Too many advertisers view direct response and brand marketing as two separate and distinct efforts, often managed by different departments within an organization. But really, they are two sides of the same coin.
Branding is traditionally defined as the characteristics and values a company represents to consumers. Successful brand marketing expresses these values in a compelling manner that differentiates from competitors while creating a connection with potential customers.
The goal is to have consumers think a certain way about their brand, which ultimately leads to a purchase while creating some sense of loyalty. And although metrics can be used to measure and quantify attitudes and behavior, brand marketing is often viewed as somewhat esoteric and abstract, more art than science.
In contrast, direct-response marketing is seen as being much more tactical, pragmatic and formulaic. The objective here is about generating a response, driving conversion and propelling sales. Measurement focus is on hard metrics: dissecting correlations and trends, in-depth analyses, modeling, channel attribution and optimizing campaigns to maximize ROI. Science and precision is king here, perceived as having much greater value than an amorphous concept like brand.
Truth is, every time a company expresses a message (aka advertising), it is defining its brand in the minds of the consumer: its personality, promise, and values.
Think of a brand as the face of a company, with each message helping define what that face looks like. After a while (and many messages) consumers will have a clear picture of that face in their mind whenever they hear the mere mention of the brand’s name. This is true whether being exposed to a brand or direct-response piece of advertising.
Unfortunately, some advertisers don’t consider this when developing DR advertising. Their focus is on driving response as efficiently (or cheaply) as possible. This may lead to creating an advertisement that checks off the key messaging points needed to drive response but is executed in a manner incongruous with how they want (or need) the brand to be perceived.
Although this approach may experience some initial success, it can come at the expense of creating long-term brand value, emotional equity and potentially greater success in the here and now.
Enlightened marketers understand that consumers don’t know or care whether a piece of advertising they are consuming is considered brand or direct response. They are going to respond on an intellectual and emotional level based on the stimulus being provided. So in actuality, any and every piece of advertising is creating and adding to the totality of what the brand represents.
Editor’s Note: The author takes a consumer-centric approach.