Okay, your recent email or ad said what you wanted to say, and when you showed the layout around the office, everyone signed off on it. So, um, why aren’t buyers lined up at the door? Didn’t they see it? Well…yes and no.

Let’s approach this from another angle.

Have you ever ‘observed’ yourself looking through the mail? Looking through a magazine? Looking through a website?

What I mean is, objectively noting when your eye is drawn in by something; and noticing when you don’t notice anything at all.

Or, when something has landed in your squeaky-wheeled or virtual shopping cart, have you ever reflected on the mix of internal and external influences that got it there?

How I learned what I thought I knew.

Although I had spent years helping my clients in Atlanta with their marketing communications, doing the observation thing honestly wouldn’t have occurred to me either. But then I found myself preparing to teach a class in creative strategy at Atlanta’s Portfolio Center. I noticed budding copywriters and graphic designers practicing how to balance a client’s marketing needs with their own need for creative expression. The only needs being left out were those of the intended audience.

Hmm. How do I help them approach this from another angle?

So I started watching, really watching, how I consumed media, and watching what impact, if any, it had. Unexpectedly, it turned out to be the most enlightening exercise of my career and, surprise surprise, guess who ended up getting the education. In a field I already thought I knew.

How award-winning graphic design can still be an utter failure.

In most media, I noticed that my eye landed near the upper left on the page, and generally swept to lower right. I noticed that, say, a headline at upper right never even caught my eye. Wait, I thought. The client signed off on this layout — ‘looks fine to me’ — not realizing that she had just thrown away any chance of it even having a chance. She could read the headline; so what’s the problem? Surprise, surprise.

I noticed that I always read headlines, but rarely read the text — especially if it was placed far from the headline. But when there was a sub-head immediately after the headline, and paragraph content directly under that, I tended to read all three. Interesting. I noticed that text that began near the edge of the page always got ignored. But I noticed that when content began with a few words of oversize type, my eye was naturally drawn in. I noticed what kinds of things caught my eye. And I noticed my eye sliding off the page, friction-free, many, many, many times.

Apparently all I care about is myself.

It went farther than just visual considerations. If the organization showed that it truly understood and empathized with my dilemmas, I tended to trust them. But when content began with something like, “At (our company), we pride ourselves in our…” then my eyes glazed over, and I never saw anything else.

At the check-out counter, I reflected on what I had seen that made me feel safe for making a popular choice. Though other times, I found that I had responded to an appeal to buck the crowd and be different. I noticed what funny creatures we humans are, each a carefully rationalized package of incongruities.

I could go on and on, but your time would be better spent trying the observation exercise yourself. Standing outside ourselves and looking in does take some effort and practice, but you just may learn a thing or two about yourself. You’ll definitely learn about how to approach your own marketing from the eyes of someone who is not you.

And surprise, surprise, those buyers out there may just start noticing.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookShare on Google+Email this to someone