By Craig DePole, Senior Vice President, Newport Creative Communications
We all know that successful direct marketing is both an “art” and a “science.” The creative elements, namely messaging and design, make up the “art” while the data analysis, segmentation and statistics make up the “science.”
They are two parts of a formula and deserve equal attention. But that’s not happening in most organizations.
We spend days pouring over multi-channel metrics, campaign statistics, industry trends, and pages of analysis to better target, model, and predict response behavior. As an industry we’ve gotten very good at this and have achieved better results – a true testament to the “science.”
But by comparison, too little time is being spent really focusing on the creative process. What compelling messages and creative campaign can be crafted to inspire a movement and excite the senses through the direct marketing channels. In our zeal to develop the perfect algorithm and pinpoint the ideal decile, are we forgetting the passion and the personality?
Below, we offer our “scientific” tips for taking a “deep dive” into your creative and boosting the “art” part of the formula in your direct marketing equation.
Block out a minimum of three hours. The creative process requires time and needs to build momentum. It’s not a switch that can just be turned on, especially in the office setting. Have plenty of snacks and caffeine to keep the energy level up.
Include outsiders – both outside the organization and outside the direct marketing team. When you live and breathe this stuff everyday it’s impossible to have an “outsiders” perspective. Invite introverts and extraverts, and not just the creative-types. Invite the CEO/Executive Director and other leaders if it won’t hamper free and open participation. Assign a facilitator to keep the time and the conversation in focus.
Warm-up with the design elements. Post a year’s worth of packages (or more) around the room and have plenty of samples on the table to pull apart. Spend about 20 minutes having the group write down their comments about the package components, size, colors, fonts, images, inserts, layout, etc. What impressions do you get? What is your immediate reaction to different elements? Collect the comments and have the facilitator read them aloud. This will undoubtedly produce a few “a-ha moments” and get the creative juices flowing. Take notes!
Next, evaluate the content – themes, leads, asks, actions, etc. Highlight the first few paragraphs of each letter and the first ask and have the facilitator read them aloud. Allow about an hour for this part and have each participant rate the strength and engagement aspect of each. Did it grab attention, do you want to know more? Did it have personality or did it sound like the encyclopedia? Was it too rational or did it touch your heart? Was the reason for the ask clear, does it make you want to give now? Is there a cohesive, core message across packages or do they sound like different organizations? Again, collect the comments and have the facilitator walk through the ratings. Take more notes!
Spend the last 20 minutes synthesizing the learnings and planning out test ideas, creative platforms, and next steps. Pay close attention to people’s gut reactions and first instincts. Use the notes to find consistent themes in what was being said and to develop an action plan.
Use this rigorous process to evaluate and brainstorm your creative, and start reaching your donors the way they truly want to be targeted – with passion and excitement. After all, it was the “art” part of the formula that originally inspired your organization.
Craig DePole is a Senior Vice President at Newport Creative Communications and heads up the new Washington DC office. Newport Creative specializes in providing multi-channel, integrated fundraising programs that produce uncommonly good results. Their personalized approach to each fundraising program produces highly-efficient, high-impact campaigns at highly competitive prices. Contact Craig at 800-934-0586 x432 or email@example.com to learn more.