Three of the biggest design and marketing mistakes and what to do about it.

image of man speaking on phablet in an advertisement

Have you have ever had a product or service that you thought was going to be a big hit, and it wasn’t?

Perhaps you’ve had a million dollar idea but it didn’t make any money?

I had one just the other weekend. A Phablet handle. A handle that goes on the back of a phablet. You know…. a phablet. The smart phones that are so big that they’re almost a tablet. A handle would be the perfect way to get a grip on those big fly-swatter sized phones.

So, imagine this. I’ve registered the patent, had a million of them made in China, and now I need to sell them. What do I do? Simple. Get a logo designed. Put the logo at the top of my ad. Buy one ad in a glossy magazine (that’s all I can afford) and then I farm out all my design and marketing needs all over the place, to the cheapest vendors. Then I sit back and wait for the phablet to ring.



There are three big mistakes in my plan that are destined to make my million dollar idea fail.  I see these mistakes made all the time. They are three of the biggest mistakes* that budding entrepreneurs and businesses make in design and marketing.

 #1. Ten different suppliers for ten different design and marketing projects.

Outsourcing the design, marketing and production of sales and marketing tools to multiple vendors can be a recipe for disaster. It can ‘save money’ when all tendered out to the lowest price, but what does that really cost? Time management, quality control, multiple briefing and rebriefing sessions. On the flip side, there is definitely an argument for specialisation. You wouldn’t get a door manufacturer to manufacture the bathtub, but what if they could manage sourcing and supply. Likewise, you may not ask a print designer to procure your app, but you would certainly want the brand language to be consistent across both.

What kind of sales and marketing tools are we talking about, exactly:

  • Logo
  • Stationery
  • Brochure
  • Website
  • Advertisement
  • Signage
  • Vehicle wrap
  • email marketing
  • Packaging
  • App

When we line all these things up, there is a high probability that they won’t look like part of the same family, will they?

  • The colour doesn’t match
  • The messages are incongruent
  • The fonts are different
  • One of the designers might have ignored the brand style
  • Nobody spell checked everything
  • American spelling in your specialized Australian product

Nod your head if you know what I am talking about. Hang our heads in shame if we think it doesn’t matter, then go and read Steve Jobs’ autobiography.

In my experience, the best solution is to create a relationship with one supplier or agency that can create and manage all the sales and marketing tools that you need. Think of it as a program over a set amount of time, perhaps twelve months, and plan out everything that you might need. Like a project manager for a renovation – they make sure everything fits, matches, works, and is on time. They are ultimately accountable.

#2. Placing the logo at the top.

So often, as proud owners and child bearers of our baby brand, we think that the logo should proudly go at the top of our communications. Followed by a long spiel about who we are, what we do and how long we’ve been doing it.

Let me ask you a question: when you need a plumber or bookkeeper, do you google “ABC & Co.” or do you google “plumber” or “book keeper”?

If you don’t know the name, then you search for the service. The same applies to shopping for products and service offline, too.  The service and the offer is more important than the name of the service provider. Unless you already know the name of the company, via referral or previous experience. Otherwise, nobody cares what the logo looks like until they know what you do. Particularly if the name and logo are abstract. This is where the design of sales and marketing tools is critical. This is also where a good designer and marketer will push back and say “No, promote your product and service first, then say who you are once the prospect has qualified you as relevant”.

An offer and a call to action wouldn’t go a stray either, yet often with ads, flyers, brochures and collateral we are left thinking “now what!”

#3. Wasting money on advertising.

This one is a beauty. Have you ever placed an ad in a paper, magazine, trade journal, etc.? More than once… for the same product?

Often businesses will only take one ad placement because that’s all they can afford.

Did it work? Probably not.

Research states that it takes on average seven repetitions to get a message into our memory. This is why we repeat a person’s name to ourselves multiple times to remember it. Am I the only one that stops after meeting somebody at an event and repeats their name to myself over and over? What’s more, when a message does pop up in front of us, only one in three even get noticed, because we are only paying attention 30% of the time.

Think of a time when you were introduced to somebody and thinking about something, or someone, else at the same time. TV commercials suffer the same fate. We switch [our minds] off, walk out the room or flick channels and hence miss that ad. Top and tailing an ad at the start and end of an ad break increases the chances of being noticed, or even noticed twice. Have you noticed that commercial breaks are louder than TV shows now?

So, it would appear that we need to repeat ourselves 21 times in order to sink in, according to Guerilla Marketing legend Jay Levinson. This is why we see print ads repeated in the same paper just a few pages apart, and why TV commercials are top and tailed, as mentioned above. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. Frequency. Frequency. Frequency.

Therefore, one ad, once, in a magazine, or web banner rarely works, unless the add stands out like the proverbial and the offer is so good that it “gets the cripples out of bed”. And that isn’t a sustainable strategy.

The good news is that the solution doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. It starts with a strategy and brand manual to keep everything consistent.

* These are not THE three biggest mistakes. Failing to write a business plan or a marketing plan, or to conduct market research or write a creative brief would be up there, too. Oh, and thinking that we know it all is also a big mistake in business. Feel free to add to the list, perhaps from experience.

Dan Kuss

About Dan Kuss

Twenty years in the design industry can do one of two things – drive your love affair with all things design, or drive you nuts. We’re pretty sure Dan hasn’t gone nuts. What does drive him nuts is agency-centric solutions.

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