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September 2nd, 2011

A call to action about calls to action

“Honey, can you grab the wheel? I want to scan the QR code on this billboard, so I can check my online spending, while driving 70mph into the guard rail.” Brilliant, eh?

But hey, we’re going to make something good come out of this eyesore we, at Brokaw Inc., have to stare at every day for the next three months. Because nobody teaches you this sort of thing in business school, we’re going to give you a little cheat sheet on what calls to action to use for various mediums:

Vehicle Outdoor
Call to action Just your logo. Reason: With outdoor, you have to keep it to less than seven words for obvious reasons (consumers are whizzing by FAST!). Ad legend Luke Sullivan suggests a great way to test whether your outdoor ad is simple enough: Show the layout of the outdoor idea to someone for two seconds. (One Mississippi, two Mississippi.) Then turn it over. Did they get it? If not, keep editing it down. Remember, grasshopper, your ad is strengthened by everything that is removed from it, not added to it.

Vehicle: Company Facebook Page
Call to action: Depends on the conversation. Reason: Interact with your audience. Make it a conversation. Sure you can give everyone who “likes” your page a free coupon to try one of your new chicken watermelon paninis. But more importantly, ask them what they thought of it. And how you can improve. And how you’re listening. If you do that, and continue to keep your posts fresh, engaging, and honest—people will keep coming back. (Even if it turns out chicken and watermelon aren’t the new chocolate and peanut butter.)

Vehicle: Print/DM
Call to action: Phone Number, Address, QR Code, Web & Facebook URL. (But don’t get too greedy) Reason: Print and DM are the original portable advertising devices. And because they give you more of a captive audience, you have a slightly larger soapbox to tell your brand’s story. Still, nobody’s clamoring to be overwhelmed by what you want them to do—so now would be a good time to streamline your call to action. What one mission would you like your reader to accept? Because even if you’re asking them to call a number, scan a QR code, or “like” you on Facebook, you’re still asking them to put down your ad and take that next step. So make it simple, make it compelling, and make them ACT NOW!

Vehicle: Radio
Call to action: Phone Number. (Only if it’s super simple) Reason: When was the last time you pulled over on the highway or stopped in the middle of your DIY project to write down a phone number that you heard on a radio commercial? Odds are, it’s somewhere between zero and none. Which means, unless your number is something as simple as 1-800-EAT-CAKE, don’t bother, brother. You’re better off creating an ad with a simple idea behind it that’s compelling enough to make consumers remember your brand—maybe even enough to Google it when they get home. Or better yet, stop by one of your convenient locations and eat lots of cake. (Num, num, num.)

Vehicle: Company Twitter Handle Post
Call to action: Hyperlinks to meaningful content or entertainment. Reason: Don’t try to sell things, Selly McGee. Make your tweets insightful. Make them shareable. 140 characters can go a long way when you send a great article. Or a very re-tweetable monkey video

Vehicle: TV
Call to action: Website, Phone Number. Reason: With more and more people watching TV while working on their laptops and thumbing through their smartphones, we highly recommend you end every spot with the URL of your website, Facebook page, or Twitter handle, etc. Trust us, today’s multitasking viewers/texters/tweeters/Facebookers/Skypers will process it without even knowing they’re processing it. (Did your head just explode?)

Vehicle: Online Banner Ad/Mobile Ad
Call to action: Click Here, Learn More, Apply Now, Tap Call, Tap to Map. Reason: Banner ads are the outdoor board of the webernet—you’re just trading speeding cars for speeding attention spans. So, like outdoor, you need to grab your audience (CLICK HERE) as quickly as possible. Be explicit about what you want them to do (Call? Roll over? “Like” you on Facebook for a free trip to Toledo?). And give them a good reason to take that action. Pique their interest. Get them excited. But just remember to pour some wine in the glass before you try to sell the entire case.

Vehicle: e-Newsletter
Call to action: Depends. Reason: What’s the goal of your newsletter? Are you trying to educate? Entertain? Stay top-of-mind? Or offer two-for-one perogies? Give your readers a real benefit. And if you’ve already got one, don’t change. When readers are expecting a weekly coupon, they won’t smile at a hyperlink of puppy pictures.