Tag Archives | marketing

A picture tells 1,000 words

Do a Google image search for ‘Stomp poster’. You’ll see black-and-white photos of young dancers leaping in the air with dustbin lids in their hands. Look closely, and think about what those young people were feeling during that photo-shoot. They are full of energy, from the tips of their fingers to the tips of their toes. You can see the sparkle in their eyes, the tension in their muscles, and the wild movement of their hair. The Stomp logo is emblazoned in red across the image. In many cases, there’s no other text.

I saw some of those posters the other day — there was a series of them running up the side of the escalator at London Bridge station.

I’m a copywriter, so why was I so excited about a poster with hardly any words on it?

First, because my main hobby is dancing.

Second, because I’ve seen the show — twice — and know how well the poster sums up the performance.

And third, because I was looking for a theme for this last issue of my Write Right newsletter. I decided that, having written about writing for two years, this month I’d focus on communication without (many) words.

When I run training courses, one of the examples I use is an A5 doordrop card with a picture of a sleeping puppy on the front. When I show delegates, the reaction is usually “Awww, sweeet!”

I once heard that research shows we humans are programmed to respond like that to pictures of puppies, kittens and babies.

Top tip: Eye contact is powerful too.

The caption under the photo reads: “Fido found his insomnia was completely cured, after his owner had searched high and low, and found the right mortgage.”

Apart from being too long, that heading is a weak and feeble attempt to connect the puppy to the product.

Turning over the card, the main heading is: “Find the right mortgage designed for you!”

To go with that message, it would be better to have a picture of an artist’s palette, or a tailor measuring up a suit, or an architect with a blueprint. Even a kitten sitting on a drawing board would be a better match!

The rest of the copy is about mortgages. Nothing about dogs, insomnia, nor Fido’s owner.

A special offer is buried in there somewhere — a free review worth £295 to the first 10 bookings. That would be better pulled out in a starburst, circle or box, so it can be seen at a glance.

The only good thing about the card is that the call-to-action phone number is big, bold and easily visible. It’s hard to even find the name of the company, and there’s no logo.

If you’d like to see the real thing, please email jackie@jackiebarrie.com with ‘Show me the puppy’ as the subject line, and I’ll send you a scan.

Professional photographers know how to take a photo that sums up your message in visual form. Photographers and copywriters often collaborate to create words and pictures that enhance each other. I know plenty of great photographers that will make your marketing communications work better. Just contact me and I’ll connect you.

I originally wrote this article for Fresh Business Thinking


What’s in the bin?


Exhibit A

Look in the bin, and you’ll see a carrier bag full of bumpf. Just after I’d photographed it for this post, someone else put their bag of bumpf in the bin too.


To start at the very beginning, let’s talk about what happens at an exhibition…

You are given a bag of bumpf at the registration desk. If you look at any of it, it’s the exhibition guide so you can see if anyone you know will be there, and to find your way round the stands.

As you walk around, you give each stand a maximum of three seconds to grab your attention. You are trying to avoid making eye contact in case the exhibitor talks to you. Most stands will offer free sweets, so you might grab a few of those and eat them on the spot or put them into your bag for later. Some stands will offer other free goodies, such as branded mugs, mouse-mats or pens. You might collect those too (note that you will never contact, remember or buy from those brands). Many stands will have a free Champagne draw in return for your business card, so you pop your card in the bucket just in case (note that the bottle won’t have the company name on, so even if you win, you won’t remember who they were). If you do get trapped talking to someone on a display stand, chances are they will give you more bumpf for your collection.

If you bother to take the bag home, you will probably give the freebies and any leftover sweets to your kids, and put the bumpf straight into the recycling bin (note that you will never read it; you might not even flick through it).

Continue Reading →


Can you see the lion?


I walked past this shop when I was in Brighton the other day, and was struck by the simplicity of their logo. With just a few black-and-white squiggles, you ‘see’ the proud face of the King of the Beasts.

When I draw a mouse, I just include a pointy nose, two little round ears, one S-shape to show the curve of its back, and another S-shape to show its long tail. Everyone knows what it is, even though my drawing doesn’t have a face, whiskers, belly, legs or feet.

Look at the smiley face in my logo. It doesn’t have eyes (I didn’t include them because I was worried it would look too druggy). It doesn’t have a nose. But it still looks like a face. The only important element is the smile – I wanted it to represent positivity and happiness, and suggest a pleasant working experience and successful results.

Similarly, if you look at the four dots below, chances are you will see a square.

.        .

.        .

This effect is explained by Gestalt theory: ‘The whole is other than the sum of the parts’. There are some interesting examples on Wikipedia.

But why am I telling you this?

  1. Because my fascination with (and training in) psychology informs all the copy and design recommendations I make for clients.
  2. Because it’s the reason why I always make things as simple as possible (I call it Writing Without Waffle).
  3. Because you can use this idea to benefit your own logo designs and marketing content. You only have to provide a minimal amount of information as your reader’s brain will fill in the gaps.

Top tip: Keep it simple.


World’s best logos

Here are my top 15 logos of all time (in no particular order). Please let me know what you think, and add your own favourites in the comments.

1. At first glance, this logo might look nothing special. But, if you look at the white space between the E and the X you’ll see an arrow pointing left to right (the direction we read in the English language). Once you’ve seen the arrow, you can’t un-see it. Even if your conscious mind doesn’t register it, your unconscious mind does. This is not just a designer indulgence. It’s a clever fit with the brand (in case you weren’t aware, Federal Express is a worldwide courier service).


2. The Amazon arrow is a smile that goes from A to Z.


3. The white space between the red and blue makes a C for Carrefour, the French hypermarket.


4. The double T in the logo for this Parisian department store looks like the Eiffel Tower.

Galeries Lafayette

5. The words NEW and MAN are a mirror image of each other.

New Man

6. The H makes a little house, perfect for the housing and homelessness charity.



7. Another logo using the technique of ‘negative space’, the letters E and D make a plug.


ED plug

8. A Reader’s Digest publication about families with parents and child represented by the lower case letters I, L and I.


9. I think this is my favourite! It still works for me, even if films are all digital these days.

Horror films

10. Sadly, I don’t know who to credit for this or the other clever logos. But I do think they deserve a prize!


11. This logo is for the Rehabilitation Hospital Corporation of America, and says it all.

Rehab Hosp Corp

12. The Toblerone icon is a dancing bear. Can you see it in the snow on the mountain?


13. Typeface = a face made of type, of course.


14. Bottles of wine and binoculars at the same time.

Wine searcher

15. The space between the girl’s back and leg makes a map of Australia.

Yoga Australia

I hope these examples convince you why it’s worth paying a professional to design your logo for you! Contact me and I’ll connect you with tried and trusted graphic designers in my network.


World’s worst logos

If someone can misread something, someone will. And then they will ridicule you all over the Internet.

Back in 2008, a new logo costing £14,000 was designed for the Office of Government Commerce (OGC)…

OGC before

The redesign didn’t last long (neither did the department as it seems their website has since closed down.) Look what happens when the logo is turned sideways…

OGC after

Read the story in the Telegraph.

In case you think that’s a one-off, here are some more logos that fail the ‘dirty mind’ test. Oops.

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Top tip: Software designers do user acceptance testing before launch, getting people to try to break it. So, before you sign off any new design or copy, make sure it can’t be misinterpreted. Please!