Monday, July 31, 2017

Why Your Ads Should Look 100 Years Old

Think ‘lead magnet’ ads are new-age?

Think again.

Free opt-in ad campaigns like that have been around for almost a century.

Everyone’s looking for the hot new thing. A watch that counts your steps, takes notes, answers your calls, and oh yeah, also tells time. An iPhone that has a new update every time you turn it on. A car that is so smart it can drive itself.

But there’s something to be said for sticking with what works. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Even better, if it works well, no need to reinvent the wheel.

Here’s how today’s ad pros are still using copywriting techniques from old-school campaigns that ran decades ago.

What the 1960’s Taught Motorola About Influencer Marketing

When it was time for Motorola to promote its new line of smartphones and features, it took its campaign to YouTube.

The phones were marketed for a younger audience, and with 54% of 18-34 years olds using YouTube at least once a day, Motorola knew it was the place to be.

They used 13 influencers to each create create “partnership announcements” and “hero” videos to show them using the new Moto Mods, that allowed users to customize their phones just the way they wanted. One user strapped the phone to a rocket and launched in 16,000 feet in the air.

No joke.

The result? 11.6 million video views and more than 38 million social media impressions. Even more? 80,000 clicks to from first time users.

This shouldn’t be surprising. Buyers are 92% more likely to trust the reviews and opinions of friends and peers over standard advertisements.

A recent Tomoson study found that this kind of influencer marketing is “the fastest-growing online customer acquisition channel, beating organic search, paid search, and email marketing.”

But as hip and cool and successful as this turned out to be for Motorola, it wasn’t a new idea.

In fact, it was decades — even hundreds — of years old.

Companies have been using celebrities, real users, and even beloved, made-up characters for years to sell their products.

Remember how much Santa loved Coca Cola? This one’s from ‘64:

old coca cola adImage Source

And what about Babe Ruth and his love for Pinch-Hit?

babe ruth tobacco advertisementImage Source

Yes, that’s Babe Ruth as spokesperson for a tobacco company. The same Babe Ruth who later died of cancer at the age of 53. Next level brand partnership, right there.

You see, this stuff is nothing new. It’s not that new and fancy and innovative and cutting edge.

It’s the same old playbook, just dusted off and revised with a new edition. One that takes into account how our constantly evolving consumer preferences keep shifting.

Here’s a few more ideas for how tried but true methods are still relevant today.

Start by Grabbing Their Attention

Remember when Old Spice used to literally mean old.

As in, the only people who wore it were your grandparents?

That all changed a few years ago with a little sex appeal and humor:

Sales jumped 107% in just one month. Old Spice became the number one body wash and deodorant brand in both sales and volume.

And they reached new demographics of people (which is important when yours historically is about to drop dead).

But even that ad campaign, now nearly seven years old, is just a first-cousin of marketing techniques from long ago.

David Ogilvy’s 1958 Rolls Royce ad uses the same shock and awe tactic by grabbing the reader’s attention with what’s essentially a one-word headline:

old rolls royce adImage Source

$13,550 for a car in 1958 was a lot of money, and Ogilvy was hoping to hook customers with mystery, intrigue, and a little high-end appeal.

He also updated their tag line a bit, which was a simple and direct, “The Best Car in the World,” that now reads, “What makes Rolls-Royce the best card in the world?”.

By turning that statement into a question, and then answering it, he was able to produce their highest-performing marketing campaign to date.

Unsurprisingly, there’s data from today that backs this up.

For example, ran two basic AdWords headlines against each other. The Control was a question, while the Treatment was simple and straightforward. Can you guess which one won?

ab testing ad

You got it. The question-based headline.

Last second copy changes in order to test headline variations ain’t new, either.

Even Ogilvy’s testing back in the ‘60s wasn’t a groundbreaking notion. Good ol Hopkins was doing that long before around 1900:

“Hopkins outlines an advertising approach based on testing and measuring. In this way losses from unsuccessful ads are kept to a safe level while gains from profitable ads are multiplied. Or, as Hopkins wrote, the advertiser is ‘playing on the safe side of a hundred to one shot’.”

