Back in 2012 before starting at the Sears HQ in the Chicago area, I was given an opportunity to learn about Sears stores. I spent a few months in a couple of locations around Minneapolis observing customers and employees, helping the team in the back, ringing customers during rush hours, etc. It was absolutely awesome and a lot of fun.
When I was in the first store, I spent a good amount of time in the shoes department helping customers, doing some creative merchandising, etc. Every time I looked at the wall space above the fixtures, I got depressed. The space was either plain empty or with some abstract graphics that didn’t make any sense whatsoever. It was a huge waste of rather valuable real estate and an opportunity to communicate with customers.
One of those days I stood there and visualized a huge DieHard banner that would hit shoppers right in the face the minute they walk into the department. I spent a few minutes thinking of what it would look like and how I would go about designing it. Once I had a ballpark visual in my head of what it would approximately look like, I grabbed my iPhone 4 and took a close up shot of one of the DieHard boots. I also took a picture of the wall that the banner would go on. That night I put together the banner in Photoshop and then I designed it into the wall photo as if it was there.
Next day I showed it to respective people in the store and the corporate office, made my business case, and after a few days it was approved for printing and mounting (which basically came down to me running to the closest OfficeMax and printing it on two boards for around $150).
This banner was mounted in our store as a pilot test and 4-5 weeks later I got a call from a corporate analytics guy that DieHard sales in this location went up over 130% (year over year) while the company on average remained flat (-0.5%) for the same period. Long story short, after a few weeks they approved that same banner for around 10 more other stores in Minnesota. Results were not as crazy but similar.
Here’s how I thought about making this image:
1) It had to be large to make a visual impact
2) It had to be simple so it wouldn’t visually overwhelm the viewers
3) I made it black and white to remove any potential color bias (i.e. some people may not like brown shoes or light soles)
4) I chose not to write any cheesy marketing phrases. I reduced all verbal content to one phrase “America’s Top Heavy Duty Boots” (which the DieHard brand would surely qualify for on some level)
That’s it. The numbers spoke for themselves and the shoe departments in all these stores looked a lot more attractive with this impactful image.
Now, if you think of any marketing visual material out there – whether it’s a billboard, a Facebook ad image, a print flyer, or anything else – it’s a product. This product has to be designed and it has to be done with information architecture and user experience in mind. It has to visually convince us to buy into its message. It has to be simple, it has to be authentic, it has to be free of any content that can trigger certain biases, and it has to simply make the viewer feel good about buying into the message of that visual.
The marketing industry today has a problem. They don’t understand that their marketing materials are products that have to be designed by or at least with the help from people with user experience and information architecture background. Their standard catchy content that tricks viewers into buying into the promoted message can only go so far and is never really sustainable long term. Clean and elegant design with strong and simple statements can be a lot more effective and last a lot longer, especially at the brand positioning level.
There are so many examples anywhere you go – most marketing people simply fail to look at their own work from the viewer standpoint and therefore they fail to design it the way it needs to be designed. User experience and information architecture are not just about apps and websites that we use – it’s about anything we touch and see.
Published on 1/25/2019