Direct Response vs branding

What Type Of Advertising Is Best For Your Business?

Over the years (starting long before the Internet),  two primary, (and typically opposed to each other) “camps” have sprung up in the marketing world: direct response and image advertising, often referred to as “branding”.

These two marketing groups are vastly different in terms of what they are trying to do and the time frame in which they are trying to accomplish it. So what is direct response and what is branding?

Direct response advertising means that you are trying to get an immediate response through your ad; you want the reader (or viewer or listener, if your ad is on TV or radio) to do something very specific as soon as he's finished reading your ad.

You want him to convert. The “something” you want him to do could be to buy your product “right now” through your ecommerce website. It could be to join your email list. It could be to download your white paper or register for your webinar.

But the bottom line is that direct response attempts to persuade the reader to take an immediate action as a result of reading the ad.

An example of direct response advertising is a credit card offer you receive in your mailbox. The letter tries to sell you on the value of the card and has a goal of persuading you to go immediately to your phone or computer and apply then and there for the card.

Branding, or image advertising takes a very different approach than direct response. To get an idea of what branding is, think of the typical Super Bowl TV commercial; let's use the Budweiser commercials with the Clydesdale horses as our example.

In these commercials, Budweiser is trying to plant an impression in your mind. They want you to remember Budweiser the next time you are at the store shopping for beer. They are not trying to immediately drum up sales. They are taking a longer term approach.

If they were using a direct response approach, at the end of the commercial you would receive a call to action. You would be told to “Get in your car now. Drive to the nearest store. Buy a case of Budweiser beer.”

But they don't do this. Instead, they hope the commercial will be memorable enough to you and create enough of a pleasant emotional resonance that you will buy their brand next time your are shopping for beer.

An Honest Confession 

In the battle between direct response and branding, this article is overwhelmingly in favor of the direct response approach. There will be a couple of exceptions though; keep reading to discover more.

“People don't buy from clowns” - Claude C. Hopkins

We've talked before about how the reader, when he's considering making a purchase from you is asking himself “What's In It For Me?”. Somebody shopping for beer wants taste. He wants quality and freshness.

The previously-mentioned Budweiser commercials addresses none of these things. They don't tell the viewer “what's in it for him”. Instead, they show things that are cute and clever, like the Clydesdales playing football. So it's reasonable to ask if they help increase sales of Budweiser beer.

Branding can be financially disastrous. It can be very costly, with little or no ROI. It can be like “throwing money down the drain” (to be fair, so can direct response, if done incorrectly). It often does very little to persuade the viewer to buy the product.

Unlike direct response, which can be analyzed and measured with a very high degree of accuracy, the ROI of a pure branding campaign can't be determined. In other words, after the commercial is shown, and someone goes to the store and buys Budweiser, the advertising agency or marketing department doesn't know what prompted them to buy. So how can they know if the commercial was a marketing success?

Many “old-school” advertising legends like David Ogilvy and Claude Hopkins believed that the purpose of advertising was to sell products. Claude Hopkins said “Advertising is salesmanship in print. The only purpose of advertising is to make sales.”.

Many modern ad-makers are more concerned with producing fluff that is cute and clever and wins awards (given out by panels of “artists” that could not sell their way out of a paper bag).

In most, if not all cases, if you had to choose only one type of advertising, you would want to go with direct response. When branding succeeds, it's usually done by very large companies with huge advertising budgets over a lot of years – think Nike or Coca-Cola.

Do You Have A Limited Marketing Budget?

Direct Response vs branding

A small business with a limited marketing budget that needed to generate revenues quickly would be best served by following a course of action that relied on proven direct response elements like SEM, email marketing and highly targeted landing pages.

Even as the company grew, it could be wildly successful even if it never used image advertising. Many individuals and companies have built large business empires mostly or even totally through direct response advertising.

Tony Robbins and Nightingale Conant are included in this group. They built their multimillion dollar empires through solid direct response advertising.

But, in some situations, branding can be useful. It worked well for Nike and Coca-Cola.

Given enough time and money invested, it can lead to more sales and increased market share. But for many companies, especially small companies that try to solely rely on it as a way to bring in new business, it can be a financial “black hole”

Should You Use Direct Response And Branding Together?

Synergy: The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual

But even the corporate giants that have succeeded with image advertising could increase their sales by including solid direct response elements in their marketing campaigns.

And there are times when other businesses, even small local ones can combine branding with direct response to increase their sales even more than by direct response alone.

Some larger advertisers are recognizing that they can do the same thing. They are including direct response elements in their image ads. An example is Nautica. The clothing company recently ran ads in magazines like Men's Journal in which they invited viewers to go to their website and take in the stories about real everyday people (as opposed to models), who wore Nautica clothes as they engaged in all kinds of exciting outdoor adventures.

This makes their campaigns more effective than if they had only used branding. It powerfully combines online and offline marketing. It drives traffic to their website - a vital marketing strategy. Once the traffic is there, they have the option of signing up for Nautica's email list. The email list signup call to action is “SIGNUP AND RECEIVE 20% OFF YOUR NEXT ORDER.”

The website visitors could then read the stories of people “just like them” who enjoyed all of these exciting adventures while wearing Nautica clothing. Keep in mind that stories can be a powerful addition to a marketing campaign.

Another powerful way to synergize these two different styles of advertising allows you to also add mobile to this potent marketing mix.

Consider this: You could put a “branding” ad in a magazine. You could include a QR code with a call to action to scan it to visit your landing page where readers could sign up for a valuable free report full of great content related to your offering. This report could “set the stage” for you to sell them your product.

Naturally, you would require their email address before you gave them access to the report. You could then email them on a regular basis.

There are plenty of situations where you would want to only do direct response advertising. These would include if your company was still in startup mode, you had a very limited advertising budget, and you needed results right away.

But there are some potential benefits to image advertising, including increased “brand awareness” and  “top of mind awareness” among potential buyers. Just remember that it takes time and money invested (usually a lot of time and money) to see a decent return.

If you determine that you want to add branding to your overall marketing mix, make it more valuable by adding direct response features like calls to action to visit your website, join your email list or scan your QR code, to your ads. And always include your website address!

In your branding plus direct response ads, you won't just focus on your product. You might include brief snippets of copy that entice the reader with promises to solve a problem or help him reach a goal. You might talk about the benefits of your product also.

An Important Piece Of Your Online Marketing Puzzle 

Direct Response vs branding

When you are employing direct response to make your branding more powerful; when you are combining your offline and online marketing efforts, and for your online marketing success in general, you'll want to leverage the power of landing pages.

Here are some of the benefits of Lander's landing pages:

  • They give you the ability to collect contact information including email addresses
  • They allow you to use images and other graphics to reinforce your written message
  • They help you collect and analyze marketing campaign information

Landing pages can help you make more sales, especially if you add some great copywriting. They let you focus your reader's attention and compel him to make a buying decision.

And when you choose Lander, you get a selection of exciting landing page templates that are a breeze to set up. Designed to help you increase conversions, they come loaded with valuable features like advanced A/B testing capabilities, the ability to include video (like this success story this success story) and prominent, colorful call to action buttons.

And you can try them out for free! So visit Lander today to see how our landing pages can help you in your quest to quickly get on the road to making sales online.

Happy Marketing!