Marketing writer Seth Godin recently wrote: “Too often, we look at the new thing and demand to know how it supports the old thing. Perhaps, though, the question is, how does the new thing allow us to think skinnier.” That’s true, but before we go that far, it makes sense to think harder about the implications of “the new thing” in the first place. Take, for example, the activities where you’re being led by customers to change your way of working. Perhaps, for convenience and customer demand, you’re finding that the majority of brochures and data sheets are being distributed by email nowadays, or you’re telling customers to download them from your website. That’s great, we save time, save costs and possibly save trees. But have you thought through what this means?
In many cases, customers still require a hard copy, but now they’re printing them out themselves. Does the design of your marketing material lend itself to this? Are there huge areas of flat colour? If the customer has an inkjet printer, this will make it expensive to print out and the customer will end up with a sad-looking, crinkled sheet of paper. What about if the customer has a black-and-white laser printer? Are there large or important elements of your data sheet (including tables) which are low-contrast, and will therefore be hard to read? Fine text reversed out of blocks of colour looks great from half a million pounds-worth of litho printer, but rubbish from a £100 desktop machine.
Have you ever printed out your own marketing material, from PDF versions, on different types of printer, just to see? If you ever see a house style for literature which is quite plain, don’t always dismiss it as a lack of flair. It may be that the company has seen its own material as reproduced by customers, and adjusted accordingly.