In successful creative work, the message comes before you begin designing, says Margo Berman in ‘Street-Smart Advertising: How to win the battle of the buzz’ (www.macmillanpublishersindia.com).

Knowing where the message will be seen is crucial in developing the right message for the right medium or placement, she observes. “For example, if you have a small ad, you can’t have a long, complicated headline, because there’s no space for it. Or if you’re developing a message that relies on a strong visual, they must work as a unit, with each one supporting the other.”

The author splits the message into two, the ‘headline,’ which acts as the message of the ad, and the ‘slogan,’ which serves as the message of the entire campaign. To help you phrase the headline, her advice is: ‘Ask yourself: what am I trying to say?’ If you’re having a problem phrasing the idea, speak out loud as if you’re explaining it to someone else, she instructs.

“The most important point is that your headline must have stopping power. It must interrupt the viewers’ everyday activities and force them to look at the ad. It must be intrusive.”

Knowing that the average person spends one second deciding to look at the ad and only three seconds actually reading it will help you sharpen your message-development skills, Berman suggests. “Your message has to cut through all the others and force readers to notice it and at least take a look.”

The second component of the message, that is, the slogan, is the short phrase that positions the product in the mind of the consumer; and it changes infrequently, the author explains. “Think of it as the foundation of a house. You can change the windows, doors, paint colour, and décor, but the foundation stays intact.”

The longer a slogan is used, the more deeply it is imbedded in the consumer’s subconscious, Berman notes. She speaks of how some slogans can be so powerful that they overshadow newer slogans and are reinstated after they’ve been replaced.

“For example, for years Nike’s slogan was ‘Just do it.’ Then, the firm unsuccessfully tried to replace it with another three-word slogan. Do you remember what it was? The line was set in a box, each word stacked above the other. Can’t remember? Well, neither could anyone else. The line was ‘Yes, you can.’ But, no, you couldn’t (remember it).”

In the list of more than a dozen ‘sticky slogan techniques’ that the book offers, what comes top is ‘name.’ Any time you incorporate the name into the slogan, you strengthen the brand’s identity, says Berman. Examples that she cites are: “For everything else, there’s MasterCard. Coke is it. Marlboro Country. The Pepsi generation. Do the Dew, Mountain Dew.”

Through name, you can compress the overall communication strategy, even eliminating the need for the logo itself to always appear, as a quote of Michael Newman, included in the book emphasises. He calls this marvel a ‘sLOGOn’!

Recommended addition to smart marketers’ (or smarketers’) shelf.

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