Monday, December 24, 2007

This Post is Green (How Trends can Devalue Your Message)

Through a blog I frequent, I was pointed to a New York Times article announcement of the "color of the year". It wasn't the color that intrigued me, rather, it was one of the quotes in the article. Now, before I go down that road, I just have to say that I find it quite amusing that a committee of people sit around talking about which colors should or should not be "in". Thanks for doing the thinking for me I can follow your lead like a mindless robot until the color is so overused that I blend in with everyone else trying to communicate their message. While that may be a cynical perspective, the quote that caught my attention points to a similar problem - how trends can swing from helping your brand to hurting it.

In the article, a comment was made about the color green. Thinking about our culture, and the huge trend towards an "environmentally friendly" public image, you would think that the color green would be nominated instead of the shade of blue that won. After all, green is green, right?
For educated consumers, Mr. Pean said, the overuse of green in marketing is increasingly a turn-off.

Wait. Isn't being environmentally friendly a good thing? Last I checked, it still matters. However, now that everyone is saying that they care, it begins to mean less. While I'm glad that Ford is green, so is Chevy, Toyota and Honda. The "greenness" of a company no longer differentiates them from everyone else.

I think this is a very important lessen for the church to understand. Too often, the recommendation for the next series title starts with "Make it look like those [insert ad campaign name here] ads". The issue however, is that unless the appropriation of these campaigns are done at the very forefront of a trend, the marketing materials have the potential to actually turn the target audience off. Yikes! Now, it doesn't mean that these ideas can't work, it just means that conversations and research should be done before solidifying a campaign approach like this. Make sure the ideas aren't already over saturated in the audience you are trying to reach, or that the value of the campaign has been diluted.

If there isn't a differentiation between the message of the church, and the message of our culture, then something is terribly wrong. After all, the church isn't supposed to look like is supposed to look different. Our marketing should be no different.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

On the Shoulders of Normal People

I have been enjoying the benefits of community recently. Not "real life" community, rather, an online community. The folks over at Church Marketing Sucks graciously started a "lab" quite some time ago where church practitioners from various capacities (design, video, pastor, etc) come together to lament, critique, and brainstorm. Recently, I have gotten more involved and have tried to contribute to the needs of my fellow church designer. Today, as I was reading a post, I couldn't think of a solution, so I moved on a bit frustrated at my inability to help. I checked back a few hours later, and an idea was suggested that I really enjoyed. From that, I was able to suggest a specific application for that idea, as well a suggest new idea. I realized that it doesn't take an earth-shattering idea to come to great design solution. Instead, it simply takes a conversation. Not to say that the idea suggested was bad (because it was great), but it was the conversation that triggered a new idea to suggest.

Design can be one of the most selfless trades that I have seen. Our ideas are very rarely 100% ours. In fact, they are often 10-15% ours. We are simply the executers of vision, with a little sprinkle of us mixed in. As we continue to create, having resources like the CMS Lab, as well as co-workers and friends to have conversations about communications is vital. We don't always need to stand on the shoulders of giants to accomplish much in our trade. Often standing on the shoulders of normal people works just as well.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Why Font Matters

It seems that fonts either get too much attention, or not enough. While the study of typography can be a very dull science for some, there is much impact that can be made through a sound understanding of type. But for those of you who don't care too much about devoting your life to studying letters (other than Paul's), I'll give you the most important piece of typographic knowledge that is forgotten much too often. It won't seem too profound until your next encounter with bad typography, but I promise you it is significant.

Pick a font that is readable.

I know, I know... "duh". Shockingly though, there are WAY to many businesses and organizations that simply fail to choose a font that is readable. Last night on the freeway, I was driving by a BMW that had a web address on it. Part of the address was legible, and peaked my interest. I wanted to know what this site was so I could find more.

Let's stop there for a second. The fact that a part of a website demanded enough of my attention to cause me to speed up to try to read the website is HUGE for any business or organization.

Now, the sad part. After 20 seconds of glancing over trying to read the web address, I gave up. That means I won't go on the site, nor will I ever have the chance to buy any of the products there. A lost sale. All because I couldn't read the font. Those meetings figuring out what products to sell, how to choose an effective web address that would capture people, and developing strategies for getting the word out were all a waste...because of a poor font choice.

I know this may sound like an over dramatic post, but it isn't. If you are promoting your church, but people can't read what you are saying, you will fail in getting your message out. It would be the same as preaching a sermon in a language that no one understands.

A quick way to check the readability of a font. You ready? This will be an earth shattering bit of info...Ask someone else. If the answer doesn't seem clear by asking those around you, drive to a nearby store and ask someone out front if they can read what it says. Obviously this only applies to fonts that are beyond your normal Arial or Times type fonts. Typically cursives have the most problems. Also, don't ask if people like the font, ask if they can read it. That is a subtle difference that I have learned changes the answer completely.

So once you have a message that is worth sharing, make sure you communicate it in a way that others can understand. Obviously everyone won't respond, but those that are interested will...because they could read it.