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Message & Media : Stop Them in Their Tracks

How to effectively use violators in your cross-channel messaging

April 2014 By Pat Friesen
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Are you using violators to capture your scanner's attention and quickly transform him or her into a reader-responder? If not, why not?

A violator is a powerful creative element that can be used across channels to violate natural eye flow and pull a scanner into reading your messages.

I first learned about a violator's disturbing power as a catalog and direct mail writer. I was taught to use violators to call out value pricing, free trial offers and discount deadlines. While violators may not be aesthetically pleasing to fans of fine art and white space, it's their uncomfortably disruptive quality that makes them effective in driving response.

Today, I use violators in writing for print, as well email, landing pages, space ads and home pages—anywhere and everywhere I want to attract attention to an important product benefit, offer element or call to action.

Do an Internet search for "violators" and you'll find references to corner snipes, bursts, starbursts, ribbons, banners, badges, strips, splats, as well pop-ups and pop-unders. (They even have their own Pinterest board. At the time I'm writing this, the board had grand total of 37 pins and nine followers)

Once misunderstood and underutilized because they were thought to be too hard-sell and look too schlocky, these powerful hot spots are now universally recognized as effective eye-catchers for attracting and directing reader attention. Even The Wall Street Journal example (see the mediaplayer to the right) uses a violator to move readers from one page in a section to another.

Here are a few of the many ways you can put violators to work in your own marketing messages.

Most emails have a life span of only a few seconds. Violators quickly capture immediate attention, pulling your reader in.

Buttons: Text links in body copy generate clicks, but a button is a stronger visual call to action. Make it red and it's the first thing seen, and one they're likely to "push."

Corner slash/snipe: An angled violator draws the eye because it disrupts the neat horizontal rows of words and graphics. Use it to call out something important that you'd like to have seen first.


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