Way back, when I was a graphic design student, I had an instructor who used a phrase that every student dreaded. It was said in English with a heavy German accept:
“There is no excuse for ugly.”
It wasn’t particularly helpful with regards to specifics, but it made his feelings apparent, as were one’s chances of a distinction.
His idea of ugly was different to most people’s. Given the difficulty of getting onto his course, most of us were unlikely to produce something repellent. What he wanted was exciting, innovative and imaginative, the very antithesis to ugly. To our Bauhaus graduate, ugly was a synonym of bland.
It will come as no surprise to anyone who has looked critically at email marketing campaign design that bland is hardly unusual and some might suggest it is the norm. This might seem on the face of it a bad thing but remember, these are other companies’ productions. If they lack proper prepartion then the competition is reduced.
Part of the problem is the high quality of the email marketing templates produced by the likes of Wizemail. It is so tempting to just drop in your text and images and lo! a professional result emerges. To stand out though you need to go just that one step further.
The attractive, eye-catching email will vary from company to company, from segmented email marketing list to another. In other words it will be personalised: a particular product directed at a particular group of people.
Bland means, more or less, the same as every other one. So how can you make yours stand out from the crowd, to be memorable, and stop being ugly?
First things first: change your style every now and again. You don’t have to have an annual update. Why not try a design change that is event triggered? If you run a holiday company and your campaign is for a few days in Prague, consider using the Czech flag as a basis for the design. Not only the colours, but the shapes as well.
Pick something specific for the product or service you are providing. Selling bicycles? Then a banner similar, but obviously not identical, to the banner at the end of a stage in the Tour de France can attract the knowledgeable.
Better still, something specific to the people on the segmented email marketing list you are using. Selling holidays to an active group? Then a tennis net as a banner, or the colours of a tennis ball can make you stand out from the crowd.
Testing of modifications is an essential, but it must spring from inspiration. As most people look at images first of all, try modifying them. It seems strange that they all look basically the same. Why not try something other than a 4:3 rectangle in landscape mode. You wouldn’t pay for clichéd phrases, so why opt for the same old thing with images? An octagon worked for MG.
Be that bit different. Be inspired. Use your imagination. Avoid bland as much as you would anything else that could cost you sales and profit.