Today we use content marketing to grab top of the funnel attention. Turns out that’s nothing new. Because storytelling is one of the best ways to develop the interest and intrigue required to keep people reading long enough to make a decision.

Storytelling Piques their Interest to Draw People Near

Today, marketers face unprecedented hurdles to get their name out there.

A New York Times article from a decade ago claimed the number of ads we saw each day was around 5,000. Keep in mind this was early for Facebook, YouTube, et. al. They hadn’t even hit critical mass yet.

Fast forward and nearly 200 million people worldwide are using ad-blocking software in order to take back control over their (albeit, limited) attention. A recent study found that only 14% of respondents could recall the banner ad on the page they just visited.

Couldn’t remember the company. Couldn’t remember the product.

All of this spells disaster for marketers when our prospects lack the attention span of a goldfish.

That’s where storytelling comes in.

Nike has been leading the pack for years.

Back in 1999, they put together a one minute spot for the retirement of Michael Jordan. Clips and photos of his career, telling the story of his journey and successes. They didn’t even put up the Nike logo until the very end. For a good reason.

“It understood that what would really make a lasting impression, and what would help build the brand and allow the company to sell more products in the long-term, was an authentic story,” said Sujan Patel.

Ross Jeffries told a story, albeit a slightly more seedy version, in 1998.

“The Amazing Seduction Secrets of a Skinny, Ugly, 6 Foot Geek from Culver City California That Could Get You All the Girls You Want.”

seduction secrets skinny guy adImage Source

(Yes. This actually happened.)

Nerdy guy trying to get the girl is a tale as old as time. Now every non-skinny, ugly, 6 foot geek from Culver City California is gonna be hooked to read more of this. (And trust me, there’s a lot of them.)

Taking a familiar story or something that a consumer can relate to helps them understand just how perfect your product is for them. Why they need it. The emotional aspect that tugs at our heart strings or appeals to our vanity.

Ad copywriting formulas, like AIDA, help us touch on all of these critical pressure points. And once again, AIDA wasn’t just invented by some growth hacking millennial. It’s been around the block a few times since the nineteenth century.

Ad exec Joseph Addison Richards was talking about it way back in 1893:

“How to attract attention to what is said in your advertisement; how to hold it until the news is told; how to inspire confidence in the truth of what you are saying; how to whet the appetite for further information; how to make that information reinforce the first impression and lead to a purchase; how to do all these, – Ah, that’s telling, business news telling, and that’s my business.”

Now Get Them to Take the Next Step

Nobody knows why they need anything.

I didn’t even know I needed a special bag just for my french bread until you showed me how lacking my life was before I bought one.

But this information sharing takes a little time and finesse. You have to walk the customer through their journey. Too much, too soon, and it backfires.

That’s the chief difference between running PPC ads on Facebook vs. Google AdWords. (And why the former doesn’t work like the latter.)

There’s not much seduction required when people type something into Google. They’re already at the end of their journey. But successful advertising on basically any other medium requires you to lay the groundwork (that we’ve already discussed).

Once again, classic ad copywriting formulas help you better explain why people need what you’re selling when they don’t always yet realize they need it.

Even the U.S. Military has gotten in on the PAS (Problem, Agitate, Solution) game. Here’s an ad from 1967:

lost his chance to make a choice advertisementImage Source

This guy waited too long to sign up (problem). Now he can’t pick which branch he wants. That could happen to you, too (agitate). Fill out this form and we’ll get you what you want before it’s too late (solution).

Or what about this example from 1990 for a book to help readers with their grammar?

Image Source

Look around and you’ll see PAS ev-ry-where. Here’s a slightly modified version from Dollar Shave Club Australia. No commitment? Everyone’s trying it? Only a couple of dollars?


Long, long ago (like more than a century), advertising pro Claude Hopkins encouraged advertisers to create work that essentially sold itself.

According to the most factual source on the internet*, Wikipedia, Hopkins: “Insisted copywriters research their clients’ products and produce ‘reason-why’ copy. He believed that a good product and the atmosphere around it was often its own best salesperson.”

(*Not true.)

