Improve Conversions with Ugly Marketing Tactics

Improve Conversions with Ugly Marketing TacticsMy former boss was president of his own company that he’d built it from scratch in the 70’s using direct mail and good, ol’fashioned hustle. Bill was an outstanding marketer and he loved ugly marketing tactics.

When it came time to design a landing page, emails or direct mail pieces, Bill would give me a wink and a grin. “Let’s use one color on this mailer,” he’d say. “How about the brown? Maybe that green? Burnt orange. Use that orange one.”
That brown was a worn shoe leather color. The green? Get a load of that sofa in this post. Yeah. Hideous. The orange? We had better looking shag carpeting in the 70’s than the burnt orange in the palette.
Our artistic director’s eyes would roll back in her head when Bill brought up his ugly marketing tactics. She’d included the awful brown, the horrible green, and the burnt orange in my brand’s palette just for these occasions, but she dreaded them.
Bill told me often it’s the ugly designs that work the best. I’m not making this up. His reasoning was that:
  • Consumers ignore slick, well-designed marketing. He said consumers believed pretty marketing was insincere. Plain, one-color or just plain hideous marketing can register as not only sincere, but smart. Smart, but unworldly people might send an ugly email or direct mail piece. A marketer wouldn’t. See? Ugly reads as earnest, not sales-y.
  • Ugly marketing designs and ugly colors catch consumers’ attention. It’s counter intuitive, but people find ugly things fascinating. Ugly designs catch the eye and pique our brains’ interest without effort.
  • Words sell more than design, Bill said. He was a fan of long-form marketing content to keep consumers engaged with the text and focused on the page. The longer visitors stayed on the page, Bill said, the more likely they were to purchase something.

As a compromise to my desire to have “pretty” marketing materials (his word, not mine), we’d do some A/B testing. Bill didn’t always win the A/B test with his ugly landing pages and mailers, but he won a lot. He won enough that I developed my own ugly marketing philosophy:

Ugly marketing tactics are useful, but too many ugly designs bore or turn off consumers. A/B test with ugly designs and celebrate the ugly successes, but don’t rely on ugly marketing for every campaign.

Photograph by Aljndr via iStock

What do you think? Have you tried ugly marketing tactics? Share your experiences and
examples! Have fun with this and feel free to comment on one another’s submissions (be nice). The best entry wins a free 500-word blog post (see rules below).

Contest Rules: Enter your original ugly marketing tactic in the comments for a chance to win a 500-word blog post! Iris Content will choose a winner of the ugliest marketing effort from the comments in one week. The contest ends at midnight CDT on June 11, 2016. The winner must be willing to be interviewed for a future blog post and provide an image of the ugly marketing effort. All examples must be your own. Iris Content, LLC, will request verification that the winning entry is original. If the winner cannot provide ownership verification or is unwilling to be interviewed, a new winner will be chosen and the first will not receive a prize. The process will continue until a winning entry can be authenticated and the winner is willing to be interviewed for online publication. Prize may not be exchanged for cash. All Iris Content decisions are final. 

Diane has nearly 20 years’ experience as a professional writer and editor. She has been an editorial director, technical writer, journalist and journalism instructor. She taught scholastic journalism and advised award-winning scholastic publications and national-award-winning students. Most recently, she was the editorial director for an education publication and multi-media professional development division with a Midwestern education publisher.

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