Marketing and branding is an exercise in futile frustration. Results get dictated by how much cash is thrown at strategies best summed up by “spray and pray.” Whether it’s SEO, ads, content marketing, a website redesign, or social media marketing strategy, for most the result is dependent on getting so much volume exposure that eventually there’s profit.
Problem is, that most business owners become too exhausted throwing money at something far before they achieve the necessary volume of traffic necessary to make the strategy successful. Then another professional comes along and offers up some compelling data on why another channel will solve their problem. More money gets invested, the result stays the same and it’s on to the next.
The channel, platform, or strategy being deployed to grow an audience and bring in leads has little to do with achieving the desired result. All of them can work, but they’re all missing one key element which makes them work: Art direction. Most websites, ad campaigns, and branding efforts don’t pay any attention to art direction and because of it, they struggle to produce a profit.
Art direction is creating a specific emotional response by intentionally coordinating all content from graphics to video and text into a broad theme. It means that rather than throwing together things that “look” or “sound” good enough and hoping it works, it’s about first looking at what emotional response we want a person to have and making decisions that coordinate everything together to work towards that goal.
People are driven by emotion. Even the most logic-oriented person makes decisions based on how they feel. The difference is that the logical person comes up with technical reasons to justify their decision.
Start with how someone should feel, not on the end outcome you want.
We get so wrapped up in trying to get a lead or a customer that we don’t even start with the basics: Capturing someone’s attention and moving them to action. To capture attention in a world with a never-ending stream of content, you’ve got to focus on how you want someone to feel when they see your content.
Do you want them to feel empowered? Inspired? Afraid? Comforted? Happy? Emotion creates connection and is a powerful psychological motivator. To get where you want to go, you need to have an idea of what emotions you want to pull out of your audience.
Think about how your customers feel before and after doing business with you.
To establish an overall approach, we need to create a brand “essence” rooted in the emotions that people experience while doing business with you. The easiest way to find those is to look back at your own sales calls and experiences with customers and think about what their emotions are before they do business with you and how they feel afterward.
Knowing what their feelings are that moved them to seek you out in the first place gives you valuable insights into the emotional feel you need to evoke in your marketing. Emphasizing how they’ll feel afterward lets you craft a ‘storyline’ that takes them from where they are now to where they want to be.
Coordinate content to reinforce the emotions you want to draw out.
Once you know the emotions you want to draw out, it’s about coordinating the graphics, images, video, audio, and text together to reinforce and support drawing those emotions out. Rather than putting in things that “look cool” for the sake of being cool, you’re approaching your website, ad campaigns, and marketing with intention underneath an art direction that’s fulfilled by your content.
Then with your art-directed materials, it becomes about deploying them in the right channels. This is where you decide on how you want to approach reaching people: SEO, ads, social media, and so on. Except the difference is you’ve got much more powerful, compelling content to actually connect with people rather than blasting them with more boring reasons to “buy now.”