How to Stand Out in an Attention Economy

So many small businesses do a poor job of marketing their services. They either think they can’t afford truly innovative campaigns, or they go with the flow and do what everyone else does. Either way, you don’t get the attention you wanted.

Brand design consultants DAAKE were determined to stand out in what Principal/Creative Director Greg Daake calls an “attention economy” with its own branding: “The goal is to get someone’s attention,” Daake says, “You can’t play the same note on a flute as everyone else is playing and expect to get heard. Instead bring a cowbell to the concert.”

DAAKE was featured in Visual Marketing for its unique approach to getting the attention of potential customers. Rather than sending a traditional piece of direct mail, which Daake says people won’t remember, the company instead sent bright orange pillows with emoticons for “happy” and “sad.” Who wouldn’t notice getting a fun pillow in the mail?

Color as a Strategy

The pillows could have been blue. Or multicolored. But there was a strategy in choosing orange, says Daake: “We’ve found that we can own the color orange and we insist that it’s the one thing our pieces will scream to the viewer. At the very least, associations can be made between that color and us.”

And as to why the company chose pillows rather than pens or other traditional tschotchkes, the company wanted to signify comfort, and give recipients something they would actually keep. To create further engagement with the 100 contacts DAAKE sent the pillows to, the company followed up with a short video showing the pillow having its own adventures. Sure beats that coupon I got in the mail today!

Don’t Just Get Out of the Box–Burn the Box Entirely

Daake encourages small businesses to think creatively when it comes to branding. “…do the opposite of everyone else,” he says, “Do something that is completely strange or innovative – at the very least different. If other people are [doing] 8.5 x 11, do an odd size. If other people are sending postcards – send cupcakes.”

Daake says that overnight successes are the stuff of myths. He says rather than aiming to be a flash in the pan, you’d do better to commit to building a reputation and never compromising it.

“The best way is to relentless trudge through the ups and downs sticking to the path you believe in. That will attract the right kinds of customers/clients.”

Taking the “Junk” Out of Direct Mail

Despite technology taking marketing more online, direct mail is alive and well, just with an updated look.

Terry Holman, Founding Partner of ActuallyWeDo™ Design says that relevance, along with good design, is key in creating direct mail that gets people’s attention. His company worked with Trap Media to create a visually appealing voucher book, which was featured in Visual Marketing.


“Most of the junk that comes through our door rarely includes a ‘must have’ offer, the sort where you have butterflies and rush to the phone in excitement to place an order,” says Holman, “Far too often it would be more effort to use the offer than it’s worth. The voucher needs to be beneficial and really easy for people to use.”


Direct Mail Design 101

The first step in creating direct mail that people will read and act upon, says Holman, is knowing your audience. What interests them? What sort of offers will make them jump off the couch? Next, you need a strong call to action and clearly visible contact information.

When it comes to design, there are several ways to get the attention of your audience. Holman’s team strategically placed the words “£1200 Free” on the outside of the voucher, which made people want to open it. But it’s important not to mislead your audience: “Stay true to the offer you are providing even it takes a slightly different form than may be perceived. While this voucher leaflet did not physically give out £1200 it did offer £1200 in savings, which put £1200 back in the pocket of each user,” explains Holman.

Tracking Your Direct Mail

These days, technology gives us ample opportunity to see what offers are working best. Holman and Trap Media implemented reference codes on each of the coupons so that they could see which deals were redeemed the most, and which did the poorest. Barcodes and QR codes are also great ways to track how well direct mail does. Thanks to the tracking, Holman says the project produced a 2,000% ROI. Not bad for a day’s work.

Taking the time to carefully plan out your direct mail strategy, as well as including a tracking system, can help you reach new customers. Get creative visually, and have fun with it! You’ll end up with mailers that people talk about and use.