By Katrina Olson
This article originally appeared May 5, 2016 as an Exclusive Feature on tedmag.com, the digital version of tED Magazine, the trade publication for the electrical distribution industry.
Last week, three other judges and I looked at roughly 300 entries for tED Magazine’s Best of the Best Marketing Competition. Many of them had several components including print ads, social media posts, logos, signs and branded trucks, and websites. We carefully reviewed the entries’ goals, strategies and outcomes to gauge success.
And once again, we were reminded of the expertise and energy marketers put into researching, planning and implementing these comprehensive efforts. But we also noticed that many efforts fell down when it came to the basics of creating and communicating a message.
In the busy-ness of our everyday jobs, it’s easy to just keep doing what we’ve always done. But Best of the Best is about recognizing those who went beyond what they’ve always done. It recognizes those who try a new approach, takes risks and ultimately, rise above the competition.
For example, one entry made us laugh out loud. Another gave us goose bumps. Did they win? Yes—because we assumed they had a similar effect on the intended audience. Of course, we considered their strategy and results. But all other things being equal or at least comparable, the execution elevated their entries to “winner.”
Yes, it’s too late to change last year’s marketing for this year’s competition. But as you’re working on your 2016 marketing efforts, pay special attention to the following.
Write compelling headlines.
A product name is not a headline—neither is a company name, market sector or product category. Headlines are statements that capture attention by communicating a benefit, intriguing the reader, or otherwise drawing them in with a promise of benefits in the copy.
The headline is the first thing your target audience will read—you know, the stuff about how long you’ve been in business, how rso make it count.
Write customer-focused copy.
The number of times “you” and “your” is used should greatly outnumber the times you use “we,” “us” and “our.” Ditch the “brag and boast”—you know, the stuff about how long you’ve been in business, how reliable and trusted you are, or how you really care about the customer. Very few people care. Customers want to know, “What’s in it for me?” Tell them.
Also, carefully proofread your materials for typos, spelling and grammatical errors and punctuation.
Write about benefits, not features.
A feature is a characteristic or quality of the product; the benefit is what that feature does for the customer. Does it save them time or money? Does it make their job easier? Does it reduce labor or eliminate down time?
Many entries talked about features, not benefits. And it hurt their scores, often knocking them out of the running for an award.
Create truly “integrated” campaigns.
When you’re developing an integrated marketing campaign, think about more than the various media. Tie all of the elements together with a common look, feel, color scheme, imagery and wording.
Also, quantity does not make a campaign. In other words, submitting a year’s worth of ads or social media posts does not constitute a campaign.
Advice for those who supervise creative people.
Give the creative team the research and direction; then let the copywriters write and the graphic designers design. Trust them and don’t micromanage the creative process. Also, trying to write or design by committee almost always yields a mediocre result.
We’ve come a long way…but let’s keep moving.
I remember when strategy statements read like ad copy and simply explained the product. Now we’re seeing research, goals, objectives, target audiences and meaningful metrics. And this year, several companies stepped up their game with fully integrated executions with consistent themes and creative concepts. And categories like social/digital media, video and branding have grown significantly.
Let’s keep moving forward!
Olson is a marketing and public relations consultant, and principal of Katrina Olson Strategic Communications. She has written for tED magazine’s print edition since 2005, judged tED magazine’s Best of the Best Competition since 2006, and emceed the Best of the Best Awards ceremony for a total of seven years. She can be reached at Katrina@katrinaolson.com or via her website at katrinaolson.com.