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Maintain Your True Colors

Imagine you are at the grocery store picking up a case of a classic brand of soda pop when you notice the color of some of the cases are a little lighter or a little darker, or some are slightly orange and some are slightly magenta. They are not the bright red color you’ve come to expect from the popular brand. In fact, this brand’s red color has been so consistent for so long, it is likely you would notice even a slight variation. And if that aspect were not consistent, you may start to question whether the product inside is what you’ve come to expect too.

Well-known brands put in a lot of effort to maintain consistency in product and presentation (marketing). Both of these elements determine the success of a brand. If the product is inconsistent or has no demand, no amount of marketing will save it. Likewise, if the marketing is inconsistent, or non-existent, there will be no demand for the product. If Coca-cola® were to completely halt all marketing and present their product in various generic packaging they would eventually loose all market share. It may take a while, but it would happen. People would eventually loose awareness of the product, which drives demand, and other brands would start to squeeze the product off of store shelves, which would affect availability.

A brand’s strength relies on delivering what it promises. What a company delivers in their product and service must be in line with what their marketing promises. If the marketing message states “same great taste,” the product must deliver that same taste every time. That consistency builds trust. And that consistency is just as important on the marketing side as it is with the product itself. Presenting the product with related messages, consistent colors and fonts, and similar imagery supports a consumer’s presumption that what is on the outside represents what is on the inside. It’s true that companies change their packaging from time to time to keep up with current design trends, but typically when this happens it’s presented with a message like “new look, same great taste.” They know how strong a consumer’s perception is between package and product and how important it is to reassure a consumer that nothing has changed with the product.

A brand’s look consists of a few common elements–the logo, colors, fonts, and imagery. The details of these elements and their acceptable usage are typically specified in a brand guidelines document. A company’s brand guidelines are used by marketers and designers to help maintain consistency of a brand across multiple marketing channels and campaigns. Though it is important for each of these elements to maintain consistency for the reasons mentioned above, companies often struggle with one in particular–maintaining the same brand color given different reproduction methods.

Though a company can supply a press-ready file for print production or image for web, the method in which the color is reproduced can have inherent limitations and visual differences.

For instance, the same ink will look different on gloss paper versus uncoated paper, and that same color will look different on a fabric bag versus a computer monitor. This difference is due to several reasons. In printing, colors can be reproduced using CMYK process or Pantone® spot colors and are also effected by the substrate, whereas on a computer monitor colors are reproduced using an illuminative RGB process. Each of these methods have a different achievable color gamut (the number of different colors that can be reproduced), with RGB being the widest, Pantone® colors second, and CMYK process the smallest for full color reproduction.

Because of these limitations, it is important that a brand not only specify a Pantone® spot color (a standard industry reference) but also one that converts well to CMYK as that has the smallest color gamut. This gives vendors that are reproducing your brand color a common target that is more likely to be achievable regardless of the method they are using.

In a direct mail campaign, or across multiple campaigns, consistent design elements and print production help increase message retention and brand memorability. It is recommended that any single direct mail campaign consist of at least three pieces and should utilize consistent repetition of a logo, tagline, colors, and design style.

Specifying a spot color that converts well across multiple applications can help you maintain brand strength by visually presenting your product and marketing materials consistently. It is also critical that vendors chosen to reproduce your brand, from design to production, follow a strict process of operations for color reproduction that meet industry standards. Idealliance® issues certifications in the printing industry for grayscale and colorspace reproduction capabilities (G7). Commercial printers who are G7 certified can produce the same color given the same input and substrate because they are calibrated to a common target.

Phillips Printing is a G7 colorspace certified commercial printer and can help you maintain color consistency with your printed materials. Contact us if you have any questions regarding direct mail marketing or print production.

Repetition, Repetition, Repetition

When striving towards any goal, there is usually a single most important thing that leads to success. With real estate, it is location; with finance, it’s spending less than you make; with bungee jumping, it is a good knot; and with marketing, it is repetition. No doubt there are several factors that are important to ensure success within the various marketing channels, but with all marketing efforts, from radio to TV to direct mail, the frequency in which a consumer is presented with a branded message is key.

