Fonts: we all use ‘em. But how much of a difference does your choice of font make to the success of your advertising campaign?
Making the right choice
Fonts are the tapestry of language that underlies all of our communication in nearly any non-broadcast media. Technically, “fonts” are just the computer files that enable the display of a “typeface.” Whatever you call them, though, the result is the same: they ensure that words are rendered in readable language on a screen. So how do you know which to choose in your campaign?
There are two main types of font that should be considered for a landing page or direct mailer: serifs and sans serifs. Serif fonts contain “feet,” while sans serif fonts do not. And which you use will depend on a variety of different factors.
If you need to whip out an announcement in ten minutes without too much thought, use Helvetica. It’ll generally look good, even if it is a bit overused — from subway signs to logos all around the world. Helvetica comes in a lot of weights from 27 (Ultra Thin) to 97 (Black. Really black!). You can pick two nearby weights, like 45 and 55, and use them as “regular” and “bold” versions of the font for a really impressive number of font combinations and different looks. If you want to be practical and not think about your font selection, just use Helvetica 55.
You’ll want to pick your typeface based on a number of factors, including the visual hierarchy of the layout as well as the display medium – in print or on a screen. Printed body copy looks better as a serif font, like Times New Roman, or my personal favorite, Georgia. Headlines look better as a sans serif font. You can mix and match a sans serif headline with serif body copy for printed text. On screens, sans serif fonts always read better than serif fonts, so we typically limit the use of serifs to headlines, if necessary, and tend to avoid them for body copy. Many modern developers have discarded the serif altogether. Still, many websites use serif as body copy, and it looks and reads fine.
Of course, font size matters. But so does line length and leading. You want to size your font appropriately so that you can get about 60 characters on each line of text (for body copy), and you want to set your leading, or line height, at around 1.6 times the size of the font. This helps the eye travel easily from character to character and line to line.
Ultimately, you’ll only know what typeface works better for direct mail or digital marketing with a thorough A/B test. Send one version of your mailer with a serif font, send one with a sans serif font. If there’s a significant difference in the response rates, then your font choice might make a difference and be worth exploring. If there’s no significant difference in response rates, then your list doesn’t respond to changes in typography.
When it comes to decision time, you want to play it safe when making font choices. Your goal is to effectively communicate a message to your readers. So you want your readers to be able to easily comprehend your message without being distracted by your font selection. If you stick to a familiar font, while adhering to some general line length and leading guidelines, you’ll be fine.
If you still have questions feel free to contact our friendly and knowledgeable staff at Ballantine today!
I'm the Director of Digital Services and Partner at Ballantine, a family-owned and operated direct mail & digital marketing company based in New Jersey. and started in 1966 by my great uncle!