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Why “Ugly” Was the Right Direction for One Affinity Marketer

Why Pretty and Neat Doesn't Always Equal More Engagement.
No matter how pretty the picture, messaging matters, and design that cloaks strong content is risky. Sometimes the best way forward is to make a mess.

It was a great creative concept, with strong messaging developed by a well-established, winning writer. But the test lost by an index-to-the-control of 88*.

Instead of simply putting it in the “good idea, didn’t work” column, we took a second look.

It was a beautifully designed package. Everything matched, and it suited the brand guidelines well. Turns out, that was its problem.

Without changing the copy, we completely revamped the presentation – uglied it up, you might say if you were in the mood to be harsh – and made the messaging the focal point.

The result was an index win of 144. A response swing of 56 index points. From a loser to a winner.

The takeaway from this experience isn’t “never give up,” because most of the time a loss is a loss. It’s not even “pretty design never works,” because sometimes leading with an eye-catching design can set your pitch apart.

The takeaway is this: messaging matters, and design that cloaks strong content is risky.

A win isn’t determined by someone’s perspective of “pretty” or “ugly” but by the number of responses in the door at the end of the day. No turf, no silos, no personal opinions. Just the results.

You get those winning results through thoughtful, skilled collaboration with the right team, the right goals, and … maybe a willingness to get a little ugly when the circumstances require it.

Good direct response is interruption marketing.

Not insulting, or jarring, or offensive. Just enough dissonance to intrigue but not look amateurish.

At MCA, we’re particularly fond of direct response presentations with a little dissonance. A lift note with an awkward fold. A CTA button that doesn’t match the rest of the landing page. You get the idea. To quote one of our colleagues: “Neatness rejects engagement.” And the test results bear this out.

To hear about more winners (and losers), complete the form below or give us a ring.

* Unfamiliar with the use of index when discussing campaign results? It’s a great way to share relative performance of a campaign without sharing actual results (which we NEVER advocate you do). Your control is always 100. The test is measured against the control and stated as less than (if it loses) and more than (if it wins). Formula: Test/Control*100 = Index.

MCA is not an 'agency' … they are a partner and they gauge their success on ours. They are not 'yes' people who simply do what they are asked; they are not afraid to challenge ideas or concepts if they feel it will yield a better result. From strategy and creative concepts to data analytics and print production, they make sure every project gets done … and done right. I’ve worked with them for 25 years, and I’m always amazed how they evolve and continue to keep ahead of the times.”
Richard S —
Affinity Auto/Home Insurer – Creative Director