Message & Media: Stop Them in Their Tracks

How to effectively use violators in your cross-channel messaging

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)

The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal uses a blue burst as a violator to move the reader inside the Small Business section to learn how to follow WSJ experts online.

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  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.

Pat Friesen is a direct response copywriter, content developer, copy coach and creative strategist. She is also the author of "The Cross-Channel Copywriting Handbook," published by Direct Marketing IQ. Reach her at (913) 341-1211.

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