Guerrilla Redesign

140: 4 Reasons Guerrilla Marketing Has Worked for Me This Year

I did something new this year to grab the attention of a couple auction companies. They posted examples of their auction advertising on Facebook. I right-clicked those samples, rebuilt the pieces from scratch, and then politely emailed my version to the business owners.

Both of those auctioneers have since hired me to design a couple pieces of advertising.

I mustered the confidence to try that tactic after acquiring a large account back in February in a very unusual way. The national auction company had been using the same freelance designer for more than a decade. I offered to work for less than half my normal fee with the condition that I could design pieces for the same auctions, using A/B testing to determine which postcard design worked better.

The marketing manager agreed to this contest. For about a month, each of our postcards had different web addresses on them. These URLs were also different from the other www’s they had been using to track other media, so that Google Analytics could pinpoint traffic from our respective postcards. At the end of the trial run, my postcards had driven three times as much traffic to my designated URL as the other designer’s work had driven to theirs. I won an account that is now one of my three largest in 2015.

You don’t have to hire me, though, to benefit from what I did to improve those three companies’ brand images and advertising effectiveness. I’ll tell you how I did it.

Put information in order of reader want or need.

Buyers buy assets, not auctions. Instead of leading with “auction” and other information that the buyer needs only after they want the asset, I led with photos and asset descriptors. I put the auction company information in one place—at the bottom of posters and on the mailer panel of the postcards.

Use large images.

Pictures sell; but rather than employ collages of a bunch of small images, I led with a large, representative image to pique buyer interest. Rather than have large blocks of background color with text and photos haphazardly spilled on them, I used big images as background with text neatly atop them in areas where contrast maximized readability.

Use smaller font sizes, especially for lesser information.

If it wasn’t a headline, it didn’t have headline-size text. Unlike the pieces I replaced, I didn’t try to fill the canvas with text. That’s what photos and margin are supposed to do. Terms were readable but very small. The hierarchy of information importance determined font size. I also shrunk association logos, since buyers don’t know what their significance, anyway. I made secondary phone numbers, if shown, to be small—to make it easier for bidders to know which number to call first.

Remove redundant information.

Direct mail and posters are teasers meant to drive people to your website or app. If you are showing information more than once on a poster or postcard, you’re crowding important content. If you feel the need to say something again, use different words or phrases—something that adds value to the repetition. In the last month alone on Facebook, I’ve seen companies in different parts of the country use their logos twice on the same panel. I assume their bidders have incredibly short memories or goldfish-level attention spans, both of which would worry me at an auction.

The interesting thing is that it doesn’t take much more time to use the above principles than not to use them. What they do require is courage to move away from auction industry standards toward communication principles proven to be more attractive and effective in the marketplace. It’s not about creativity—at least not in my daily work. It’s about working from the buyer’s perspective instead of yours, valuing images over information, creating a natural progression instead of a stream of auctioneer consciousness, and about simplifying the impression so that the asset can sell itself.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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Below are some samples of my recent redesigns. To see them larger, see this Facebook album.

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