If Target were to run one 30-second TV commercial during the holiday season and think, “yep, I think we’re good for December,” their sales would certainly disappoint. If St. Jude only sent one piece of mail or ran one TV commercial, they wouldn’t have the funds to do what they do. And I can’t count how many times I’ve seen a 20% off Bed Bath & Beyond coupon, but I don’t go there without one. The principle of frequent presentation is crucial for any company’s marketing, whether it is for brand recognition, sales promotions, or financial support. It takes multiple touches, often across multiple channels, to gain the awareness needed and to ultimately move someone to take action.

Focusing particularly on direct mail, there are certain benefits of this channel that others do not have. For instance, direct mail is tangible and can be retained and recalled. This is difficult with TV or radio so repetition becomes even more important with those channels. Nevertheless, it is still a critical part of a successful direct mail campaign. There are four primary factors that influence the success of a direct mail marketing campaign–the message, the design, the recipient, and repetition.

A meaningful message–this is one of the most important factors. A successful effort must include a meaningful message or relevant offer for the consumer. The consumer will take no action if they do not connect with the message or if the offer is not good enough. Taking action takes time, energy and money. It must be worth it for the consumer to take that action, no matter how little it may be. It is helpful to try and step outside your knowledge of your business and think of what the message will mean to the consumer-what does it do for them.

Great design–although an important factor, design often gets a little too much focus. The design of a piece is typically only at play in the initial awareness. The design is what may get the piece noticed, but after that, it is up to the message being relevant to that recipient that will move them to take action. However, design also plays a role in effectively presenting the message. Proper formatting and organized layout can help the recipient take in the message efficiently.

The right recipient–a meaningful message presented with great design means nothing if it lands in the wrong person’s hands. Targeting the right recipients by utilizing demographics such as age, location, income, etc., is crucial for the success of direct mail. In some regards, a perfect recipient is already looking for your service and that can outweigh any shortcomings in the other factors.

Repetition–with all things above in line, a single direct mail piece can be incredibly effective, but in comparison to a multi-piece campaign or when you consider your entire marketing infrastructure, it becomes clear that success is rarely the result of a single effort. When developing a multi-piece direct mail campaign, the first two factors, which have to do with the pieces themselves, must work in conjunction within a single mailer as well as across the entire campaign. Since the multiple that increases the chance of success is repetition, the consistency of the message and design not only helps the effectiveness of each individual presentation but also increases recall by allowing all pieces to work as a whole. On average, it takes twelve touches to move a recipient from a prospect to a client. This includes all forms of marketing from emails to phone calls to direct mail. Each channel has its strengths and all work together to establish brand recognition and trust.

Didn’t you just say that?

The practice of repetitive marketing has been used in branding for hundreds of years. “Good to the last drop” has been the Maxwell House slogan for 103 years, “Breakfast of Champions” has been around 89 years, and “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands” 51 years. Statistically, if one considers that the average human brain only remembers 20% of what it sees or hears, then it would take at least three separate presentations to retain only 60% of a message; and that assumes the brain takes in all new information each time. There are other factors besides the four mentioned above that can help increase the effectiveness of a direct mail piece such as interactive elements, tactile and sensory elements, and unique design or physical attributes. Anything that engages the person and causes them to hold on to the piece longer can increase retention. This can be as simple as the orientation of graphics so the person must rotate the piece, or more complex features like aromatics (scented glue) or augmented reality (AR).

There are many important factors to take into account when creating an effective marketing campaign. By evaluating how well each of the four factors above are utilized in your existing marketing efforts, you may discover some opportunities for improvement. There is no right answer for how many times one should mail or a magic formula for design, copywriting, demographics, or timing. Each marketing effort should be tailored to best fit a business’s brand and its customers. But, at some level, all successful marketing efforts have a certain balance of message, design, and repetition to a targeted audience.

The Payoff for Nonprofits

It helps to use the right tool for the job, and there can often be multiple options on the table. The most effective and efficient tool to use may be clear-cut in some situations, but not so much in others.

Sometimes the number of options considered depends on the environment, the task and the desired results. For instance, if you wanted thinly sliced tomato for a sandwich, a sharp knife would certainly be your best choice. However, if the desired result were a mashed tomato for sauce, then a hammer would work, although it would be a bit messier. In this case, the tomato is the environment, breaking down the tomato is the task, and for it to be in slices or mashed are the desired results. The knife would also work to break down the tomato for sauce, and would likely be most peoples’ choice in both situations. Though, this demonstrates which tool is truly best for the task of breaking down the tomato is more clearly defined based the desired results.

