Design and legibility: 10 basic principles of reading

This is part 1 of a 2-part post on ad design and legibility. In this part, we take a look at how people read.

With no special instruction, people instinctively learn spoken language. In fact, within just three years, an infant will master a vocabulary of about 1,000 words. Reading, however, must be taught. It’s a difficult process, and even after years of instruction, most people remain relatively poor readers into adulthood.

Reading is literally an unnatural act.

This is crucial for you to understand, since so many marketing efforts, and most especially direct mail and print ads, depend on your getting people to READ. In fact, I would go as far to say:

Direct mail and print advertising is all about READING.

Reading envelope teasers. Reading letters. Reading brochures. Reading order forms. Reading headlines. Reading coupons. Without reading — easy, effortless reading — you have no sales.

Therefore, one of the most devastating response barriers is simple legibility. Can your prospects read your message? Can they read it effortlessly?

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Sales lead call backs: strike while the iron is hot

strike while the iron is hotLead generation is a fairly straightforward task. You reach out to a list of prospects with letters, postcards, emails, ads, or other promotional material. You offer something, like a quote or brochure or other freebie. And you follow up with those who contact you to begin the process of getting customers.

Call backs are an essential part of this process. The point of lead generation is not merely to distribute promotional literature or create awareness, but to winnow your prospects to a list of sales leads to give to your sales force.

A sales rep must then call back quickly. Why? If you’ve ever watched a blacksmith work, it’s easy to understand.

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Wacky Waiving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man

When I first saw this mock commercial on Family Guy for the Wacky Waiving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man, I nearly fell off the couch. It reminds me of my days as a TV producer for an NBC affiliate where I created some commercials that were nearly as outrageous.

Warning: If you’re at the office, turn down your audio a bit.

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Soup, sand, and rancid cheese: The craziest direct mail test in history

crazy direct mail testingNine years ago, I discovered an article at Improbable Research about a direct mail test that was so bizarre, I had to share it with others. So, with the permission of the author, I posted it to my website.

It turned out to be a popular article, amusing and amazing people all over the country.

Why all the fuss? Why would so many people outside the direct marketing industry want to read an article on direct mail testing?

Because it chronicles the most audacious direct mail test in history. It started as a prank, but developed into a revealing look at how good the USPS really can be at delivering mail.

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