In other words? The purchase (or more accurately, decision to purchase) should be an absolute no-brainer. The value should far exceed the mental, emotional, or physical costs.

But that action-step that happens once the solution is presented often takes place with a simple click-through or from an online ad.

How exactly? Tripwires.

Here’s info-marketing guru Ryan Deiss with a too-good-too-be-true offer for his latest book:

invisible selling machine book scam advertisementImage Source

The offer here is low-friction. It doesn’t require a lot of steps or a big commitment, and the customer gets a good return on their time and money. And, you get to sift out the people who really have some interest from those who are just stopping by.

But, once again, not a new concept. Here’s one from over fifty years ago in 1965.

investment aids advertisementImage Source


The latest shiny tactics are always fun.

But sometimes even what seems fresh and new has been around the block a time or two. Decades old marketing tricks and tactics still work today.

And more importantly, can still produce more consistent results, too.

A/B testing works some of the time. But storytelling, copywriting formulas, tripwires? They’ve been working for years and years and years and years.

The next time you’re stuck on an ad campaign or looking for inspiration, don’t just look at what’s hitting the top of Growth Hackers.

Because history tends to repeat itself. And that’s a good thing for bottom lines.

About the Author: Brad Smith is the founder of Codeless, a B2B content creation company. Frequent contributor to Kissmetrics, Unbounce, WordStream, AdEspresso, Search Engine Journal, Autopilot, and more.

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3 Essential Design Trends, August 2017

If the dog days of summer have you longing for a change of scenery, this month’s web design trends are the perfect start. While minimalism has been the “it” style of late, more designers are beginning to shift toward more details and features within the layout. The striking design patterns that we are beginning to see are a fresh alternative to the stripped-down styles we’ve gotten used to.

What do you think? Are you ready for thinner typography options, more elaborate detailing and icon-style logos? You might be after seeing some of these design projects.

Here’s what’s trending in design this month:

1. Thin(ner) Typography

Thin type is back in! Thin typefaces got a bad rap back when Apple opted for a super thin, lightweight font for its operating system with iOS 7.

Designers balked at the option which was a little tough to read and kind of bucked many design trends happening at the time. (Flat was all the rage, but some argued that Apple’s almost flat combined with the ultra-thin typeface was too much.) At the same time, wider, bolder typefaces became the dominant element for website headline and typography on hero images above the scroll.

The tide is beginning to shift the other way. Today’s thin typefaces are somewhat thinner than what we’ve become accustomed to, but aren’t near as thin as the Apple option.

The best thing about opting for a thinner typeface is that you have a little more freedom in with the design. While thin typefaces are not recommended for body copy, they can work well at larger sizes when there is plenty of contrast.

The examples below all showcase some of the best uses of thinner typefaces:

  • Use a thin typeface in all caps to create an impactful headline. This option often works best with only a few words, such as Luxury African Safaris, below. It’s equally important to think about the lettering in relationship to the actual letters; some words can be tough to read in thin typefaces or caps.
  • Pair a thin typeface with a bolder option to create emphasis, such as WebDesignStudio, below.
  • Use a thinner typeface in color (on a contrasting background) to add visual emphasis, such as Leeds Golf Centre, below.

Looking for inspiration? Here are five Google Fonts that fit the bill (and will look great): Source Sans Pro,  DosisScope OneRajdhaniMartel Sans.

2. Elaborate Details

From fun flourishes to fancy typographic treatments to user interface elements that create unexpected delight, elaborate details are becoming more common. The trick to creating something elaborate is to make it appear as simple as possible for the user, meaning it has to be easy to understand and use.

The great thing about details is that they can add a lot of personality to a project. These elements can carry across mediums from website projects to product design to printed elements so that everything from a brand has that same special something visually. (This is an excellent way to establish brand cohesion.)

These details can appear in a number of ways and should always add to the overall effect, not detract from it. Elaborate details are best used for a single instance in the design and shouldn’t overwhelm users. Using something elaborate too many times can end up creating the opposite of the intended effect and actually visually overwhelm users. So once you find your “trick” use it once and use it well.

