Effective marketing depends on compelling creative.
Unfortunately, there is no cut-and-dried formula to design compelling creative that compels audiences to take action. It requires just the right combination of artwork, messaging, copy and calls to action, but there is no consistent formula for designing winning creative. Like any creative discipline, the only consistent way forward is through practice and commitment to the craft.
That said, there are a few core principles that, when properly applied, let digital creatives improve the quality of their work by orders of magnitude over a relatively short period of time. These “design hacks” can seem painfully obvious once learned, and yet most designers don’t apply them regularly. Whether you’re building an end-card, video ad, or static interstitial, these three tricks will help ensure your campaigns get more clicks than the competition.
1. Use Universal Visual Language
The first goal of any campaign is to foster an immediate connection with the audience through a shared written and/or visual vocabulary, or collection of “signs.” The “science of signs” known as semiotics is a close relative of linguistics, and deals with the endowment of meaning and comprehension that human beings partake in when it comes to our surroundings. It tells us that we all, to varying degrees, share a common understanding of signs and symbols known as a “semiosphere.” These are the pieces of visual language that fill our everyday lives and keep our social structures running smoothly. This also means that they’re incredibly effective in advertising campaigns.
Using symbols and signs understood by the largest possible audience ensures your campaigns will resonate at scale. The most fundamental (and therefore useful) of all signs are human facial expressions. From the minute we’re born, we’re taught to read faces, and we rely on that understanding almost every day for the rest of our lives. Acknowledging that every person your campaign reaches has this deep comprehension ingrained in them puts advertisers at an advantage. The widespread adoption of emojis and frequent use of faces in app icon design are both testaments to this fact. Wherever possible, use the vocabulary of faces to communicate your product’s value.
Conversely, if you’re a game developer or anyone else that creates products for a particular segment of the population, be mindful that not everyone innately understands your industry’s unique semiotic vocabulary. It may feel like using insider-language, written or visual, would be a good way to connect with your target audience, but advertisers should endeavour never to alienate newcomers to the space. After all, these are potential customers that are equally valuable to your competition. You’d be better served tapping into more widely understood concepts, similar to how Blizzard Entertainment used hilarious (and widely acknowledged) sports cliches to advertise its successful mobile trading card game, Hearthstone, to a mass audience in these broadcast television campaigns.
2. Apply The Blur Test
The medium in which your campaigns appear will always have an impact on their ability to capture attention. Whether it’s a full-screen mobile interstitial or and outdoor billboard, ads have to compete with their surroundings for an audience’s attention. That’s why it’s best to err on the side of caution and design conceptually concise creative that favors a single, bold message that can cut through surrounding noise rather than crowding the ad with too much visual information.
Thankfully, there’s an inexpensive little trick that can help ensure the visual aspects of your designs aren’t so granular as to end up fading into the background.
Take your ad creative into its native habitat. This could be a mock Facebook feed or a public space like a park, city street, or an office. Next, place it in your field of vision. Finally, blur your eyes. What happens? Does your ad become incomprehensible? Are the most important parts (CTA, copy, symbols) still clearly defined? Are you still able to tell what the primary pieces of the ad are? If not, simplify your next round of revisions. Replace gradients with solid colors, use heavier font weights, and give the most resonant parts of the ad a little breathing room.
This helps to simulate the limited attention audiences are willing to give to your campaigns. At the best of times, crowded creative is easy to miss, so repeat the process until you’re satisfied that your creative can hold its own in the wild.
3. Offer Big Friendly Buttons
Everyone understands a button. It’s a simple machine with two states: on or off. True or false. Positive or negative. They’re also another example of widely shared semiotic vocabulary that advertisers can use to their advantage.
Buttons are meant to be pushed. Including them in your designs, especially in your digital marketing campaigns, sends a clear message to your audience: here’s how to take the next step towards gaining what’s on offer.
Designers can optimize their button designs by tapping into a few prehistoric aspects of human nature. Adding rounded corners helps mitigate the intuitive aversion all human beings have to sharp edges: an impulse that continues to serve us well as we try to avoid things that might puncture our delicate skin. Modern design trends suggest that you not go overboard, however. Excessively round corners can end up looking childish, which is of course just fine if that’s your audience. If not, keep it to a few pixels worth of corner radius.
The content of your buttons is equally important. Multiple studies have shown that button CTAs beginning with strong verbs (action words) produce higher CTRs than those that do not. The marketing experts at Wishpond highlight these as being some of the most effective CTA words available: Start, Stop, Build, Join, Learn, and Discover. These are all an excellent fit for top-of-funnel creative, but if you’re developing digital campaigns meant to drive installs, we suggest good old “Download Now.”
Advertising, not unlike app development, is equal parts art and science. Knowing your audience is key to building successful campaigns that drive profitable growth. Apply these three simple principles and your campaigns will start off head-and-shoulders above the majority of digital media published today. When you’re ready to measure campaign performance, Tenjin’s comprehensive growth data infrastructure has all the tools you need to build and maintain a revenue-positive growth marketing operation. Get in touch and request a demo today.