Whether it’s in the kitchen, in life, or in business, we are all after the same goal…to be successful. Being successful may mean different things to different people and in different contexts, but achieving that goal often involves tools, resources and strategies.

These days there are many options to choose from when it comes to marketing channels–TV, radio, direct mail, billboards, web ads, email, social media, etc. And, there can be several options within each one of those categories. Social media marketing can involve Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Google posts as well as web videos and website content. Which of these to use, again depends on our environment, task, and desired results.

Most businesses operate within a common environment. This environment usually involves the same tools, resources, and strategies. The tools are the various marketing channels. The resources refer to a business’ ability to deploy those tools and the size of the market itself. The strategy is the planned process of applying these resources to certain tools. All of this effort comes down to performing a task (marketing or fundraising) to achieve desired results (sales or donations) in a given environment (B2C, B2B, or nonprofit organization).

Most nonprofits have one thing in common…profit. They need to bring in money or resources enough to at least cover whatever it is they provide as an organization minus expenses–with the addition that all excess profit goes toward the cause. In the standard B2C or B2B model this is achieved by selling a product or service to the consumer or other business. In a nonprofit model this is achieved by selling the promise of the service or product that the organization provides for others. One of the aspects that make the transaction for nonprofit organizations different from for-profit businesses is that there is often no product exchanged for the donation. Since the primary function of fundraising is typically just for the organization to receive monies, the ability to accommodate this transaction becomes an important factor in choosing a marketing channel.

The marketing channel that accommodates this for many nonprofits is direct mail. Direct mail has several benefits that no other marketing channel can match. Direct mail is tangible. It has the ability to connect through a sense of touch. The physical element of paper, textures, and the basic experience of holding something and reading text by reflected light versus reading off a glowing screen all contribute to a feeling of honesty–a feeling of something real, of something that can be trusted. Direct mail has proven itself as the most trusted form of marketing time and time again. Quickly establishing trust with a potential donor is very important. The donor needs all the reassurance possible that the organization does what they say and that the donor’s money will be used wisely.

Direct mail also offers a lot of real estate. An organization can mail out a newsletter or booklet with in-depth stories and information about their cause for a fraction of the cost of TV. And, unlike TV, radio or the web, the audience can be qualified on an incredibly detailed level. This means the organization can get their message directly in the hands of someone that has shown interest in their cause and/or may meet the appropriate demographics.

Besides the physical effectiveness, real estate, and targetable aspects, direct mail offers a mechanism to send money to the organization. Nonprofit direct mail appeals usually include a reply card that a donor can fill out with their information and payment method. A courtesy reply envelope (postage paid by sender/donor) or a business reply envelope (postage paid by receiver/nonprofit org.) is also typically included in the outgoing mailing. This mechanism provides a level of convenience for the recipient. An online method of donating can also be included so the recipient has a secondary call-to-action in case they don’t have checks or stamps readily available. For this reason, a BRE (business reply envelope) is recommended. Though the postage is higher and at the expense of the nonprofit, the convenience for the donor and the additional contributions usually outweigh the cost.

According to a 2017 report from the Data & Marketing Association (, direct mail can have a median ROI of 29%, much higher than paid search ads.1 Nonprofits shouldn’t ignore the other marketing channels though. When direct mail is used in conjunction with email marketing or digital ads, response rates can increase up to 118%.2

Direct mail can be a highly effective marketing tool for any business and is particularly well suited for nonprofits due to its ability to establish trust and give the recipient multiple ways to respond. To get the most out of your marketing dollar, and hopefully receive the most dollars for your cause, consider a marketing campaign that includes direct mail as a companion to your digital efforts.,

Getting Back to Basics

Keeping things simple is usually the best strategy when planning or building anything. Whether you’re developing a marketing campaign, designing a car, or traveling into space – the fewer factors there are to contend with the more stable and effective the operation will be.

If one were planning an operation into space, let’s say to drop a rover on Mars, the more complicated the rover functions are or deployment operation is, the more likely it is for the mission to fail. For as many things that must go right for an operation to be successful, there is an equal amount of opportunity for things to go wrong.

