by Jodi Rudick, M.A.S.
There are two distinct sides of marketing — the analytical, number-crunching, research side and the creative, artistic, emotional side. Admittedly, I come from the creative side of marketing. I love telling stories with pictures, words, and color and making people squirm or laugh and stop in their tracks . . . . I'm impressed by ads — whether in print or transmitted via Web, radio, TV, or lately, on my mobile phone — that challenge and motivate me to take action. Sure, the left, logical side of the marketing brain is important. But all the studies, research, and analysis in the world will never make up for marketing that is uninspired, dull, or downright boring.
Marketing is not a science as much as it is an art — the art of persuasion. And just like all forms of art, from painting and photography, to ceramics and jewelry-making, there are many different styles, elements, techniques, and philosophies. While most artists hope their art will inspire — the marketing designer, must go beyond inspiration to motivate, engage, and persuade action on the part of the beholder.
The first step of all marketing media is to get noticed. According to Ed O'Keefe, owner of Professional Advertising, a creative marketing firm located in Arlington, Virginia, "Eighty five percent of ads don't get looked at, no matter how much they cost to produce."
After all, if no one notices your camp's ad, brochure, Web site, DVD, booth, e-mail, or even business card — it's impossible for your message to be seen or heard.
While the research varies, it's estimated that the average American is bombarded with hundreds or even thousands of marketing messages each and every day. So, what can you do to break through this clutter in such a way that, especially, prospective customers will give you the precious gift of time and attention?
Be different and willing to try new things. Don't settle for templates or cookie-cutter marketing solutions. Challenge yourself to stretch beyond the ordinary, taking advantage of the basic, and not so basic, elements of design. Experiment with color and formats to cause your audience to stop in their tracks and say, "What's this? Tell me more."
Graphic artists rely on certain design elements to create their marketing art. Whether you design your own marketing pieces for your camp, or enlist professional help, challenge yourself and your team to explore the various elements of design to create marketing that will get noticed and stand apart from your competition.
Basic Elements of Design
In order to better understand and communicate with graphic artists, familiarize yourself with these basic Elements of Design. Encourage your designers to use these elements to create traditional and digital marketing materials that will POP!
Color is one of the most powerful of all design forces. By understanding how your customers interpret color you can harness its strength to create more motivating marketing. Color can stop people in their tracks — literally. It can draw attention, lead the eye, and add emphasis. It can be used to show continuation and relatedness, or it can differentiate. Color generates emotions, connections, and associations.
Before letters, numbers, and even shapes, humans are able to identify color and its relationship to the world. Young children, even babies, react to color as a powerful communication tool. When marketing to preschool children, always stress color in your advertising design.
Keep in mind that some cultures interpret colors differently than others. If you are marketing to an international audience, check with your target to ensure that your choice of color is not offensive or sending the wrong signals. For example, yellow in the United States is a great attention grabber and signifies warmth, happiness, and sunshine. In France, however, yellow means jealousy. The Chinese view yellow as a sacred color, and the Greeks associate yellow with sadness.
Value describes the lightness or darkness of a color. Again, if the idea is to stand out from the crowd, you may want to use gray tones or even black-and-white images to draw attention to your marketing message. For example a black-and-white exterior can morph into a colorful interior communicating the difference between a dull summer (without camp) and an amazing summer (at camp). Black and white can also represent nostalgia, history, and tradition — a message important to alumni, donors, and parents looking for longevity.
A line can be literal or visual and connects two thoughts, objects, points, or images. Think about using lines to connect before and after images, timelines, or dates.
Shapes are two dimensional taking into account height and width only. Especially in print, shape can be used to separate your message from the rest of the "flat pack." Use unusual shapes to get attention and add symbolism. A circular brochure or slide guide symbolizes your well-rounded activities; a diamond-shape brochure connotes your efforts toward perfection. When working with promotional items such as magnets, keychains, mouse pads, and luggage tags don't be a "square." Most of these items can be custom-shaped to reflect your theme, mascot, or message.
