by Marcia Yudkin
One of the best-designed sales
pieces I've received in years was a come-on for
an MIT conference. Every panel implemented the
metaphor of a deck of cards in both design and
text. Bullets in the form of hearts, spades,
diamonds and clubs and subheads like "This
session provides you with all the aces you
need" carried through the unified theme.
After spending so much time exploring this
piece, I figured the conference sessions would
have something to teach me too, and I signed up.
Another marketing piece, from
CM Communications, Inc. of Boston, landed in my
files because of its clever use of a tailoring
theme. Headed "Getting the Right Fit,"
the three-panel brochure used a tape measure to
illustrate subheads like "Don't Hem
Yourself In," "Look for a Versatile
Outfit," "Button Down Costs" and
"S, M or L?"
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Includes challenging and varied
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Replace incomprehensible jargon with
reader-friendly, motivating content.
Well-executed themes get
results in marketing because they reach beyond
features and benefits to engage emotions as well
as the intellect. In addition, they provide
unity between words and graphics and thus become
more memorable. Sometimes they involve a
creative format too.
Cindy Marshall, of Jefferson,
South Dakota, used the theme of a police suspect
file in a promo piece for Media Concepts, in
nearby Sioux City, Iowa. The manila file,
complete with a real-looking coffee stain, opens
to fingerprints, Polaroid crime-scene items and
a profile including "caught guiding
unsuspecting clients in specifying advertising
goals" and "known to be armed with
To select an effective theme,
stay away from any you've already seen
implemented in your industry. Play an old parlor
game to spur your imagination: If your product,
service or business were a fruit, which one
would it be? If it were a song, which one would
it be? If it were a communication medium, which
one would it be? How about a feature of the
landscape, a type of weather, a dessert, a bank
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Or, think about some general
categories of phenomena that provide rich
sources for themes: Nature; Technology; Hobbies;
Relationships; Mythology; Popular Culture;
Occupations; Common Problems. Sometimes a pun,
such as in "A Hire Authority" for an
employment firm, supplies an interesting
metaphor you can build upon. Once you choose a
tentative concept, brainstorm related ideas,
such as for "shoot-out": holster; OK
Corral; bad guys; sheriff; Wild West;
For maximum effect, a theme
should be unexpected, such as "Setting Sail
for Internet Profits" and yet sufficiently
familiar so that visual elements like anchors
and rudders and textual references to
"catching the wind" and "calm
seas" make instant sense. The theme should
always be more concrete, picturable and
commonplace than what you're selling. Otherwise
you will have created an unnecessary mystery
instead of a compelling sales piece.
As with any marketing idea,
test it out with people similar to your
prospects to make sure it provokes a laugh or a
nod instead of a "Huh?"
Marcia Yudkin. All rights reserved.
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