You Get What You Pay For

We found ourselves with a tornado warning yesterday evening and as we were checking our local news site for weather updates, we saw this ad on the side from my former employer (company name blurred):


About six months ago, the same company that let me go about 3.5 years ago laid of two of my friends who had been with the company for years, essentially putting an end to their graphics department. When we were all working together, the company had three seasoned creative professionals pumping out consistent, high-quality work. When they laid me off, my workload of web graphics, site maintenance, and marketing emails was dumped, mostly, on my friend Eric while he was already swamped with his own work designing artwork for screen printing jobs.

When they ultimately let the other two designers go, they immediately hired two new staff – presumably less experienced with product photography, design, and certainly lacking the knowledge of the company and industry, who were willing to work for even less than we were – who are producing work like you see above. For comparison, here are a couple of examples of my own designs from my time there.

Lacrosse Gear Website Banner

Nfinity Volleyball Shoe Ad

Notice a difference? I’m not saying this to tout my own work, but rather to lift it up as an example of the old phrase, “you get what you pay for.” When you cut loose knowledgeable, skilled, experienced designers (who weren’t making nearly what they deserved anyway) for cheaper labor, you will get results like you see above. It’s kind of sad, really, to see such a decline in quality when I know the standards to which we held ourselves as a marketing and design team. The three of us busted our butts on a daily basis to produce work we could feel proud of and would really speak to the customers. Now, it seems like they are working even more with a “just get it out there” mentality. And it’s a shame.

However, I don’t feel bad for my former bosses or the missed sales because of the face the company is now presenting to the world. After all, as my friend, and former colleague, Michael said, “Y’know, they are giving the bosses what they want, though! Looks like a prime example of advertising for the company’s perspective rather than the customer’s perspective.” It’s true, they are being given exactly what they want.

The take-away for me is not a dig at my old company (though, it does feel nice to see how much value I contributed) but rather it serves as a reminder of the concept of “you get what you pay for” and of the importance of knowing your audience and the making sure you tell the story in a way that effectively speaks to that audience.

We’re always told that you need to ask three questions once you have identified your audience: 1) What do you want them to know? 2) What do you want them to feel? and 3) What do you want them to do. And it is crucial to tailor the message so it answers all three questions while keeping the audience first. Clearly, the first ad above provides information about products and as it was rotating there was a call to action that answered question #3. However, it seems like question #2 was not given its due. Even though I’m biased with regards to this company, my designer brain tells me that this ad doesn’t really instill confidence and quality in potential customers nor does it excite them in any way, and thus fails the test of answering the three questions. And, worse than that, the biggest failure is pushing out something like this because it is what management wants rather than what is of value to the customer. True, it may may succeed in helping the customer make a buying decision. However, it may be the decision to purchase from somewhere else.

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