For the same reasons, if one were to design a car, the more bells and whistles there are, the more opportunity there is for one of them to have a problem. Granted, both of these operations are complicated and there are plenty of successful space missions and highly intelligent computers on four wheels driving around. But, the principle still holds true in relation to success rates. The more seams there are on a roof, the more opportunity there is for leaks; the more people there are in a quality-check process, the more likely one of them is having a bad day; the more components there are in the assembly of a product, the more likely one of the components will fail.

When applying this same principle to marketing we can relate the complexity of the message to the number of things that the recipient must figure out. Consider a direct mail piece for a home improvement business that has several pages worth of information. On the front of the piece a headline reads “Your number one source for all of your home improvement and home repair needs.” On the inside of the piece each page lists the company’s various services from flooring to painting to appliance repair to roofs to masonry, and so on. Although a piece like this would indeed present the company’s services to the recipient, it also presents a lot of information for them to sift through and decipher. This would likely overload the reader with so much information that they are likely to miss information that is relevant to them, or possibly take in none of it. In addition, a person that may be in the market for a new roof is not very likely to also be in the market for a new floor.

A more effective approach for this type of business would be to split up the marketing of different services into multiple direct mail pieces. A direct mail piece that is just focused on roof repair would have a much better chance of success, and not just in response rate but closure. By not forcing the recipient to pick out the part of the message that is relevant to them we are doing some of the work for them. This increases the chance that the full message is read because there is less information to sift through. By focusing on a single service the company would also be able to target a more specific demographic. This increases the chance that the message will be relevant to the recipient. Simply put, a single piece with a simple message has a much better chance of being read, being relevant, and being retained by the recipient. The company can then apply that approach to each service they offer. With each piece they have the opportunity to highlight a service with a more focused message and target a more relevant market.

Although the cost of a multi-piece campaign would certainly be more than a single all-in-one marketing approach, the justification for the increased marketing expense should be based on the campaign’s effectiveness. This effectiveness is typically measured as ROI (return on investment). As any marketer knows though, ROI is often not easily calculated when it comes to how much each marketing channel is contributing to the bottom line. What made a customer ultimately decide to place an order is usually not very clear or even the result of any one thing. It can often be due to multiple touches, be that direct mail, web advertising, phone calls, emails, or a mixture.

A marketer often must trust in the basics, where presenting a clear message in front of the right person is the best one can hope for. There are basic rules and practices that can help achieve this goal. The first is a clear message. A message that clearly and quickly describes your product or service is key. As discussed above, do not hide your message among other services or offers that force the customer to read between the lines. The message should also be presented from the viewpoint of how the product or service helps the customer. Do not preach how experienced your company is or how your product is the best. Instead, try to focus on presenting how that expertise or superior product can make your customer’s life better. What does it do for them? What are your customer’s fears and challenges and how will your company help solve them. A customer must be able to see how your product or service will help them achieve their goal. This is what will make the connection between the customer’s need and your message, and hopefully result in success for all.

The second basic principle is repetition. Repetition helps maximize retention. People usually need to be presented with a message several times before they remember it. This is just the nature of the human brain. It often takes multiple touches for the mind to take note of what’s important. Another reason for low retention could be the timing of the message. A customer may not be in the market for a new roof this year, but could be considering it next year. It is best to maintain constant presence in your customer’s mind, so when they’re ready to buy you’re their first call. In relation, one reason it is often difficult to calculate ROI is partly due to multiple marketing channels, and with repetition within each marketing channel the calculation is compounded.

Lastly, your message can be clear and presented multiple times, but if it is going to the wrong person none of that matters. Data is one of the most important factors in determining the success of any marketing effort. You can advertise roof replacement service to someone living in an apartment all day long, but the chance of a sale there is pretty close to zero. There is a huge selection of filters available when purchasing data for a mailing list. Data can be filtered by location, homeowner and family demographics, financial information, property information, and much more. Existing customer information can also be used to analyze what a relevant customer may look like. By using existing data and information available with purchased data one can very specifically target a market that is most likely to contain potential customers.

If you are questioning your marketing efforts don’t worry, you are not alone. Many marketers struggle with trying to educate prospects about their products or services and wonder if they are being understood. Just remember, keeping it simple is usually best. Trust in the basics of marketing repeatedly with a clear message to the most relevant prospects you can attain.