Most of the artists that I know spend a good deal of time planning their compositions. They think; they sketch; they outline. They would never, ever just throw something together hurriedly and call the finished piece “fine art.” After all, it’s their reputation that’s at stake. When it comes to online marketing, the same high level of standards applies.
Why appearances matter online
Despite everything we said about the design of your e-mailings, it is highly advisable that you still transmit a plain-text version with your pretty HTML version. While the plain-text version won’t have all the bells and whistles, at least offering two versions ensures that everyone can read it.
When you create marketing materials for the Web, you are making something that will be visible to many people. The appearance of your mailings can either make you look either like a pro or a hobbyist. Take the time to produce mailings that creates a good impression; your good name depends on it.
The other reason why appearance matters for your e-newsletters and other e-announcements and invitations, is because e-mail can be huge part of your branding strategy. Branding is all about building and maintaining a relationship with your target market. You bond with customers by keeping a consistent theme, identity and message. McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Ralph Lauren — all of these companies have succeeded in building brand recognition on an international scale. We are familiar with the golden arches; we recognize the red and white Coke label; we know a Polo shirt when we see one.
The art of successful branding
Successful branding is achieved by first creating an identity, and then establishing and maintaining brand awareness. Logos and other graphic designs, color components, font—all of these should work together to build your identity as an artist. So what’s your “calling card”?
If you aren’t sure what that message is, go back and read your artist statement. Think about the feeling — the idea, the aura — of you as an artist that you want to instill in your audience.
The second step in successful branding is to establish brand recognition. That can only happen when you reflect your brand in everything you do—from your business cards to your Web site design to your PR campaigns and any other channel through which you communicate to an audience. What’s the key to it all? Consistency.
Let’s talk about each of the components that will help you to achieve branding consistency in your e-marketing endeavors.
- Graphics: When you send an e-newsletter, an e-vite or other online mailing, include the same logo that you use on all your other marketing materials.
- Color: The color palette that you employ in your mailing should coordinate with the one you use on all of your communication materials — including your Web site, letterhead, business card, etc. Color can elicit such emotion so be sure that your color palette matches the tone that you want to resonate with your audience. Be judicious about your choice of colors; try limiting your color palette to just two or three.
- Font: Font is a powerful branding element. The average American kid knows the happy cursive Walt Disney script. That lowercase letter “M” on a little chocolate candy tells you that you’re eating M&Ms instead of some other brand. The script is one feature that distinguishes a can of Budweiser from a can of Coors. Hopefully, you have picked a font for your business identity materials that truly reflects your tone and personality. If not, get inspired by checking out www.myfonts.com, www.fonts.com and www.famousfonts.smackbomb.com, and notice just how effective font can be in building brand recognition.
- Words: Use the same keywords everywhere. Here are just a few words that deserve special treatment in your e-mailings: 1) Your name. Do you call yourself by your first and last name? Maybe just your first name? However you want to be known professionally, that’s how it should appear in your e-mail signature line and in the “from” line. Also incorporate your name in the subject line of your mailing. (Bonus: If recipients know the mailing is from you, your open rate will be higher.); 2) Products. If you create a special line or edition of art pieces, refer to them in your mailer using the same term or phase that you use on your Web site, press releases, CV, etc.
Burning your brand into layout
Your e-newsletters can include short articles, photos, images of your work, fillers such as quotes of the day or other inspirational tidbits, and of course links to your Web site and blog. How you arrange that content is a matter of taste. Certainly, you should strive to achieve a balance between text and images so that the overall appearance is professional and appealing.
Keep an eye out for models that grab your attention. Examine the e-newsletters than pile up in your inbox. What qualities do you like about each one? Print those newsletters out, jot down your comments and store them in a folder so that you can refer to your notes when you prepare the format for your mailing.
If you subscribe to an e-marketing service, you can save yourself some design time because these providers offer hundreds of templates. Browse through the newsletters, invitations, and announcement until you find one that most closely matches the design you want to achieve. You can still change the color scheme, layout, and font to suit your style.
Lastly, consider consulting with a graphic designer. I frequently hire graphic designers because they have specialized training with respect to graphics, color and font. That is invaluable to me as a communications consultant and to my clients, who want to achieve a strong business identity in all of their collateral materials. Working with a designer can actually be a cost-effective route for getting a quality branding tool because you can — and should — use the same template again and again.
Putting it all together
When it comes to branding, you have to take a structured, disciplined approach that ensures uniformity and consistency. When you manage your online branding efforts well and focus on communicating a message that says “this is me,” your audience will readily recognize you and respond.
The appearance of your newsletter and other e-mailings is just one of many elements that make up a successful e-marketing campaign. In the previous articles in this e-marketing series, we talked about the cost-effectiveness of using e-mail as a marketing tool (link to article), how building a mailing list (link to article) can increase your opportunities for success, and the steps for writing (link to article) a quality e-newsletter.
Next up we’ll discuss e-mail frequency. Just how often you should hit the “send” button? Stay tuned… AC
Contributing writer and communications consultant Ligaya Figueras specializes in business writing, marketing and media relations for visual and performance artists, writers, nonprofit organizations and specialty service providers. Follow Ligaya on Twitter at twitter.com/LigayaFigueras, or friend her on Facebook at facebook.com/ligaya.figueras.