Nov 21

Advertising agencies don’t own marketing word play.

If you manage or own a business, you can teach yourself to turn a phrase and make some of your own in-store POP materials. Allow me to illustrate:

Sometimes all it takes to create clever signage is a simple rhyme.

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For example, let’s say you’re a Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken franchise owner and you have a marque sign out front. Consider putting a new message up on that marquee every week. Something like, “Thinkin’ ‘bout chicken?  Lee’s is sure to please.”  Or, “The Chicken Folks B Pickin.’

Or, if you want to be more subtle and coy and less-rhymey, try something like: “Enough to make a chicken lover monogamous.”

The idea is to have some fun with the phrase and keep your audience thinking about what they saw after they see it.

The human mind is designed to solve puzzles and to get a sense of pleasure from doing so. It loves to fill in the blanks. Think about it...there’s an entire show devoted to solving puzzles on National Public Radio – and people go berserk for it. What is wordplay, but, a puzzle for the mind to solve?

So, how can you “get your wordplay on” and dress up your place of work with interesting quips and sentiments that make your customer smile?

Here are some suggestions:

1. Don’t show and say the same thing

You’ve heard the saying, “less is more?”  It certainly applies when it comes to communication.  A pithy, potent, funny message needs to be stated in the briefest way possible. This makes for a POW! effect. And the POW! helps the viewer remember the message.

POW! happens not only because the message is a quick visual grab, but because the viewer has to make a connection in their head.

Here’s an example.  If someone is announcing a baseball clinic, they could create a poster showing a single baseball as an image.  It’s simple.  It’s grabbing.  What might the words say below, beside or even on the baseball?  Not “Have a Ball,” right?  “Ball” is redundant. “Have One.”  Better.

The viewer fills in the blank, in their head, “Oh, I get it...they’re saying come here and have a lot of fun learning to play baseball.”  If the headline/message creates an “Ah-hah!” moment in the mind of its viewers, they are more likely to remember the message.

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2. Use familiar sayings

There’s equity in sayings. Get some of it. You can juxtapose a famous saying with a visual that causes the saying to have a new meaning. On the wall behind the desk chairs in a new office supply store, could be a poster that shows the image of a comfortable, ergonomic chair with a headline that reads, “Weren’t you always told to watch your back at the office?”

Or you can use a saying to pull in the viewer, and then send them off in a new direction.  In a new greeting card/stationery store, a poster placed on the wall behind the calligraphy pens might read, “The pen is mightier than the sword.  And, also much cheaper.”  See?  Easy. Just take a saying that relates in some way to the product then twist it to your own designs.

Build on familiar sayings by using the “double entendre” – where one word in your headline has two meanings.  For instance, a store that sells items made just for left-handed people could have a poster on the wall at the register that reads, “The customer Isn’t Always Right.” The clever “play on words” is a little reward for the reader who has taken the time to read the message.  And it helps creates good will between the store and the customer.  It’s what they call “brand building.”

Does a feed store sell goat food?  Then, how about making a sign that hangs near the goat food and reads, “Raise your kids right.”

The final word on advertising

Coming up with these kinds of headlines isn’t hard.  Just set aside a little time and make a list of words that have anything to do with your new store’s product.  The words can run the gamut – nouns, adjective, verbs, etc. Look for a word that can have two meanings, then construct a sentence that uses those two meanings to put your product in a good light.

I promise, you can do it!  Not only that ... but, you can get better at doing it.  You can train yourself through practice to create fun and effective wordplay just like the agencies do.

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