Form is three dimensional and encompasses height, width, and depth. Form can be tangible and add volume, mass, and permanence to your promotion. Promotional products, ranging from T-shirts and travel mugs to backpacks and ball caps, combine form and function within your marketing message. In direct mail, for example, adding thickness or dimensions, might increase postage a bit, but will dramatically increase the chances of getting your mail noticed, opened, and read, which is the ultimate goal.
Texture describes the surface of an object. Artists use images and photography to give an idea of how it would feel to the touch. Use imagery to help your audience feel the warmth of the bonfire or the refreshing splash of a waterfall on a hot day. Or go beyond paper to add real texture to your promotion, here are a few examples:
- "Kids Love to Rough It" printed on sand paper or a nail file.
- "Where Kids Grow Into Leaders" or "Kids Bloom at Summer Camp" printed on a package of seeds or seeded paper.
- "Summer Memories That Will Stick for a Lifetime" on Post-it® Notes
In advertising design, space describes the distance between and around objects. White space is a great way to add emphasis to ideas, copy, or images.
Balance describes the equality of objects in your ad. With symmetrical balance, both sides of your ad are the same. With asymmetrical balance, each side is different but equal. Radial balance means the ad is balanced around a focal point.
Contrast describes the degree of difference between objects. It gets attention and adds excitement. In print, reverse images are a great example of contrast. Most print ads are black on white. Create a headline that is white on black so that it stands out from others. Especially in camp directories, where you are bound to graphic limitations, contrast is a great tool to stand apart from the rest.
Proportion describes how the individual elements of your ad relate to each other and to the entire piece. Consider distorting illustrations or photos to emphasize smiles or eyes. Rather than looking like all the rest, use photos cropped in unusual ways to emphasize excited faces or happy feet in action.
A pattern is exactly what you think it is, something repeated over and over again. Use pattern throughout a brochure, Web site, or newsletter to guide the reader. Patterns can be graphic or text based.
Rhythm gives your advertising design the feeling of movement or action. The camp world should incorporate rhythm as a key graphic element to promote the benefits of interactive play and programming. To create rhythm, designers place objects or create patterns so that the eye follows a path. This visual path is essential to your marketing success. Ultimately you want the reader to end up at your call for action (log on to your Web site, enter a contest, call immediately, secure a spot, register for an open house, mail a deposit). If the reader's eye stops at the wrong place in the ad, your call for immediate action may be seen too soon, or not at all.
Unity describes how the whole advertisement or campaign works together as a complete unit. Unity is critical to create a consistent message that will be easily recognizable by staff, parents, and campers. Carry a unified message throughout all your marketing materials from your Web site to your thank-you gifts.
Variety describes the complexity of a work. In advertising, especially direct mail, a large amount of variety keeps the reader engaged and involved with the piece. The longer the reader is engaged, the better the odds of delivering your message. That's why some ads are rather busy — they keep the reader involved.
Variety can also refer to the types of media used to promote your message. By combining a variety of media from print and broadcast to promotional items and good old fashioned follow-up phone calls, you stand a greater chance of appealing to all types of prospects.
Web Site Resources for Graphic Design
www.aiga.org  This is the professional association for design, and the place where design professionals exchange ideas and information — a great source for out-of-the-ordinary ideas.
www.myprofessionaladvertising.com  Ed O’Keefe offers 1056 advertising ideas, suggestions, tips, and strategies in easy-to-digest articles.
www.guru.com  Find freelancers from around the world ready to tackle any project you (or they) can imagine. Quotes are free and projects get done in a snap.
A frequent speaker at ACA conferences and events, Jodi Rudick, M.A.S. is the owner of ADvisors Marketing Group (www.advisorsmarketing.com ). Rudick is also the author of 101 Marketing Essentials Every Camp Needs to Know, available at ACA's Bookstore. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org  or 760-809-3231. Visit the author's blog, www.littleredsbigideas.typepad.com , for marketing ideas specific to camps, parks, and recreation.
Originally published in the 2008 November/December issue of Camping Magazine.