copy

Posted by on Jan 1, 2009 in Blog, Copywriting | 0 comments

7 Editing Tools for Clear Copy

by Jennifer Stevens from John Forde’s Copywriter’s Roundtable, 9/16/08 1. THE NECESSITY HATCHET  Is each of your paragraphs really necessary? Cut those that aren’t. Now read what’s left. Is each of your sentences necessary? Can you get your idea across using fewer of them? If so, trim. 2. THE VERB METER  Are your verbs vibrant? Search for the various forms of “to be” (am, is, are, was, were). When you find one, try to replace it with a more active, descriptive verb.   Be Sociable,...

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Make Your Message Stick

Posted by on Jan 1, 2009 in Blog, Copywriting, Graphic Design, Marketing | 0 comments

Make Your Message Stick

A review of Made to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath How do you make your ideas understandable, memorable, and persuasive? In Made to Stick, brothers Chip and Dan Heath bring to life six proven strategies. With loads of examples and compelling evidence, they explore how making your message Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, and/or a Story…   Be Sociable,...

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Lazy Eyes: How we read online

Posted by on Oct 1, 2008 in Blog, Copywriting, Marketing | 0 comments

Lazy Eyes: How we read online

Excerpts from a post by Michael Agger in Slate Magazine, July 2008. You’re probably going to read this. It’s a short paragraph at the top of the page. It’s surrounded by white space. It’s in small type. No scrolling required. To really get your attention, I should… Be Sociable,...

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Beyond Image Advertising

Posted by on Oct 1, 2008 in Blog, Copywriting, Graphic Design, Marketing | 0 comments

Beyond Image Advertising

For twelve years I created good looking ads. They were clean, stylish and impactful. But did they sell? We don’t know. It wasn’t possible to track their effectiveness. They were ‘image’ ads that ran with a hope and a prayer that they would attract buyers. Almost all award-winning ads are image ads — beautiful, clever, or funny, with absoutely no track record of conversions to sales. Be Sociable,...

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Ratchet Up Your Copy

Posted by on Jul 1, 2008 in Blog, Copywriting, Marketing | 0 comments

Ratchet Up Your Copy

Excerpt from an article by Jennifer Stevens, The Golden Thread, May 2008. This past week, a guy named Ben installed a new high-efficiency furnace in our 109-year-old house. He came with a truck full of tools and spent 11 hours revamping our antiquated heating system. He met with a few surprises along the way but he had what he needed to get the job done. It was simply a matter of reaching, at each step, for the right tool… Be Sociable,...

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Easy Reading: How low can you go?

Posted by on Apr 1, 2008 in Blog, Copywriting, Marketing | 0 comments

Easy Reading: How low can you go?

Excerpt from an article by Michael Masterson, consultant and author of the American Writers & Artists Inc. (AWAI) Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting. In most areas of life, getting high grades means you are doing well. When it comes to writing, however, the most popular grading system works inversely. The Flesch-Kincaid (FK) scale is a statistical program designed to measure simplicity of expression, an important quality of good writing.   Be Sociable,...

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Your Tagline: The most important ad you’ll ever create

Posted by on Oct 1, 2007 in Blog, Copywriting, Marketing | 0 comments

Your Tagline: The most important ad you’ll ever create

by Kimberly Freeman for About.com A really great tagline conveys a company’s benefit with personality and attitude and the most memorable taglines connect on an emotional level. In the 1950’s, ad agencies called them “slogans.”  You may have heard them referred to as a catchphrase, marketing line, or even trademark line…   Be Sociable,...

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‘Print Promotions That Work’ Checklist

Posted by on Oct 1, 2007 in Copywriting, Graphic Design, Marketing | 0 comments

‘Print Promotions That Work’ Checklist

IDENTITY 1. Is the overall image you want to project conveyed by your promotional piece? Are the personality and philosophy of your organization reflected? Do the tone and style of the piece fit the intended audience? Is your image up-to-date? 2. Is the nature of your business obvious frm the name, logo and/or tagline? Be Sociable,...

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Defining the Design Challenge

Posted by on Jul 1, 2007 in Blog, Copywriting, Creative Process, Graphic Design, Marketing | 0 comments

Defining the Design Challenge

LIST MAKING.  According to Edward de Bono, author of multiple books on problem-solving, a good technique to get ideas flowing is to list all possible solutions to a problem. In the brainstorming phase, there are no wrong answers. Let your imagination go. A crazy, off-the-wall idea can be a springboard to a great idea… IDEA MAPPING.  Some of us can get those creative neurons firing best with a more visual, less linear process, such as idea mapping. This technique explores ideas graphically… Be Sociable,...

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Hooking Skimmers and Scanners

Posted by on Jan 1, 2007 in Blog, Copywriting, Graphic Design, Marketing | 0 comments

Hooking Skimmers and Scanners

We all do it. With the onslught of information coming at us every day, we have to filter it. We skim for a quick overview of the message in a communication. We scan for the specific information we’re looking for. When we’re sorting through potential reading material, making our A pile (read now) B pile (read later if I get around to it) and C pile (recycle), we are not yet committed to a printed piece… Be Sociable,...

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Visual Hierarchy

Posted by on Jul 1, 2006 in Blog, Copywriting, Graphic Design, Marketing | 0 comments

Visual Hierarchy

In information design, there is usually a hierarchy of importance to the content of a document. Elements are arranged in a series of focal points according to priority or emphasis. A Typical visual hierarchy has three levels (where the eye is drawn 1st, 2nd and 3rd) indicating relative importance… Be Sociable,...

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Brochures & Tool Cards

Posted by on Mar 1, 2006 in Blog, Copywriting, Graphic Design, Marketing | 0 comments

Brochures & Tool Cards

In this high tech world, high touch has more value than ever. The predicted paperless society is not happening. We love the sensual comforts of print. Even eBay® puts out a printed holiday catalog! There’s a good chance both you AND your customers can benefit from a well-designed brochure. Be Sociable,...

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Making Headlines

Posted by on Jul 1, 2004 in Blog, Copywriting, Creative Process, Marketing | 0 comments

Making Headlines

Be it a newsletter article or a print ad, an effective headline serves as bait and hook to grab attention and pull a reader into the rest of your story. With the ever-increasing level of information overload, you have only a few seconds to win a reader over. Both visual appeal and headline appeal are key. Be Sociable,...

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Type Talk

Posted by on Jul 1, 2004 in Blog, Copywriting, Graphic Design | 0 comments

Type Talk

Access to a fabulous array of typefaces is at the fingertips of any computer user these days. It’s easy to take for granted the typographer’s expertise in creating a set of letters, numbers and symbols that work together as a typeface, often within a larger type family. Looking through the typographer’s eyes… Be Sociable,...

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