Piercing the Truth

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one out of every three, American males under the age of thirty, has at least one part of his body pierced. Ear, tongue, nose, eyebrow, whatever… one third of men under 30 have some kind of piercing.

And while it’s true that I just made that statistic up, you have to admit, it sounds about right.

Such was not the case in 1980. When I got my ear pierced – on the heels of a drunken, “I’ll do it, if you do it” dare by my college roommate, Ron – a man with an earring was still a fairly unusual sight. So much so, that people often did a double-take as they passed me on the street, and small children were routinely shushed by their mothers for shouting, “Hey, that man has an earring!”

The funny thing is, while my walking down the street with an earring was instantly noticed by friends and strangers alike, a woman with an earring didn’t (and still doesn’t) stand out at all. Two people on the same street, wearing the same jewelry – but one is noticed and the other not.

This type of selective attention is what those of us with Psychology degrees from accredited four-year institutions call “Selective Attention.” In both cases, the earring is seen, however, it only rises to the level of conscious awareness when it occurs in an unexpected way; in this case, a man’s ear instead of a woman’s.

If you ask me, E-Newsletter design works in about the same way. Here’s what I mean…

Good E-Newsletter design tends to go unnoticed (at least on a conscious level). You expect a professional person or organization to have a professional design, and when it plays out that way – like a good waiter at a restaurant – you don’t usually take note or remember.

Poor, or amateurish design, on the other hand – particularly if you expect otherwise, based on a nicely done company web site, face-to-face meeting with one of the principals, or some other experience with the organization – can be jarring, and reflect badly on a company.

I mention this today, because one of the questions that I hear most often from professionals who are about to publish an E-Newsletter for the first time is, “Should I get my ear pierced?” Another question I hear a lot is, “Should we spend money on a professional design?”

My answer to both questions is yes. Because while I strongly believe that good content is what carries the day, if your E-Newsletter looks homemade or unprofessional, it detracts from your overall brand, and can be so distracting as to prevent readers from hearing your message.

What about stock templates?

Let me just stop right here and say that you are asking some good questions today.

“Templates” are easy-to-modify, preformatted newsletter layouts offered by e-mail marketing vendors. The best of these templates allow you to add logos and images, choose fonts and background colors, and “create a professional design in minutes.”

Well, maybe not. The problem with templates is that having the tools and freedom to make the changes you want does not automatically give you the skills to make good ones. Just as Aristotle once noted, “A digital video-cam does not a Steven Spielberg make,” an easy-to-use template doesn’t give you the eye and skill of a trained designer.

Here’s the bottom line…

I understand your desire to keep your overhead low, and given the choice between launching your newsletter right away and putting it off until you have the budget or time to create something more professional, I always advise getting something out the door now, and improving as you go.

That said, design matters. For the impact on you and your brand that not having something done professionally will have, I believe it’s worth investing the few hundred dollars it will take to get the look you need. Or, more accurately, avoid the look you don’t.

Contact your e-mail marketing vendor and find out what’s involved in getting a custom design created (here’s the link to what Constant Contact offers).

As for me, if you know anyone who could use a handful of slightly used, extremely dated “single” earrings, please give me a call. I need to get them out of the house before my oldest son turns 18 in a few years.

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