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Marketing Collateral and What It Means

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Read all about marketing collateral: what is it, why do you need it, and how to create it.

The use of marketing collateral is not a new strategy. Yet, the concept itself is worth revisiting every now and again. Like most things, it’s not static. Business environments, new technologies, and consumer trends all play a role in how customers respond to marketing collateral and how businesses use it. So what better time than the present to rewrite definitions, reassess best practices, and re-evaluate if you’re really getting the most out of your efforts? 

To help, let’s start at the beginning and work our way through a deep dive into the current state of marketing collateral. Here’s what we’ll cover:

What is marketing collateral?

Marketing collateral is any digital or printed material used to communicate or promote a company’s brand message, products, or services. Marketing collateral includes a variety of formats ranging from printed brochures to point-of-sale posters, videos, e-books, newsletters, graphics, and more. When determining which type of marketing collateral is right for your organization, it’s important to think about what you need it to achieve. 

Now, of course, every organization has different goals. However, the majority of businesses that create marketing collateral use it as a sales support tool. They leverage it to spread awareness and drive adoption for an offering. They rely on it to attract and gain new, qualified leads. And they use it to support existing customers, drive loyalty, and ultimately win repeat business. 

With that said, marketing collateral isn’t only an asset to sales teams. Many organizations also use it to achieve goals unrelated to revenue. Think about a company that’s dealing with low employee morale, for example. They could use marketing collateral to promote new initiatives aimed at improving workplace culture. Or an organization undergoing a corporate rebrand could use marketing collateral to drive adoption of their new brand identity and guidelines. Whatever the case, marketing collateral has applications for any audience and any goal — you just need to know how to make it work. 

How to create great marketing collateral 

Creating marketing collateral for the sake of “having something” is not worth the time, money, and energy it takes to produce and distribute it. To create great marketing collateral, you need a plan, goals, and skilled people to craft effective and professional-looking materials. But easier said than done, right? Well, not necessarily. You just need to know where to start.  

Put your audience first 

While it may sound obvious, you absolutely must keep your audience in mind when creating marketing collateral. Who are you talking to? What are their pain points, concerns, motivators, likes, and dislikes? Understand who you’re talking to and help them make a decision, solve a problem, or achieve whatever goal they’re after. Only then can you achieve what you also want.

Stay true to brand 

Regardless of how different each piece of marketing collateral is, your brand should be a constant. Whether you need to ensure designers are using the same red across logos or your marketing team only uses stock photos with a certain look and feel, you need brand consistency. To safeguard against misuse, it’s critical to establish brand guidelines. Technology, such as a digital asset management (DAM) platform, can also help by ensuring that people have access to marketing collateral and design files, but only to materials that are approved and on brand.  

Let data inform decisions

You can create marketing collateral day in and day out, but unless you know (like really know) it’s effective, it’s not worthwhile. Figure out what’s working and not working, so you can optimize your efforts. Talk to customers about what content they need, but also look at the numbers. Tools like Google Analytics, DAM Insights, and even analysis of unique identifiers like redemption codes are great ways to get the actionable, hard data you need.

Types of marketing collateral

Both traditional and digital marketing channels support useful types of marketing collateral. Depending on your audience and goals, you can determine which types of marketing collateral deserves a place in your content arsenal. 

Traditional marketing collateral types

Traditional marketing still has a place in this day and age. While it utilizes pre-internet channels such as print, display, and postal or “snail mail,” it’s still an effective avenue for many businesses. In some cases, it gives organizations a way to break through noisy web environments. And for others, it’s the best way to give customers a gentle nudge (and tangible material) after an in-person meeting or trade show. And the exciting part? There’s a bevy of options.

Brochures
Brochures are pamphlets that typically contain information about a company and its products or services. They range from simple and inexpensive booklets to high-gloss, high-design materials. Brochures should be scannable, so always leverage visuals and short, catchy copy or bullets to tell your story. The crowded, long-form stuff has no place in brochures.

Displays 
Eye-catching displays, or exhibits placed in prominent locations, come in many shapes, sizes, and formats. Road-side billboards, shelf signage, point-of-sale stands, and even interactive product kiosks are a few examples. To determine the display that’s right for you, start with your goals. Do you need a display that will grab customers’ attention? Or, are you looking to engage, entertain, or educate? Asking yourself questions like these will help inform your strategy.

Brand magazines
Organizations typically use brand magazines in two different ways: to share information about their products and services, or to support their audience through content marketing. The first use case is more promotional in nature and includes collateral like product catalogs. The second strategy is less explicit, relying on articles and information that appeal to a specific audience. REI is a good example. They publish a print magazine called Uncommon Path that’s full of stories, resources, and topics catering to outdoor enthusiasts. With this approach, REI can connect with their audience over shared interests, validate their authority, and ultimately drive customer action. 

