By Carey Pradinuk*

*Author’s Disclaimer: First off, let me declare my undying love for great design. From consumer products and packaging to set design and poster art, I have a healthy admiration and respect for what great design can accomplish. As a writer, I hold strong to the belief that words matter – the what, where, why and how you’re saying something counts. And when writing and design come together? That’s where the sweet spot is. In my opinion, you only need one stop to find that perfect partnership.

Out there, it’s You vs. Everything.

If you want to get a message out that’s goes something like, “Hey! We exist!” you’re going to have a lot of competition. And most of it won’t even be from within your industry. Sure, algorithms, tech, tracking and targeting tactics (something that ad agencies excel at using BTW) are getting more sophisticated all the time, but out there is an ocean of static.

If you’re lucky enough to be breaking entirely new ground with a product, service or idea, you have an advantage. Even so, parity and communications overload are all around us. Differentiating yourself from your competitors, or being noticed if you’re new, is still incredibly difficult.

It’s estimated that we’re exposed to over 5,000 different messages a day.

How many can you recall?
How many made an impression?
How many elicited an action?
The numbers keep dwindling.

Of course, I’m easy. If the golden arches (more props to iconic design) have a new sandwich, well, I’m noticing. I’m trying it. I’m lovin’ it?

It’s almost a certainty that’s not where your brand is. Quite possibly you’re at the very beginning of what you think you need. So, I’ll stop you right there.

Start at the end.

When it comes to design vs. advertising, this is where our agency stands: Your organization is an idea. And ideas are what we do.

A business isn’t a logo or a package or a website. It has its own life and its own reason to exist. Capturing that idea is something we believe is key to, but far beyond, how you appear in a moment’s notice. We like to consider an ad or a campaign as an extension of our methodology, but one that we can refine before the overall design is complete. That way we know if it resonates, and more importantly, if it sells or convinces.

What many of our clients have come to learn from our approach is that understanding the idea of your brand, and how it’s going to communicate when it’s unleashed into the crowded wild, is invaluable.

You need an edge. Ad agencies help you sharpen it.

Agencies like ours try to consider the entirety of what your organization is and what it’s trying to say as part of any development process.

Like most professional firms, we use strategy and research to uncover what’s compelling about your story. We’re always looking for something that can engage someone to care about you, even briefly, while they’re being overstimulated by hundreds of other messages. 

Getting this deep into your story is the key to telling it. It hasn’t come down to pixels and impressions, yet. There’s feeling in it.

And guts, if you’ve got ‘em.

Most businesses take for granted how useful a good look under the hood can be. From finding out what your employees and customers believe about your business, to taking a deep dive into the company’s core values and benefits, it can all be used to inform every level of your organization’s communications.

It can help you choose colours and fonts, too. But more importantly, it will put the focus on who you’re talking to and the best place to do it. It will engage your employees, boost morale and productivity, and it will redefine the entire way you think about yourselves.

The ways you tell your story can be subtle or obvious, but it has to be real.

Be convincing. Tell the truth.

When I was a copywriting student in Toronto years ago, one of our midterms required us to write an ad for the telephone, as if it were just invented. We only had a few minutes to get it done and I wrote a real groaner of a headline: “This ad rings true.’’

Meta, but oh so cheesy.

What strikes me about that line now isn’t just how “punny” it is, but how valid a statement it is when it comes to any type of communications.

Imagine you manage to get noticed.
And you happen to be relevant.
The next test is, do they believe you?

You need to capture that acceptance in your audience, regardless of the tactics you’re using. You need to be successful at finding and communicating something true or real or compelling. And that starts with deeper understanding of the idea behind your brand.

Design alone just can’t get it done.