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7 Steps to a Successful Marketing Communication

Why do some marketing pitches fail while others become runaway successes? It isn't due just to the whims of the audience; there are key ingredients that every successful ad or marketing communication contains.

If you want to learn what they are, examine the ideas of great marketing masters, such as David Ogilvy and John Caples. Why? Rather than guessing or expressing opinions, they observed and cataloged what works and what doesn't during their distinguished careers.

The following seven steps are based on the collective wisdom of the great marketing masters that appear in such classic books as Ogilvy on Advertising and Tested Advertising Methods.

The headline must be snappy and offer a promise. On average, five times as many people (83.3%) read the headlines as read the body copy. Therefore the main points, expressed as benefits, should be in the headline. To help ensure that the target audience reads the headline and finds out where they can buy the product, the headline should also "hook" or grab the reader so they do not turn the page, click the next link, or switch channels.

Body text offers specifics about the product and company. Since no more than 16.7% of readers, on average, get to this point (David Ogilvy has estimated only 5 to 10% do), you should not rely on people reading the body text, however.

Make sure the close delivers. The ending should accomplish the following:

  • Solicit a "buying action" (i.e. ask the consumer to visit a Web site, return a business reply card, come in for a test drive),
  • Tie-in with the headline (repeat the benefits of the product or service),
  • End the communication
  • Contain a "marketing Information system code"--a url, phone extension, reply card or other code specifically set up for this pitch, so that you can measure the success of the pitch.
Photo and graphic elements communicate the main benefits in a visually compelling way. The product needs to look at attractive as possible. Sometimes the depiction can serve to break up the text, show before/after examples, or illustrate the size of the product.

Format is easy to read. You don't want time-pressed and/or lazy consumers to have to wade through the entire text or broadcast into order to get the point.

Signature--name, logo, and slogan--should brand the communication. The name logo and slogan are symbols of the relationship between the buyer and your company (or your product line in cases where the product brand is separated from the company brand). If your brand is known, they give comfort to the consumer of the communication that it comes from you. If not known, repeated views of your signature help to get your brand to be better known.

Pay attention to the details. Type fonts, for instance, should facilitate readability. For example, sanserif type slows down the reading and is not good for long blocks of text whereas serif type speeds up the reading of body text. Different colors can stimulate different emotions, including making people hungry. Other considerations may include shapes (sharp corners are aggressive and rounded edges are welcoming), and selling psychology (not bragging and focusing on customer benefits).

To give you an idea how this model can be applied to creating marketing communications, I have included a couple of successful communications I created for clients. The first is an ad I did for Qiagen (a client in Germany) that won a response award from Science Magazine. The second is an ad I did for the security software division of Hewlett-Packard.

Would you add any steps to this model? What steps have you taken to create a successful marketing communication?


Ira Kalb is president of Kalb & Associates, an international consulting and training firm, and professor of marketing at the Marshall School of Business at University of Southern California (USC). He has won numerous awards for marketing and teaching, authored ten books and over 30 articles, created marketing inventions that have made clients and students more successful. He is frequently interviewed by various media for his expertise in branding, crisis management and strategic marketing.
image courtesy of flickr user, TheeErin