Direct mail
The use of direct mail, or communications sent via postal mail, has been around since ancient Egyptian times. Yet, it still has a place today. Don’t get us wrong; there’s a lot of junk mail that shows up in everyone’s mailbox. However, with the right audience targeting, you can reach people with mail they actually want. For example, if you know someone attended one of your conferences in the past, a promo code or information about this year’s events seems appropriate.  

Specialty items 
Swag (stuff we all get) is still a widely popular form of marketing collateral that businesses use to establish rapport and brand awareness. Blankets, bags, pens, phone chargers, stickers, water bottles, and more — there’s nothing organizations aren’t branding and doling out. Be creative but deliberate. Think about what your audience will actually use and ensure it aligns with your organization’s beliefs. In other words, if you’re an environmental brand, don’t hand out a bunch of swag that’s bad for the earth.   

Digital marketing collateral types

Thanks to the internet, you can now reach more people than ever with your marketing collateral. In many cases, you can also adapt traditional collateral types for the digital space (and vice versa). For instance, look at the traditional examples we provided above. Take your brochure and create a web-friendly version. Buy “display” ads on third-party sites. Distribute email fliers or even give out digital swag bags with free offers. The concept is the same, but the strategy is vastly different. Read on for a few other digital marketing collateral examples, complete with strategic tips.  

Websites
While most people don’t think of their company website as marketing collateral, it sure is. In fact, it’s a curated collection of some of your most powerful collateral. After all, isn’t it where most examples on this list would live? Additionally, every stand-alone landing page you create or deep-dive pillar page you build out is even more marketing collateral. Moral of the story? Treat your website with care and ensure it’s a strong marketing asset. 

Blog posts 
Perhaps the most popular form of marketing collateral, blogs (also called articles) are an excellent way to attract new prospects and support your existing clients. You can create blogs for your website or even show off your expertise as a guest contributor on partner sites. Just make sure the content you’re producing is helpful to your audience, not just an excuse to promote your products and services. 

White papers
Originally white papers were a tool for legislators to explain or make a case for a particular political solution. Today white papers have broader industry applications but are still very much problem-solving guides. If you have a point of view (and the expertise to back it), white papers are an excellent way to present in-depth, authoritative, and persuasive information and solutions. Just don’t be afraid to break up text with some visuals — your audience will thank you.

E-books
E-books are long-form content that individuals or businesses create to educate readers and demonstrate their expertise on a specific topic. While also educational, e-books tend to be more entertaining and less technical or in-depth than white papers. They are considered premium content, so depending on your strategy, you could ask people for an email address or even a fee in return for access.

Infographics 
Looking to present information in an easy-to-digest format? Infographics might be just the ticket. Giving readers a much-needed break from dense text, infographics are visual representations of information or data. They are great for storytelling, simplifying complex subjects, and winning audience attention. Just remember that no matter how creative you get, your brand should still be recognizable.  

Reports
If you have proprietary research, data, or findings, reports are an excellent way to share your learnings and prove your subject matter authority and dedication. Plus, with so much false information circulating the web, people appreciate legit intel that’s backed by research. Hey, they may even quote you! Need an example of a report? Check out the annual Widen Connectivity Report

Sell sheets
A sell sheet, also called a one sheeter, is a downloadable document or webpage that summarizes the most compelling benefits, features, and aspects of a product or service. The most effective sell sheets don’t overwhelm readers. They are comprehensive but use imagery to help communicate important information, such as what a product looks like.  

Videos 
Video is a popular format businesses use to reach audiences and inspire action. And it’s easy to see why. With over half of marketers naming video as the type of content with the highest return on investment (ROI), it’s worth your consideration. Test the waters and find formats that will help you achieve your goals. From how-to explainers and demos to interviews, product overviews, testimonials, and more, there’s a lot you can do.

Webinars 
A webinar is a seminar or presentation conducted over the internet. Many organizations host live webinars, complete with audience participation. However, that’s not the only option. Prerecorded webinars are also a popular choice. Whatever the case, squeeze as much value out of your webinar as possible by repurposing its information into other marketing collateral, such as blog posts.

Visual content 
Okay, a lot of the examples above, such as infographics and videos, are considered visual content. Even text-based marketing collateral like a blog is visual content if it incorporates images, charts, videos, or other visuals throughout. The term is somewhat of a grey area, but worth circling back on. Visual content — no matter what you call it — is visual marketing collateral. A whitepaper or report with visual elements? Visual content. Stand-alone brand assets like GIFs, memes, diagrams, screenshots, or product images? Also visual content. So, it turns out most marketing collateral is (drumroll, please) … visual content. 

What is DAM? 

There’s no way around it, creating powerful marketing collateral takes time, money, and energy. But if you approach it the right way, it’s a tremendous asset to your entire organization. Digital asset management, or DAM, is one way to ensure you get the most out of your marketing collateral and all of the visual assets you need to create it. To learn more about how DAM can help you manage your most powerful marketing assets, check out our DAM overview.

Topics: Marketing

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