Marketing materials can be flashy, funny, or beautiful. They have to catch the attention of their audience, and more importantly, keep it long enough to get the message across. But in the end, marketing materials are simply tools.

The most important step when designing a new marketing tool may be figuring out what job it must perform. It doesn’t matter how shiny and new the tool is if it can’t do the job.

When designing a new brochure for Pennyroyal Hospice, we realized the client’s most critical goal is educating people about the purpose of hospice. That goal stems from a common misconception about hospice – that they are contacted only in the final days of life. In reality, hospice services are available for up to the last six months.

With that goal in mind, the creative team went to work.

Step 1: Focus

Just as one tool won’t do every job, one brochure won’t do every job either… at least not effectively. That was one of the problems with the company’s old brochure. It tried to do everything – education, volunteer recruitment, and even fundraising. The result was an overload of information that didn’t do anything but overwhelm readers.

Recruiting volunteers and fundraising were not the goals of this brochure, so that information was not included. By limiting the information to focus on the goal, the brochure is an effective tool, one that is easy to understand.

Step 2: Research

We checked out the competition. By looking at brochures offered by local, regional and national competitors, we learned what works… and what doesn’t. Armed with that information, we were able to streamline the process and create a unique product addressing the client’s specific needs.

Extensive research also went into delivering a product worthy of design awards. By comparing the features of award-winning brochures in the hospice field as well as other markets, we upgraded the outdated design and, now with a focused message and much less need for all the text in the client’s previous version, we could actually use a great deal of negative space. Readers then wouldn’t feel so threatened with all the text in front of their eyes and the expected time to ingest it, not to mention, negative space allows the design to direct eyes much more effectively.

Step 3: Redirect

Because one tool can’t do every job, it’s important to redirect the reader to your toolbox – in this case, the client’s website. By referencing the website, readers know there is more information about a variety of relevant topics, including those things that don’t belong in this clearly-purposed brochure. The client’s website includes information to educate patients and families about hospice care, as well as plea for volunteers and charitable donations.

Because we also designed the website, it was easy to tie everything together, using design themes, color schemes, and photos in the brochure to send a unified message.

When it comes to marketing items like brochures, it’s hard not to think of them as the Swiss Army knife of marketing tools. Each fold could hold a brand new tool with a brand new function. But should it? In most cases, the answer is a resounding, “No.” It may look as if there’s plenty of space to squeeze in as much information as possible, but it’s better to narrow the scope and focus on a single goal.

After all, a Swiss Army knife is an impressive tool to pull out of your pocket, but it’s a lot to pack around if all you ever really need is a screwdriver.

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