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Marketing Tips for Dentists
Published by Galen Stilson
Direct Response Copywriter/Consultant
Dental Marketing a specialty

Design Elements That Can Help Improve
The Response To Your Printed Advertising
Part 1

A few years ago I was hired to help a client launch a new health promotion newsletter.

It was designed to be sold to businesses (and then distributed to their employees). It is a highly competitive field with the primary health promotion benefits being well known and accepted by corporate decision-makers. Those benefits include less absenteeism, higher productivity, and reduced health care costs.

My problem in launching this newsletter was how to make it uniquely and beneficially different from the competition.

To make a long story short, I came up with the idea of promising businesses that their employees would be able to read and comprehend everything in the newsletter within 10 minutes or less. The benefits of that promise are obvious ... employees would not waste lots of time on the job reading the newsletter (which would reduce productivity), and, because they would be able to immediately comprehend the info, they would be more likely to use it (thus improving their health).

The next problem was, how to design the newsletter to match such a benefit promise?

Surprisingly I found lots of research on the subject. The result ... we WERE able to design this new newsletter so that virtually everyone could read and comprehend it within ten minutes (as tested in focus groups). Then, to give this difference-making benefit an even higher value perception, I developed a descriptive name for it (which has since been trademarked by my client).

I called it the ...

Quick Read ... Fast-Comprehension Design™

Interestingly, those same design elements are just as applicable and IMPORTANT to advertisements as they are to publications. Your ad MUST look easy to read ... it MUST be easy to read ... and it MUST be immediately comprehendible and understandable ... if you expect it to succeed.

What are these design elements? 

Here are a few that you can immediately apply to your advertisements or newsletters. I'll have more for you in future issues.


There are two reasons why you should always use serif type instead of sans serif in all body copy. 1--It's easier to read. 2--It makes the material easier to comprehend. Research shows that it can boost reading speed by 7 to 10 words per minute ... plus ... it boosted comprehension by over 300% in one study. (In one test comprehension went from 12% for a Helvetica sans serif type to 67% for a Roman serif type).  


Using quotes in headlines, subheads, text and/or call-outs can increase reader recall by up to 28%. The highest recall in headlines comes from using a quote along with the name of the person who said it.


All cap headlines cut reading speed by up to 13% and comprehension by about 30%. So, don't use all cap headlines ... unless it's an extremely short headline.


Serif type upper/lower case headlines produce the highest comprehension at 92%. But for headlines (unlike body copy), sans serif upper/lower case is right there at the 90% comprehension level.  Virtually the same. So, it's okay to use a sans serif headline ... but if you do, be sure to switch back to serif for the body copy. The worst headline type style is a cursive in all caps. It comes in at just a 26% comprehension level.


Long runs of copy printed in reverse (white copy on black background, for example) cuts reading speed by nearly 15% and comprehension by at least half. If you do use reverses as an attention-grabbing device (and they do work), keep the copy short ... and large enough to easily read.


Using a variation of sentence lengths makes reading easier. When averaged out, an 8-word average sentence length produces the highest readership (92%). The longer the average sentence length, the lower the readership. Of course, the education level of your audience has a major bearing on the average number of words with which your reader will be comfortable.


The line length for easiest reading is between 20 and 60 characters ... with 42 being about the optimum. A good rule of thumb is to avoid line lengths longer than two alphabets of the type size and type style you intend to use. Obviously, the smaller the type size, the shorter the line length should be.


As with sentence length and line length, varied paragraph lengths within the text produces the highest readership (try to avoid paragraphs over seven lines). A series of long paragraphs will reduce readership.


Background tints reduce readership and comprehension.  Background tints of 30% or more reduce readership substantially. The higher the percentage of tinting (screening), the greater the reduction in both readership and comprehension.


Readers tend to scan pages and ads (to determine if they have any interest in the material) in a sideways "U" pattern. They tend to move from the upper right to upper left to middle left to lower left and off the page (or ad) on the lower right. If you design around this tendency, you have a better chance of grabbing the reader's attention and interest with a key benefit promise.

If you have any questions regarding the above tips, don't hesitate to e-mail me.

Talk to you next issue ...


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Copyright 2006 by Galen Stilson. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.