Pitfalls and hazards of do-it-yourself marketing materials

written by Tim Berry of Palo Alto Software

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Have you ever noticed how many articles there are on creating your own marketing materials? These articles concentrate on things you “should do,” like “know your audience,” “say it with pictures,” “write clearly.” Now, I’m not saying that’s bad. That’s great. But you should also know what NOT to do. That’s what this article is about. Specifically, it’s about what most do-it-yourselfers are TEMPTED to do but shouldn’t.

  • Don’t enlarge your logo so it’s the main focus of the page. Yes, your logo features the name of your company. But it is not the main point. People are interested in what you’re selling, not who you are. In fact, the smaller your logo, the more established your company will appear. (If you don’t believe me, check out ads by pros like Nike and/or Hewlett-Packard.)
  • Don’t place your logo in the text of your piece. Of course it’s fine to use the name of your company in text, but inserting your actual logo into a headline or body copy is design suicide.
  • Don’t use every font at your disposal. Choose one or two fonts for all your materials, to build brand equity. Your font choices should be consistent with your image and industry (conservative industry = conservative font).
  • Don’t use color indiscriminately. More color doesn’t necessarily make something more appealing. Often it just makes it loud and off-putting. When someone screams at you, do you want to listen or run away? Most (if not all) of your text should be the same color, preferably black for readability. For a unique look, try duotone photographs or print in only two colors.
  • Don’t be redundant. Don’t repeat the name of your industry or product in your company name and tagline and headline. I once had a client request that the descriptor “Pharmaceutical” appear in his logo, his tagline, and in the headline of his marketing brochure. Totally unnecessary and even harmful. Potential customers know your industry. Restating it implies you don’t.
  • Don’t choose low-quality or low-resolution photography. A photo may look great in an album, but unless it features balanced lighting and good composition, it’s not print-worthy. Photos need to be at least 300 dpi. Yes, people can tell the difference.
  • Don’t fill up every inch of white space on the page. White space, or “negative space,” brings focus to what’s important and gives the eye a rest. You may have a lot to say, but cramming it all in creates chaos and minimizes impact. Your piece will end up visually overwhelming. Think less, not more.
  • Don’t focus on the details of your product or service instead of how it benefits your audience. Unless your product is extremely technical, make your offering relevant to your audience by emphasizing its benefits, not its features. Otherwise it’s like going to a party and talking about yourself all night. It’s not exactly a way to win friends, nor gain customers.
  • Don’t do exactly what your competitors are doing. When you’re positioning your product, it’s good to know your competition — but don’t copy them. Find out what your customers want and are attracted to. Stand out without sticking out.
  • Don’t change design styles with every piece. Strive for a consistent look and feel, keeping the same fonts and logo placement. If you use photos in one ad, don’t use illustrations in another. If you place your logo in the middle of one brochure, don’t place it at the top-right corner in another. You get the gist.

Finally, DO be Clear, Clean, Compelling and Consistent. You’ll end up looking — and selling — like a pro.

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Tim Berry

about the author

Tim Berry

Founder and President of Palo Alto Software and a renowned planning expert. He is listed in the index of "Fire in the Valley", by Swaine and Freiberger, the history of the personal computer industry. Tim contributes regularly to the bplans blog, the as well as his own blog, Planning, Startups, Stories. His full biography is available at Follow Tim onGoogle +


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