How to Use Graphic Design in Your Package to Put Your Prospect in the Mood to Buy,

Great copy succeeds at the margin. You can't hope to convert someone who has absolutely no interest in your product. And it's not a great feat to make the sale to people who already have a great desire for it. But the difference between a blockbuster package and a mediocre one is persuading the people who are at the margin. That means, to have a successful control, you have to get the people who are predisposed towards your product but need an extra push.

If your copy is good, this extra push will come from the design of your package.

The design of your package should create the right "emotional context" – the visual selling environment – for the sale. It should put your prospect in the right mood to make the sale by reflecting your Unique Selling Proposition and who your prospect is. In other words, the way your package looks should correspond to what you are selling and who you are selling it to.

To determine the best emotional context to use in order to reach your prospect, it's useful to think in terms of opposites. And the way to do this is to ask yourself the following seven questions about your product:

  1. Affordable or expensive?

    Here's a true story from Michael Masterson that demonstrates the importance of answering this question:

    "Many, many years ago, I walked into this travel agency, feeling that I couldn't afford anything. Then my eye spied a cheap-looking flier that was selling a Canary Island vacation for $289, everything included. I asked about it and found that it was legit, so my fiancþe and I booked it and went. It turned out to be a great vacation.

    "I found out many moons later that my at-the-time boss had promoted that trip. He told me that he had spent six months unsuccessfully trying to promote that package with 4-color glossy brochures. One day, he realized that he was sending the wrong signal and switched to a cheap offset format on garishly yellow stock. The message sent by this was, 'I'm cheap! Look here!' And guess what? Business boomed.

    "He was right to make that change. There were dozens of brochures on that rack when I walked into the travel agency that day, but only one that I looked at. Had I not been drawn to the tacky look of the advertising, I probably would have turned around and walked out without asking a question – that's how sure I was that I couldn't afford any of those packaged trips.

    "When people want to buy cheap, they look for cheap-looking marketing packages. When they want to buy quality, they look for quality. You've got to focus on and accentuate whatever your market values."

  2. Friendly or exclusive?

    If you are using the velvet cord selling technique, your design should look elite and exclusive. If you are using a friendly and down-home approach, you'll want a very simple, unobtrusive layout.

  3. Informal or formal?

    The level of formality in your design is usually determined by the price of the product – but not always. Sometimes, if you are selling a cheaper product to an older audience, it's better to have a formal look.

  4. Conservative or contemporary?

    Whether to choose a conservative or a contemporary look for your package usually depends on the age of your prospect. An older audience will be wary of hip designs. Likewise, a younger audience does not respond well to anything too drab.

  5. Casual or professional?

    Again, whether or not to use a casual or professional design hinges on your prospect. You must know whether your prospect will receive your package at home or at work.

  6. Entrepreneurial or corporate?

    Do your prospects see themselves as independent trailblazers? Or, are they more concerned with job security and edging their way up the corporate ladder?

  7. Innovative or established?

    How do you want to present yourself to your prospect? Does your credibility focus on new hot ideas or established tried-and-true formulas?

These seven questions were originally included in my book, "The One-Page Newsletter." And though that book was written to teach designers how to come up with the right image for their company newsletters, you'll find that this particular tool is very useful for copywriters as well.

[Roger C. Parker is the Executive Advisor of AWAI's newest program, "Graphic Design Success" Click here for more info:

He is the author of 30 books – including the best-selling "Looking Good in Print" – that emphasize the marketing aspects of personal computing, including desktop publishing, presentations, and website creation and design. Over 1.6 million copies of his books are in print in over 37 languages. Roger has written over 150 published articles in many well-known publications. He has done sales and marketing training and product development for clients such as Adobe, Agfa, Apple, Bose, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, and Volvo. And he has developed and conducted over 175 desktop publishing and design seminars throughout the United States and Australia.]

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Published: May 28, 2002

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