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Marketing Momentum: Make Your Content Easy to Scan and Understand

By Katrina Olson

We’ve been exploring ways to get your target audiences to pay attention to your marketing content. You may recall points two and three from Marketing Momentum of April 13:

2. Make it easy to scan.
Use headlines, numbered lists, bullet points, subheads, spaces between lines—they help readers pick out what’s important.

3. Focus on one message per communication.
Don’t put too much information in one email, Facebook post, ad or video. Readers will get bored and just stop. Send targeted messages to targeted groups.

At first glance, these two concepts seem at odds with each other. But when you combine them, you create a powerful marketing message. And it’s easier than you think. Check out this TV commercial for the new Apple Watch.

The commercial highlights the watch’s clock, maps, internet, fitness tracking, charge cards, calendar, music, apps. alarms, texting and more. Anyone familiar with the iPhone (probably their target audience) will recognize the icons.

It’s “easy to scan” because it shows the watch’s capabilities and style choices instead of talking about them.

And even though the commercial features multiple images and glamour shots of the watch, the single, focused message is, “This watch looks sleek and contemporary, like your iPhone, and can do almost everything your iPhone can do.”


How do you know what your single, focused message should be?

First, determine what your audience most wants to know. Start by asking yourself (or your customers) these questions:

  • What does your company or product offer that’s unique, important and beneficial?
  • What will convince them to choose you over the competition?
  • How does your company, product or service help them work better, smarter, faster or cheaper?
  • What problem can you solve for them?

Home in on that unique selling proposition (USP) and use it to develop your key message. When planning your marketing strategy, sum up your key message in one sentence. Then build your plan and execution based on that key message.

Next, choose tactics—website, brochure, video, news release, feature story or social media campaign—that can best illustrate and communicate that single message. As you’re executing that plan and message, be consistent in your use of color, font, imagery (photos or illustration), layout and design, and even the wording (or “copy”).

By consistently communicating your message, you’re benefitting from the synergy of all pieces working together with a common look, feel, theme and message.


How do you make content that is “scannable”?

You’ll want to support your key message with subpoints or additional features and benefits. What proof can you give to back up our claim? How can you expand on or further explain your key message in a way that’s quick and easy to read? In print and online, we often use:

  • bullets (like this)
  • subheads (like the one preceding this section)
  • lines/spaces (like the space between these bullets)
  • other visual cues such as bolding, highlighting and italics (sparingly, so as not to become annoying)

By making your print ads, web content, blogs or direct mail pieces easy to scan, your audience gets the main points, even if they don’t read the entire message or even pay full attention.

NEXT WEEK: In next week’s Marketing Momentum, we’ll discuss how to be funny, engaging and relevant.

Olson is a veteran marketing and public relations consultant. She has written for tED magazine’s print edition since 2005, judged tED magazine’s Best of the Best Competition since 2006, and emceed the Best of the Best Awards ceremony for a total of seven years. Reach her at katrina@olsonmarketing.net.

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