Direct response marketing and brand marketing are distinct marketing strategies that each result in vastly different outcomes. So which strategy should marketers focus on?
Firstly, the intention behind what both types of advertising are setting out to influence differs massively. The brand strategy tries to influence how the potential consumers feel, with the intention that they will then associate that feeling with the brand, whether that's reliable, caring, heartwarming, romantic or family-oriented, for example. The problem with this method is that people may respond with emotion to the story that the advertisers are conveying but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will associate that emotion with the brand. One example of this is Kleenex who use a cute puppy in all of their advertising in the hope that viewers will associate the qualities of the puppy and its softness with the brand. People may respond positively to the cute animal in the ad but that doesn’t mean that they are necessarily thinking of the product in direct association. It also doesn’t directly drive them to make a purchase in response.
Direct response marketing, on the other hand, actively tackles this head-on. The primary move of this type of marketing is to influence people’s actions to turn them from potential consumers to customers before they have had time to mull it over. This type of advertising offers a clear call to action that incites an immediate response, such as clicking on a button, calling a number, signing up to an email list, becoming a member or making an immediate purchase to take advantage of a limited-time only offer. Direct response advertisements will unashamedly frequently repeat their call to action to really drive the message home of what they are offering and make the customer feel compelled to respond.
Hard metrics vs soft metrics
Another major difference between these two types of marketing is the ability to measure consumer behaviour. If a company is simply splashing their brand name all over the place, then they are not able to accurately measure what type of advertising is working well and what is not. These companies are relying on soft metrics, which are not easily measurable, to influence their future advertising. By using soft metrics, marketers can surmise that if they placed an ad in a certain city and then went on to sell a lot of their product in that city soon afterwards, then advertising in that city was successful and they can continue to do so by using the same marketing strategy. This response is abstract, not based upon concrete facts and requires more guesswork from the marketer as to what has been effective on a more general scale, rather than being able to pinpoint exactly what it was about the advertisement that made certain people respond to it.
In order to be able to gain an in-depth insight that will enable advertisers to be able to fine-tune their marketing strategy to maximum effect, it is by far the best method to make use of all of the measurable data analytics that direct response marketing so easily provides access to. By providing quantifiable results on specific details, marketers are able to pinpoint exactly who they are appealing to and exactly how effective each part of their marketing strategy is. For the specific parts of the advertisements that are proving to be less successful, the fast results provided by data analytics enable the marketers to quickly tweak their advertisements to optimise them and measure their performance to produce better results.
Soft metrics could reveal that there has been an increase in online transactions but they won’t be able to determine exactly what led to that increase in sales, so it is not helpful in informing future marketing strategies to increase traffic. In this way, it is very passive. Direct response marketing has a number of hard metrics at its disposal, including click-through rate, cost per lead and cost per acquisition to measure exactly what drove people to take action, after actively driving them there in the first place and what their specific demographics are. This will determine who they appeal to in order to inform where they should advertise in future for guaranteed results and to influence the message and emotion that they should convey in their advertising.
By using pay per click ads, the click-through-rate will compare the data of the exact number of people who clicked on the call to action link on a website in comparison to the number of people who visited that webpage. This provides a great tool to assess the effectiveness of the copy on your specific advertisement on that page. Cost per lead measures the people who provide their details to express interest in your product or service when signing up to receive more information, for example, and the associated cost, in order to ensure that ad spend is being used in the most cost-effective way. This is a useful marketing strategy to employ when making an instant purchase is not viable for the service that you are offering. Cost per acquisition accurately assesses exactly how much an advertiser needs to spend to get a result which provides the best value for money so that they can spend their money wisely in a far more strategic way then they ever could just by throwing their money into branding.
Direct response marketing doesn’t neglect the important elements that brand marketing employs, such as evoking an emotional response in the potential consumers and building a feeling of trust from the customer; it naturally builds these elements into its marketing mix while focusing on the factors that will really drive ROI. While brand marketing has its merits, direct response marketing should be the strategic marketer’s main focus when crafting their marketing strategy to guarantee that they quickly build their ROI.
When marketers first try to establish their brand, they tend to focus on pouring their money and effort into brand marketing. However, direct response marketing is the proven way to get more bang for your buck at a far quicker pace.
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