Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Creating Killer Collateral

In the previous blog, I talked about design as part of the marketing strategy.
In this one, I would like to discuss how to create killer collateral.

  1. Market research. Yes, there we go again, and this time it must be an external and an internal one.
    The goal of the external research is to map the wants, needs and expectations of the target audience.
    What kind of collateral do they want to receive? Do they like to read white papers with (technical) product info or do they prefer to get a sample of the product to test?
    The internal research takes place within the company.
    Key questions are:
    What image does the company (management and employees alike) want to project?
    How do they see their own company?
    Since budget restrains come into play as well, clear priorities must be listed.
  2. Agree on the concept and integrate it into the corporate communications plan.
    In this stage, it is not only important to decide which collateral should be produced (brochure, newsletter, demo kit) but also the production deadline and the frequency of updates.
    A common mistake that smaller companies make with their newsletters is the frequency and size. They often start with a 6-pager with the intention to issue a new one every quarter. The second issue it often 4-5 pages and canf water down to a 2-pager. The time span between the newsletters also becomes longer and longer, often resulting in a "silent death".
    In the long run, this does a company more harm than good – the readers feel that the company doesn’t have news or money to issue newsletters and translate that to "they must not be doing so well.”
  3. Choosing the design. Based on the target audience, the design can be conservative (financial sector, lawyers, government) or funky (consumer products, fashion).
    The design must always be in sync with the written text.
    The collateral must be user-freindly, easy to access (such as downloads from Internet or by email) and must provide the information the customer or client is looking for.
    In case of brochures, contact information must be easy to find.
  4. Add additional features. Instead of purely focusing on the company or product itself, put educational and useful features in collateral.
    One way of doing that is linking from the corporate website to external (independent) websites.
    Another way is adding leaflets with info from external sources to the hard copy collateral another. In this context, information about a project or social cause that the company is sponsoring or promoting is very powerful.
    Cosmetics company Avon’s crusade against breast cancer is a good example.
  5. Think freebies and long term. Collateral, samples and give-aways are costs without a tangible return on investment. However, if they are well designed and positioned, they have a lifespan way beyond expectations. It helps building and maintaining brand recognition and loyalty. Pirelli calendars are considered classics and made tires “sexy”.
  6. Keep it simple. Never forget that the main purpose of collateral is reaching new customers and keeping current ones.
    Overwhelming the customer is a mistake many companies make in their collateral.
    Especially technology companies have the habit of presenting all the features and specs of their products in their brochures.
    People are pressed for time and don’t have a lot of patience, so keep it short, simple and whet their appetite for more.
  7. Collateral must be handy – easy to download from the Web and easy to file when in hard copy.
    I once received a gorgeous brochure of a graphic design company that was so big that I could only file it between the cupboard and the wall. Needless to say, the second time I saw it was when I moved offices a few years later….
    Hard copy collateral is often sent by mail and must fit in the standard envelopes.
    Make sure that the collateral can easily fit in displays at exhibitions and conferences.
    In general, sticking to the standard A-4 format is a wise precaution.
    (Since American A-4 is different in size than European A-4, international companies should opt for teh following format: Height American A-4, width European A-4)
  8. Last but not least – be creative. As every marketing and sales professional will tell you, having a (potential) customer even open a brochure takes effort.
    Creativity is the key issue here, but beware of going overboard.
    Never let design and appearance overpower the message. Nothing is worse than customers remembering a great image or design, but not being able to connect it to the company.
    Don’t focus too much on your competitors, but check out forms and formats used in other industries. A nice example is the tile producer H&R Johnson.

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