“Brevity is the soul of wit” – William Shakespeare
“Words may show a man’s wit, but actions his meaning.” – Benjamin Franklin
Blight. Visual pollution. Sewage on a stick.
I’ve heard it all before. After 9 years in the out-of-home industry, I’ve encountered every attitude and opinion, positive and negative, about billboards.
For now, let’s put aside those feelings and discuss what you can learn from out-of-home advertising: Messaging.
The cardinal rule of billboard design is to keep the ad copy brief and direct. With finite space, environmental distractions, and a rate of approach that lasts only a few seconds, a billboard design must summarize the message, connect with the reader, and inspire action all within a single sentence.
An engaging image, well-designed layout, and a powerful message will leave a lasting impression that can sway an entire industry. The best billboards achieve this goal beautifully. Who doesn’t remember Apple’s Think Different?
The worst billboards inspire confusion and widespread derision. Seriously. Don’t be these guys.
What does all this mean for you and your business?
The most powerful marketing messages contain 10 words or less.
A brand’s core value is best conveyed with consistent, easy to digest statements that resonate with its audience. Compelling and effective marketing messaging can be crafted by identifying the emotional reasons a buyer (voter, supporter) would choose your brand over the other options in the marketplace.
Sounds easy, right? Wrong.
Think of all the unique qualities of your product or service. List out the reasons a buyer would choose you over the competition. Does your product or service solve an emotional need for the buyer? Is there a pain or pleasure, desire or demand, aspiration or ideal that can be achieved as a result of the purchase? Write all of these concepts on a sheet of paper and start brainstorming over ways to summarize your unique value proposition to the buyer.
One good exercise is to cut sheets of paper into thirds horizontally. These are your billboards. On each slice of paper write a value statement in 10 words or less. The goal is to capture your brand’s identity, the benefit of your product or service, and to solicit an emotional reaction.
This is no small task, and the learnings will be immense.
You might be thinking, “Yeah, but how does this help me? I own a mortuary. You can’t briefly capture something so serious on a billboard.”
Once you’ve made a billboard, the rest of your marketing messaging strategy can be expanded to inspire action across multiple mediums, content sites, and collateral. Along the way, you may even come to respect the sewage on a stick.