Creative Advertising in Print: A Brand-Building Double Play**

Mark Semmelmayer
Chief Idea Officer

Pen & Inc. Marketing Communications


Right off the bat (excuse the pun…), the headline references a powerful American brand. Baseball. We all know what a double play is. We can close our eyes and see the intricate ballet. We know a double play is a good thing. Hopefully, reading it helped pique your interest in reading further.


That’s the Power of a Brand
We’re all professional marketers. There’s no need to discuss at length what a brand is. To get on the same page,  let’s use this definition. A brand is a unique design, sign, symbol, words, or a combination of these, employed in creating an image that identifies a product and differentiates it from its competitors. Over time, this image becomes associated with a level of credibility, quality, and satisfaction in the consumer’s mind. Thus, brands help consumers make decisions in crowded marketplaces, by standing for defined benefits and values.

Building a strong brand is a careful, strategic process that requires creativity, and consistent communication over time. I just retired from Kimberly-Clark, owner of one of the world’s best-known brands, Kleenex®. My wife recently retired from the Coca-Cola Company, another megalithic brand. Both are almost a century old and represented the same things to your grandparents as they do to you.

That’s the Benefit of Building a Brand…
Kleenex® and Coke® have become a part of the language, even when referring to other, similar products. Moving the clock forward, the same can be said for Google, now synonymous with web searches. Ditto for Nike. They don’t even need to put their name on a product, just their “swoosh.”



So How Do You Build a Brand?
A notable brand success over the last 3 decades has to be Richard Branson’s Virgin mark. Virgin Records means edgier bands; Virgin Airlines, innovative aircraft; Virgin Mobile, innovative cellphones. Said Branson, “The key to improving sales is to make sure your business or product stands out in the marketplace. We have always tried to ensure that Virgin products are innovative. Make sure your advertising and your general marketing are direct and believable. They also need character. We always looked to surprise, entertain and sometimes shock people with our advertising.”


In Building a Brand, Print Matters
In this digital age, it’s important to utilize every means and medium at your disposal to spread your brand message, especially through the use of targeted vehicles most meaningful to your demographic. Building a strong, strategically crafted and executed Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) program is a keystone for success.

In most cases, especially in B-2-B, this should include print advertising. In his most recent book, Print Matters (I highly recommend it!), Bob Lauterborn, Knight Professor of Advertising at UNC Chapel Hill, and co-author Randy Hines, Professor of Communications at Susquehanna University, wrote, “Why print? Because it’s the purest form of advertising. It’s just you and the reader. Print is the acid test for advertising as well as advertising people.”

As posted in a previous blog, print is relatively easy to target. It’s, decidedly, a personal choice on the part of the reader. Publishers understand advertisers’ desires to communicate efficiently with those readers likeliest to become customers, and publish magazines aimed at specific audiences. Customers pay for subscriptions or request and renew qualified subscriptions because they choose to. They want that focused information those publications put in their hands.


Print can communicate more complex messages. Consumers are more engaged reading print than websites, which are often skimmed in as little as 15 seconds. A study showed that people read digital screen text 20%–30% slower than the printed page, and read less of it (Alshaali & Varshney, 2005). Recently, the Scientific American published a study that provides additional proof of the power of print versus digital delivery.

Here’s the link:

Most importantly, print moves the intent-to-purchase “needle.” The best measure of effectiveness for any ad campaign is increased intent to purchase. Magazines provide that. A 2012 study conducted for the Magazine Publishers of America (MPA), measured increase in purchase intent by media for a variety of products. Online showed a 13% increase, but magazines represented a 56% increase. In other words, print blew digital media away in driving positive shifts in intent to buy.


Finally, Tell your Brand Story … Compellingly!
Your marketing communications builds a strong brand by staying consistent and compelling:
⦁    Project a consistent look
⦁    Project a consistent tone
⦁    Project a consistent level of quality
⦁    Project a creative and innovative persona
Creativity also counts. In 2010, comScore ARS released research showing the importance of strong creative elements in driving effective campaigns. The findings show creative quality drives more than half the sales change for brands analyzed, four times higher than the impact of the media plan alone.
“We were able to quantify the quality of a campaign and show a correlation between Persuasion Scores and changes in brand sales. The quality of the creative is four times more important than the media plan in generating sales,” said Jeff Cox, executive vice president, comScore ARS. “In fact, creative is the single most important factor, accounting for over half the changes in a brand’s sales over time. Getting the creative right is absolutely essential. A sub-par creative strategy is virtually a guarantee that execution is destined to fail.”

Getting the Creative Right
There are a lot of bright minds in the world, but that doesn’t mean your new product manager, with an MBA and some advertising courses behind them, should write your ads. You need to craft and execute a creative strategy that facilitates delivering interruptive and meaningful messages to your customers. If you want to do it in-house, make an investment and develop a communications department of seasoned pros. Barring that, look for an ad agency who can show you a “book” of print creative that makes your eyes pop and your heart flutter. Their work will probably do the same to your customers.


**Source: First published on

Need more information?
Mark Semmelmayer
Chief Idea Officer
Pen & Inc. Marketing Communications
22843 Missy Drive
Marietta, GA 30062



MARK SEMMELMAYER is a former Chairman of the Business Marketing Association (BMA) and recently retired from corporate life after a 32 year stint with Kimberly-Clark Corporation in their Health Care business. He is the founder and Chief Idea Officer of Pen & Inc. Marketing Communications, a consultancy in Atlanta, GA.