Using Hierarchy To Elevate Your Marketing

Whether you’re a seasoned destination marketing professional or new to destination marketing, your job is to ensure your marketing message is on target, visible and produces results. A wide set of skills are needed to help you effectively meet your marketing goals whether you’re tasked with creating campaigns in-house or overseeing a partner. But you don’t have to be a designer to help produce marketing that works. Let an understanding of design principles be your guide.

Alignment, Contrast, Repetition, Balance, Proximity, Color, and Hierarchy are the basic principles of design as taught to graphic designers and artists. Adobe Spark, a free online and mobile graphic design app, created a simple to understand list with examples that make these principles easy to comprehend.

My 30 some-odd years of design experience has taught me that hierarchy is the most important principle utilized to create effective visual marketing — and Adobe seems to agree. In their Spark blog on design principles, Amy Copperman states, “Utilizing this principle in your design starts with your message first and the goals of your design. Figure out what the most important piece of info is first.” Establishing hierarchy makes your most important message clear. All the other principles can be used to help create good design that leads the reader through each message in order of its significance.

Communicating your most important message or unique selling proposition can prove to be a challenge, especially for DMOs. The temptation is to paint a picture of your community as a place with something for everyone; or trying to tailor your marketing message to please your stakeholders and board. Having research and a Marketing Action Plan goes a long way toward understanding who your sought-after potential visitors are. When you understand what your targeted audience needs to feel or believe about your destination in order to visit, then you are on the path to creating marketing that is persuasive.

Elevating the message that conveys the promise your destination delivers can be communicated in words or pictures, but will have the most impact when those two elements work together. Understanding what appeals to your target audience can help you whittle down to the core message. For example: beautiful serene photography with a small headline can evoke a sense of a relaxing getaway. And if that is your brand promise, you lifted it to dominance with arresting imagery and written content that appeals to your target audience.

Contrary to popular opinion, making elements bigger in a design does not ensure appropriate hierarchy. Potential visitors who see your marketing will not be persuaded to plan a trip based on seeing your logo first. The same fact applies to web addresses and phone numbers.

Here are a few simple things that can help you evaluate the visual and contextual hierarchy of your marketing message:

  1. Place your ad into context. At a glance, will the reader understand your single most important message and how to act on their interest in your destination?
  2. Remember who your reader is demographically. There are other ads in the space where your ad runs. Compare. Does your message stand out?
  3. Walk away from design work you are doing or reviewing. Read your marketing plan, then come back and review your work. Ask a coworker, with fresh eyes, to give you feedback.
  4. Eliminate unneeded elements. Practice reductive design. Hold onto only the elements that support your message.

All good design is purposeful. Attention spans have become increasingly shorter. Make that important first impression count. Know what moves your potential visitor, and put it front and center using the design principle of Hierarchy.

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