Structure of a Successful Marketing Communication

To create successful marketing communications, a good starting place is to examine the ideas of great marketing masters, such as David Ogilvy and John Caples. Why? Rather than guessing or expressing opinions, they observed and cataloged what works and what doesn’t during their distinguished careers. The following structure of a successful marketing communication is based on the collective wisdom of the great marketing masters that appear in such classic books as Ogilvy on Advertising and Tested Advertising Methods.

Headline. On average, five times as many people (83.3%) read the headlines as read the body copy. Therefore the main points, expressed as benefits, should be in the headline. To help insure that the target audience reads the headline and finds out where they can buy the product, the headline should also “hook” or grab the reader so they do not turn the page, click the next link, or switch channels.

Body Text. The Body Text should provide more information and details for those that are interested to find out more about the product and company. Since only 16.7%, on average, get to this point, marketers should not rely on people reading the body text.

Close. The Close should

  1. Solicit a Buying Action (i.e. visit a Web site, return a business reply card, come in for a test drive),
  2. Tie-in with the Headline (repeat the benefits),
  3. End the communication,
  4. Contain a Marketing Information System code so the success of the communication can be measured when people respond (unique URL for Web visitors, unique phone extension for callers, and other unique code for those that visit a store or return a business reply card).

Photo & Graphic Elements. These should help to communicate the main unique benefits, be visually compelling, show the product looking as good as possible, sometimes function as a size reference, help to break up the Body Text into bite-sized pieces, and show before and after examples if appropriate.

Format. The Format should make it easy for busy or lazy members of the target audience to pick out and remember the main unique benefits of the communication without forcing them to read, listen to, or watch the entire communication.

Signature. The Signature (which typically includes the name, logo and slogan) should brand the communication and further the relationship between the target audience, the product, and the company so the prospect is more comfortable buying.

Everything Else. Good models have no more than 7 elements so this section includes the other considerations that may be important to your communication, such as design, color, fonts, size, shapes, selling psychology, empirical results, and putting the “WOW” into the communication so it will be better remembered and sell more effectively.

To give you an idea how this model can be applied to creating marketing communications, I have included a couple of successful communications I created for clients. The first is an ad I did for Qiagen (a client in Germany) that won a response award from Science Magazine. The second is an ad I did for the security software division of Hewlett-Packard.

What models have you employed to create a successful marketing communication for your organization?

Ira Kalb is president of Kalb & Associates, an international consulting and training firm, and professor of marketing at the Marshall School of Business at University of Southern California (USC). He has won numerous awards for marketing and teaching, authored ten books and over 60 published articles, created marketing inventions that have made clients and students more successful. He is frequently interviewed by various media for his expertise in branding, crisis management and strategic marketing. Follow him on Twitter.

image courtesy of Qiagen, Science Magazine, and Ira S. Kalb

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One Comment on “Structure of a Successful Marketing Communication”


  1. […] Structure of a Successful Marketing Communication […]


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