Category: Marketing

Designing To Sell

A few weeks ago, a local real estate agent asked us to help him design a two page advertising marketing piece, which would appear in an upcoming magazine publication here on Oahu.

While the Publication had originally offered and actually did produce an ad design for him, it ultimately failed to meet his expectations, which is where I came in.

So here’s a look at the proposed ad that was initially sent to him (Note: While the layout is the same, we’ve changed some of the content, as I have not been given permission to use the original design).



Without getting into everything that’s wrong with this design, we do want to quickly highlight what we see as its biggest problem; which is its “Compositional Flow,”  or the way your “eye” is led through the design. Looking quickly at the piece, you’re eyes (aka focus) will probably be drawn to either:

  • The Agent’s Photo
  • The Black Bar in the upper right of the page, containing the Agent’s name, website and company logo.

After reading the Headline, which in this case is the Agent’s name and website, the next logical element or piece of information, would be the CTA or Call To Action, which (to the designer’s credit) does appear next.

The problem is that the weight of the CTA’s font is a bit too light in comparison with the other fonts that are in the design. This means, that instead of your eye moving naturally down the page like it should, it will instead be distracted and drawn to, the more prominent design elements, which in this case, would be either:

  • The agent’s picture, or
  • The bold black copy text directly below it

Having now taken about 2-3 seconds, coupled with the fact that there’s nothing that really draws your focus back up to the top of the page, in most cases, you’ll probably stop reading and totally miss the CTA, which is really the most important part of the ad.

So with that being said, here is a look at one of the preliminary ad comps that I submitted to the agent (Again, the design has been altered for the purposes of this email).


Once again focussing on the design’s composition flow; at first glance, your eye should immediately be drawn to either:
  • The Main Image, which subtly leads your eye down the page (from left to right) along the “leading (coast) line”, to a short headline, followed by the CTA. Or…
  • The Agent’s Photo, which would also lead you (from left to right) to her contact info, and then the CTA, which in both cases, is ultimately the most valuable part of the ad.
And while not as bold and graphic heavy as it’s predecessor, this version:
  • Strips away the excess information and content,
  • Focussing directly on the Ad’s message and CTA, which is
  • Reinforced by a clear and direct compositional design flow

This not only creates a much cleaner and effective design/message, but also reinforces idea of luxury real estate services in Hawaii.

In short, when the time comes for you to create an effective marketing piece that sells, always remember to:

  1. Create a compelling Headline and Call to Action that speaks directly to your Audience and
  2. Pay close attention to the Compositional Flow, using it Guide and Direct Them To Action.”
Have questions or need help creating a marketing piece that sells? Contact us to schedule a complimentary planning session for your business today!  – jz

Learning From Your Mistakes

Marketing is made up of a series of assumptions: What you assume people want, why the want it and what (you assume) will make them buy it.  The thing with assumptions, though, is that they are totally subjective and often times wrong.

Even the best marketers will tell you that their brilliant ideas and assumptions don’t always turn out the way they expected and sometimes, it is necessary to either revamp or discontinue the failing campaign. Change is never easy, especially when it requires giving up on an idea/project that we are emotionally and financially invested in; but the thing is, in order to succeed, you need to be willing and able to let what isn’t working for you go…

To illustrate this point, here is a case study on one of our failed projects:

The Project

Your Story Hawaii was a project I came up with that was meant to give us the opportunity to not only connect with, but also support and promote the local businesses community of Hawaii by telling the story of the amazing business owners & families behind it.

Based upon the idea that traditional methods of communication such as word of mouth marketing were taking a backseat in today’s tech savvy society; the goal of the project was to use social media as a means to tell the story of Hawaii’s older small business owners – giving them the opportunity to attract and (re)connect with a younger millennial audience.

The Assumption

Using their experiences and stories as a way to personally engage and connect with their customers – a major part of the project was the opportunity to win a free video promotion, as determined by the local community via social media.

After running the idea by a number of different colleagues and business owners, I was absolutely convinced that my assumption was solid and the opportunity to receive this type of marketing promotion would be a no brainer for any business owner.

Needless to say, the videos were key; not only because they required a significant time and monetary investment on my part, but also because they were literally THE cornerstone of the entire project.

The Problems

While video content and influencer marketing are now at the top of every marketer and business owner’s mind, at the time I think I was a bit ahead of the curve (at least here in Hawaii).

As awesome as the project and my assumptions sounded on paper, shortly after shooting our first video and launching the project online, I began to notice the following problems:

  1. My target audience was not online – While I knew that not every business owner in Hawaii would be on Facebook or Instagram, I did assume that at least some of them – or at least their family members – would be. Upon reviewing the analytics, however, I noticed that I was completely missing the mark in terms of connecting with veteran business owners. Something else that should have at least been considered, was the fact that the majority of business owners who did have an online business presence were either not actively online or weren’t personally managing their social media accounts at all.
  2. Failure to address a need – I still haven’t quite figured out the actual problem to this one – and maybe this plays into what’s known as “Social Credibility,” but for one reason or another, the business owners that I was reaching and corresponding with, were either too busy or weren’t really interested in receiving any type of free promotion; which led to the next problem….
  3. Lack of engagement – As mentioned before, I had assumed that the opportunity for free promotion, along with the chance to receive a free promo video – with the only requirement being to contribute a story – would be a no brainer for any business owner…But while everyone I pitched the project to seemed very excited and expressed great interest in the idea, that was pretty much as far as I got.
  4. Timing – During one of our planning sessions, we decided that we’d aim for the first video to be released at the beginning of 2016. This meant shooting and launching the project around November, which in hindsight was a pretty tight timeline. I can also admit that launching the project during the holidays was another mistake on my part. Not only were potential participants tied up with family and holiday events, but also those working on and helping out with the project.
  5. No foreseeable ROI – While my first priority was to help local businesses, I’d be lying to say that my plan was to spend all of my money giving away free advertising. The long term goal was to ultimately use the project as a way to connect and engage directly with small business owners, some of which we could eventually convert into clients. The lack of response and participation, however, forced me to sit down and decide how much time and money I actually wanted to personally invest in this project without any foreseeable monetary return.

The Conclusion

After a lot of careful consideration and weighing all of my options – many of which meant investing more money on advertising and PR for the project than I could personally afford at the time – I came to the conclusion that I just did not have the time or resources to keep this open ended marketing venture going.

It was then that I decided to place the project on indefinite hiatus, focussing my time and energy on things that would still allow me to not only help business owners, but turn a profit as well.

Moving Forward

Negative results are just what I want. They’re just as valuable to me as positive results. I can never find the thing that does the job best until I find the ones that don’t. – Thomas Edison

The secret to dealing with failure is to understand what you did wrong, learn from your mistakes and then continue moving forward. While the project itself was far from successful, I can’t even describe how extremely proud I am of how amazing the video turned out, and would like to especially thank Pono Grace for his awesome video and production work.

I’m also very happy to have been able to provide our client Kamala Skipper, owner of Kamala Wellness Company, an amazing marketing piece to help promote her business. – jz