7 Ways to Stand Out in a Sea of Sameness

by Doug Farrick

Like it or not in today's competitive Graphic Design marketplace you need to find a way to get your prospects attention. Here are 7 creative ways to help YOU get noticed.

We are bombarded with auditory and visual stimuli so much so that we are in a sense "brain dead"

So what do we have to do to rise above this? Simple - be audacious. I really believe you have to lean in this direction. And there are many creative things you can do.

Here is a small list below to get your creative juices flowing:

1. Create a contest - People love contests. Contests can only be limited by your creativity and imagination. For example you can create a "mock" lottery ticket with everyone having to visit your website and enter a code to see if they have won.

You can also hook up with synergistic partners like, for example, a local printer and create a contest for "the ugliest logo" on the printer's marquee paper stock.

Note: if you don't alert the media to your contest they probably will not take notice of it so plan accordingly so you can maximize media exposure.

Note 2: It does make sense to "link" your contest to your design business' core competency - whether it be new media, or graphic design or print, etc. No sense in having a parrot as a grand prize when there is no logical connection to your business. Take the time and think this out.

2. Change the visual "look" of your marketing - *Most* every business marketing communication you see today has the same 'look" to it - you know, the nice clean text, and square color stock photograph(s) of a business person or group. These drive me crazy!

And it IS easy to fall into this trap but do seek out new visual looks. Why not send out a postcard that looks like a turn of the century postcard sent from Coney Island or that crazy, mad-cap look of a Barnum and Baily poster.

What about a promotional piece that looks like a recent "most wanted" sheet you find in the police station or post office? Or an envelope all "mucked up" with coffee stains and other weather-laden effects. You can now even do custom shapes for postcards. See the link below for more info.

I recently did a series of oversized postcards based on the Enquirer or "tabloid" look and it worked like gangbusters. Why? Because it was DIFFERENT and FUNNY and it got their ATTENTION.

Action step: Start to hunt down all kinds of visual styles that are unique and not seen readily and catalogue them in a "swipe file" for use when you need them.

3. Create an event - This is a wonderful way to get attention. What might this look like. It can be a parade, a conference, a seminar, an awards presentation, a celebration, an animal show, charity event, a book signing, reaching a milestone, etc.

I once did an event that celebrated Arbor Day or Tree day (it is different for every state) and gave away free, plantable trees. They were very small and fit into a test tube like container. But people loved the cool packaging, helping the environment and often sharing the tree planting with their children. Another design firm used Friday the 13th as a focus. They held the event in a parking lot complete with prizes, food, jugglers and interactive (Friday the 13th theme) events like: walking under a ladder, in front of a black cat, etc. - it was a very carnival-like scene where everyone had fun and all associated good feelings with the design firm host.

Note: Same as in a contest. You have to plan a good deal in advance in order to notify the media.

4. Send 'lumpy" mail - Have you ever received a piece of mail that you knew had something in it because it was not flat and was dimensional or "lumpy" - I am sure you have and I'll bet you opened it, too!

In my opinion, this is one of the very best ways to get attention. You can use things like this in your envelope: small baggies with sand, grass, dirt, etc, coins, packet of aspirin, packet of flower seeds, band-aid, candy, bag of shredded money, piece of bubble gum, rabbit's foot, key, key chain, pen, baseball trading card.

Note: Remember, your lumpy object needs to have *some* sort of relationship to your inside letter. Otherwise your recipients will immediately feel "duped" or "conned"

Use a headline like, "As you can see, I've attached a ________. Why? For _______reasons . . ." to refer to the object.


5. Create a Press Release - This is a VERY effective means to get attention that few use on a regular basis. What is a press release? It is simply a newsworthy communication.

The structure of a press release in quite common and can be found in numerous places on the web. The other essential aspect (besides being newsworthy) is that you need an irresistible news angle. (link:

Getting press and being exposed via the media can be tremendously profitable for you business. Like anything else, you need to PLAN these well in advance.

Action Step: shoot for 1 press release per month.

Resources: - paid but highly effective press release targeting - Free press release service - Free UK-based press release service

6. Tie in with the news - What I mean by this is use the news to your advantage. A good example of this that I have seen recently was when Paris Hilton was serving her jail sentence. This was a new item that was EVERYWHERE. ?

However, one smart entrepreneur bought a domain name called - which has a petition asking the governor of California to jail Paris Hilton. Not only did the site owner garnish 60,000 names and email address but they also received tremendous national (and international) news coverage.

Further, use "tie-ins" with seasonal activities. Take advantage of Groundhog day and National Ice Cream week Chewing Gum day, World Kindness day, April Fools day, and many more.

Note: Don't be afraid of thinking outside the seasonal box like the one entrepreneur who would send large color postcards with a smiling Santa Claus on it in the middle of JULY! - now that's an attention-getter.

Resources: - some fun days to work promotions around

7. Give a surprise gift - You will undoubtedly have "customers for life" if your practicing surprising your customers on a regular basis.

So what can you give? What about a specific article torn out of a magazine with a personal post-it note on it or a couple dollar Starbucks or iTunes gift card or perhaps some movie tickets. Have fun and be inventive with your surprise gift.

Note: You may want to segment your customer list (such as A, B and C clients) so you can give appropriate gifts to your most valuable customers (list A), next most valuable (B) etc.

Note 2: By getting to know your customers on a "holistic" level you will find out what is important to them and what makes them "click"

For example do they collect miniature trains, are they big into their kids sports, do they love golf, gardening, exotic teas, mystery novels, etc so you can be alert to "surprises" that are appropriate for them personally (with the added bonus of making them more "pre-disposed" to you and your company)

Do take the time and plan your attention-getting promotions carefully. Not only will you get more bang for your buck you just might find you (and your company) on local and even national news. You'll be glad you did!