Things like direct mail and running classified ads in newspapers and periodicals.
Let me tell you… you have to be pretty street smart to succeed in this type of marketing, because you have to stump up some pretty sizeable chunks of money just to test something.
Money that you can wave goodbye to if the test bombs.
Too many successive bombs and you can find yourself up the proverbial creek without a paddle.
(The converse is that a single campaign which takes off can make you a lot of money very quickly.)
Often, the difference between failure and success was a few tenths of a percent in conversion rate (the percentage of people seeing your message who actually buy).
Which meant that you had to try lots of little tweaks, each of which might only nudge that conversion rate up by 0.05% or 0.1% but, cumulatively, turned a potential overall loss into a sizeable win.
So it’s odd that I have never really tried to apply these hard-earned tweaks to online marketing.
I suppose I saw it as a very different beast to offline marketing.
When, of course, marketing is marketing is marketing.
Perhaps another reason is that online marketing is much more forgiving.
Much of it is free or low-cost and you can pretty much test campaigns out on a shoestring, at least in relative terms.
In other words, I suppose I just got lazy.
I was going through my book shelves a couple of weeks ago, looking to have a ‘de-clutter’, when I came across a dusty ring binder containing my scribbled notes on various tests I had performed.
(Yes, it was so long ago that I actually hand-wrote the notes.)
It was a bit like finding one of your old school exercise books and being pleasantly surprised by how much cleverer you seemed to be back then.
Anyway, I thought I would take some of these things I had learned and see whether they also worked in the online world.
One such came out of a rather ridiculous experiment I did with classified ads in magazines.
I would buy several magazines, go to the classified section, take a very quick look – one or two seconds only – at an entire page then look away.
The idea was to see which ads, if any, attracted my attention in those couple of seconds.
It wasn’t about reading the actual ad; just seeing whether the layout stuck in my mind.
Time and again, certain ads passed the test.
Which were they?
Well, if you’re from the ‘old school’ of marketing, you probably already know the answer.
Drum roll please…
It’s not difficult to fathom why.
Almost all classified ads are black text on a white background.
A few try a fancy border or a different colour font.
But the ones that stood out head and shoulders above the rest were those with the black background and white text.
So I have been running some tests with Facebook ads.
I have tried multiple different colour combinations, but white on black always performs best.
In fact, it has so far produced a pretty consistent 30%+ increase in conversion rates over the rest of the field.
(A poor second was white text on a bright red background.)
I don’t absolutely know, but I suspect this is not solely down to the eye-catching colour combination.
The colour black (yes, for the scientists out there, I know that black is not technically a colour) is subliminally associated with luxury.
Think of high-roller credit cards.
I invite you to try this yourself in your Facebook ads and see whether you get a similar improvement.
Although I have yet to test it, I am pretty confident that it will also work in banner ads, native ads, YouTube video thumbnails and on other social media platforms.
I should, of course, say that white on black will help draw attention to your ad in a crowded space, but you do still need a good offer and good copy to turn that attention into a click and a conversion.
I am going to be testing a lot more of these ‘old school’ techniques over the coming weeks and I’ll share the results with you as they come in.