Lights Out Creative
Don’t think of inserts as slips of paper. Rather, to get the right creative vibe, you need to imagine your insert as a snack-size bag of potato chips, a candy bar or a pack of gum. This might sound weird, but stripped to their basic function, inserts are an impulse-buy medium—like a store checkout lane. “By and large, anything in the insert space is an impulse buy,” says Al Stanton, president of Stanton Direct Marketing, an insert media and management firm in Elmira, N.Y. Even with two-step offers, he says, inserts are meant to generate a spontaneous response to send for more information.
Due to this medium’s urgent nature, creative tactics revolve around two main factors: the product and the benefit to the buyer. As Stanton notes, inserts need to immediately answer the age-old question: What’s in it for me?
Copy That’s Light But Strong
Just because insert media audiences tend to review inserts in quick fashion doesn’t mean your creative should look rushed. Ron Bortz, a freelance direct marketing designer in Allentown, Pa., explains that insert design requires excitement to draw attention, but also some focus to drive response. A magazine or catalog blow-in might be just a small card, he says, but you still don’t want people to throw it away.
Overall, the creative approach is offer- and headline-driven, says Pat Friesen, a direct marketing consultant and freelance copywriter in Shawnee Mission, Kan. As such, your headline needs to sell the offer. And since you can’t control how the pieces are inserted into the carrier or how the audience is going to pull out the inserts and view them, Friesen advises marketers to put the headline on both sides of the insert. “You can’t think, ‘This is the front and this is the back,’” she explains.
Typically, you don’t have much room for copy on an insert, says Bortz. So he uses graphic techniques to get the copywriter’s most important benefits across. Stanton agrees, adding that one of the usual mistakes companies make with insert creative is putting too much copy on the piece. “The benefits of the product either are not there or are buried so far in the copy that people aren’t going to take the time to find them,” he explains.
A more effective copy approach, says Stanton, is to “complement the graphics, play up the product benefits and basically say, ‘Buy me because I’m good.’”
Friesen points out another strong reason for keeping the copy simple and focused: You can make the headline and graphics large and commanding.
The more successful inserts don’t overcrowd the creative with too many product offers. If you can limit the offer to one or two products (or product versions), Stanton notes, then you have more room to show the products large enough so the features are visible to the audience. And that lets you avoid having to describe features in the copy so you can focus your words on the benefits of buying the product.
Friesen explains that the visuals need to help people quickly understand what they will get when they respond to the offer: the product, a fulfillment kit, a whitepaper, a DVD, etc. “It’s important to create perceived value via this visual because it’s the only connection between the prospect and what they will get when they respond.” She points out that smaller inset photos often can be used to show off other aspects of the product or fulfillment kit to build up the perceived value of the offer.
When designing in small spaces, Bortz reminds marketers that all copy still should be readable. To add excitement to a layout and to draw attention to certain copy points, he might emphasize a word or two in a headline. It’s also good to shade text boxes to add depth to different copy sections, and thus help the prospect easily scan all the text. Another comprehension builder is a bulleted list.
“Remember, with printed pieces, especially inserts, people don’t have the same time they have with Web site design. They’re gone in seconds with printed pieces, where most people will hunt around a Web site a little bit to find the information they want,” says Bortz.
Stanton points out that many insert buyers turn to this medium looking for bargains, which influences the creative approach. The key here is to ensure your design and copy communicates that your offer is a good deal without destroying the credibility of your product and company name. “Legitimacy is an important part of any media, particularly insert media,” he states.
Perhaps the most important dictum for any direct response medium is that prospects know what they need to do to respond to the offer. Bortz explains that insert media design has to grab the reader and lead her to the offer and response mechanism. Friesen agrees, and adds that it helps to emphasize the call to action and response method on both sides of the piece. You don’t want to lose sales because you made people flip the insert over to learn how to respond.
Yes, we are that lazy. Next time you’re in any store checkout aisle, note how the top-selling items are not on the bottom row of the shelf.