The marketing secret weapon – part two

Did you know that if you google the words “graphic designer” you’ll get over 8,500,000 hits?  You know what that means don’t you?  There are a ton of graphic designers out there in the universe.

Here’s something even more fascinating. Google “direct marketing graphic designer” and you’ll get just 112,000 hits and “direct marketing art director” returns 297,000 hits.  Why is this important to you? As you’ll recall, in my last article I introduced the Golden Trio as being crucial to getting better marketing results.  Furthermore, included in that trio is a direct marketing art director/graphic designer.

As the search results show, direct marketing graphic designers and direct marketing art directors are a rare breed. In other words, of all the art directors/graphic designers there are in the world, only a small percentage specialize in direct marketing. But, as you will soon learn, they are crucial to your business.

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Before explaining why a direct marketing designer/art director is so crucial let’s firstly talk about advertising and marketing in a general sense.

Generally, advertising and marketing communications falls into two schools – the image advertising school and the direct marketing school. 

Image advertising is a form of marketing communications designed primarily to generate positive emotions about a product, service or business. With image advertising there is no structured sales process – the focus of an image ad is often on trying to be cute or entertaining – and neither is there a call to action.  Therefore an image ad’s effectiveness in terms of its correlation to sales can be very difficult to measure.

In stark contrast to image advertising, direct marketing is focused on getting specific, measurable results. The bible of direct marketing defines it this way:

“Direct marketing is an interactive system of marketing which uses one or more advertising media to effect a measurable response and/or transaction at any location.”  (Successful Direct Marketing Methods.  Bob Stone)

So, in summary you have one school – the image school – which focuses on image only, while the other school – the direct school –  focuses on getting measurable results.

Interestingly these two schools – direct marketing vs image advertising – have been fighting each other for decades with each claiming that their type of marketing is superior. (I actually attended my first official direct vs image debate in 1992). And because my background is direct marketing, over the years I’ve been in many debates with my image marketing buddies.

Anyway, from these two schools you have two types of ad agencies – the brand image agencies and the direct agencies. (There actually is a third type of agency, known as an integrated agency which merges both image and direct disciplines.  But we will leave that topic for another day).

In a typical ad agency the creative parts of an advertising campaign are put together by the art director/designer in partnership with the copywriter.  The art director is responsible for the design elements of a campaign, while the copywriter writes the words.  In smaller agencies the writer and designer is often the same person, while in many agencies the whole campaign is overseen by a person called the creative director.

In terms of graphic designers and art directors – they will either have an image or direct marketing background. Traditional designers have an image background while direct designers are trained in the discipline of direct marketing. So what are you interested in?  Touchee feelee or specific measurable results?  Direct marketing art directors/ designers work towards getting results.

How to find a good direct marketing designer?

Number one. Find someone with a good artistic and creative sense  – creative bones in other words.  Actually, if you want to find out how creative a person is, ask them to show you some of the artwork they did when they were in primary school.  Or get them to draw something for you – freehand on a sheet of art paper with no computer. If they’re good, their artistic giftedness will show up.

Two, they should preferably have a direct marketing qualification – either a direct marketing diploma, certificate or even degree – as opposed to a design school qualification.  Why?  The direct marketing qualification shows where their focus lies – they want to use design to get results for clients. And while on this subject, the three best designers/art directors I know never went to design school.

Three, they should be reasonable good at using the core design programs – Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator etc.

Four, they should have a portfolio of good direct marketing design work.  Stuff they’ve produced for clients in other words.  The sort of stuff a direct marketing designer produces includes direct mail packages, direct response advertisements, internet squeeze pages and other similar material.

So there you have it.  I’ve given you a quickee introduction to the ad industry, how an ad is produced and the value of the direct marketing graphic designer/art director.  This bloke or woman forms part two of the Golden Trio, the key to getting better marketing results.

Next week we’ll look at the third member of the Golden Trio – the direct marketing copywriter.