What Picture Books Teach Us About Great Marketing

Once upon a time marketing

The enemy of all marketing is confusion.

Marketing should point to a problem, offer a solution, and give a plan to engage with your brand. It’s a lot like a short story.

I’m a children’s book author. Currently, I have two published books for kids and another one on the way. I’ve also been a storyteller for most of my career. For years I’ve used the power of stories to help kids and students understand big ideas such as truth and faith.

I have learned that confusion is also the enemy of stories for children.

The average picture book for kids is 500-800 words long. That doesn’t give much time to develop a character, conflict, climax, and resolution. Each word needs to count.

What if you wrote your marketing with the same kind of attention that an author uses to write a children’s story?
Imagine if your boss thought about internal company memos like that? Each word needs to count. How great would THAT be?

Imagine if the next company keynote presentation was that precise? You might actually leave inspired instead of drained.

In good marketing, every word counts.

Marketing is like writing children’s books.

Consider a 60-second advertisement. If there was a voice-over for the entire minute you would likely have a script 140-160 words long. 140 words is not a lot of time to communicate a problem, solution, and next step to engage with a brand. When you have a mere 140 words to work with, you need to curate each one carefully. Each word needs to add value to the message and not detract from it.

That is why good marketing takes time, careful planning, and a certain level of expertise.

Use a level of vocabulary that makes sense for your audience.

You want to make sure you have your audience in mind for everything from design to copy.

For example, it would be a mistake if you wrote a book for children but used university-level vocabulary. When you write marketing material, you want to get the vocabulary right. Don’t use vocabulary that insults someone’s intelligence or wastes brain cells to read.

An interesting tool to measure the reading difficulty of some text is the Hemingway App. I use it all the time and find it extremely useful. (I used it for this blog. It is written at a grade 5 level. And uses fewer than the recommended number of adverbs!)

Uses images that reinforce your message.

I love both the writing and illustrating of children’s books. It allows me to fill in gaps that may be missing in the narrative with colour and action.

For example, the book I’m currently working on is about what to do when you feel sad as a kid. Weasel is the main character and he is depressed. But I can’t use the word “depressed” (or despondent, or dejected) because I’m writing at a grade 3-4 reading level. So I use illustrations to show how very sad he is.

Your words and images should compliment each other and fill in any missing gaps.

If you are marketing your gas station and show pictures of people at a coffee shop, you’re sending mixed messages. That may seem obvious, but it’s still worth looking at. Don’t use pictures of unhappy people if you are trying to increase joy for your customers.

Marketing images should match the copy

Side note: I don’t have a huge budget for marketing, so I like to use royalty-free websites to download images. My favourite is Unsplash.

Here’s your 60-second marketing tip.

If you want a fast and easy way to gauge the reading level of your reading is, check out the Hemingway App. It’s free and really great. And if you haven’t used Grammarly to check your writing, make sure you download it today. (You can put it on your phone, Microsoft Word, Chrome, etc.)


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Most businesses waste a lot of time and money on marketing strategies that don’t work. I help businesses clarify their brand message so that every word they publish makes them money.