The Forefathers Group, below, uses elaborate styling with an old-style logotype with colored swashes above the headline. The type style is uncommon for web design and combined with the elaborate logotype, it is a striking combination. But you can also see how this design can only be effective with a single use. The typeface could be difficult if used for large blocks of text and the styling could get in the way of messaging. Here, the design team used it perfectly.

Vitra Task Chairs, below, uses elaborate user interface animations to engage users. The homepage includes a “Drag” button that opens into the product line menu. The background stays the same in both panels so that the chairs are always being highlighted in the video reel. Animations between clicks are equally interesting and even if you aren’t ready to buy a chair, moving around the website is encouraged.

Sometimes the most elaborate design doesn’t include any super special effects. Only Kite School, below, uses fun video real and large logotype for a combination that draws the eye in. While the large logotype looks simple, creating typography that’s both readable and functional in that manner can be tough. Here, it works beautifully and the mood of the lettering matches what you would expect from this type of business.


3. Icon Logos

Is that an icon or a logo? The line between the two design elements is getting more crossed all the time. Icon-style logos are popping up everywhere.

Drawn from the minimal style, and because they work in a variety of applications, icon logos can be colorful or line-art inspired. Most uses lean toward a smaller style logo in a shape that will also carry over to social media sites for consistent branding online.

The downside of an icon logo is there’s not a lot of room for an actual company name. The best icon logos are designed so that they can stand alone or alongside lettering, such as District0x, below. Note how the colorful “d” icon could work by itself—it looks great in the circle Twitter logo format because of the asymmetrical shape—and doesn’t feel in the way when paired with the full brand name.

Jardan Furniture and Nobbys Lighthouse, below, opt for more simple icon logo styles with the brand name set in type below. While this is a popular option, it can create some disconnect between the name and logo. Opt for placements that connect the elements—both examples centered the logo and typeset company name—to create an eye path from one element to the next.


It’s fun to watch as trends start to shift from one dynamic to the next. Do you think more detailed styles will replace minimalism? Or is it just a passing fad?


p class=”p6″>What trends are you loving (or hating) right now? I’d love to see some of the websites that you are fascinated with. Drop me a link on Twitter; I’d love to hear from you.

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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Popular Design News of the Week: July 24, 2017 – July 30, 2017

Every week users submit a lot of interesting stuff on our sister site Webdesigner News, highlighting great content from around the web that can be of interest to web designers. 

The best way to keep track of all the great stories and news being posted is simply to check out the Webdesigner News site, however, in case you missed some here’s a quick and useful compilation of the most popular designer news that we curated from the past week.

Note that this is only a very small selection of the links that were posted, so don’t miss out and subscribe to our newsletter and follow the site daily for all the news.

Adobe Just Built the Prettiest UI Ever


Git for Designers is Here – Meet Abstract


Roboto Needed a Website


Inspirational Showcase of UI/UX Design Presentations


Life is About to Get a Whole Lot Harder for Websites Without HTTPS


My First Big Screw-Up: Lessons from 8 Top Designers


11+ Design Mistakes You Should Avoid at any Cost


Grabient: Grab a Gradient


Ghost 1.0 Released


Google has Dropped Google Instant Search


How to Steal Design Ideas (And not Feel like a Schmuck)


Famous Designers as Icons (with Icon Set)


Firefox’s Blazing Speed with Huge Numbers of Tabs Leaves Chrome in the Dust


Comprehensive Guide for Color Usage in Web Design


Are Notifications a Dark Pattern?


12 Signs that your WordPress Site is Hacked


Improving your Visual Design Skills: Thoughts for Beginners


Adobe Mistakenly Leaks Upcoming Photo Editing Software on Creative Cloud


Top 12 New Web Design Tools for July 2017


Mobile-first Indexing is Coming: What this Means for Web Design


Stress is the Enemy of Creativity


Adobe Brilliantly Reimagines the Color Picker as an Artist’s Watercolor Palette


Nailing the Whiteboard Design Challenge


How Shazam’s UX has Changed


Why Companies Rebrand


Want more? No problem! Keep track of top design news from around the web with Webdesigner News.

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