Branding or Direct Marketing: Why Pick Just One?


It’s nice to see mainstream marketing execs hop on the online branding bandwagon. It’s been a long time coming, and we were tired of being lone voices in the wilderness. I’ve urged our clients to think bigger than short-term direct response for years. They should add longer-term branding campaigns to online marketing budgets.

Two years ago, Anthony Garcia, our senior persuasion architect blogged the following:

Direct response marketing singularly focuses on selling customers in the market TODAY. The pitfall with that approach is that every day that you wake up you are pushing to persuade an entirely different set of customers to buy. Doesn’t sound like much fun does it?…

If you are looking for brand lift don’t discount the potential of an online branding strategy. While the entire world has been treating the internet exclusively as a direct response vehicle (and it is a darn good one) [we] have been successfully deploying… online branding strategies with our clients for quite some time.

In his post, Garcia delves into neuroscience and explains why the online channel delivers a more relevant, memorable experience than the more traditional channels. And with the advent of Web analytics software, many marketers realized the channel also provides a more accurate source of behavioral data in a more timely, efficient manner.

But somewhere along the way, marketers were led astray by technology-focused, report jockeys. Just because they can implement Web analytics software and read reports doesn’t make them qualified to offer marketing advice. Poorly planned scenarios with retrofitted key performance indicators (KPIs) fed the notion that the Web is all about direct marketing. Today, the Web is the center of all customer-centric marketing efforts. And many CMOs later, marketing accountability is non-negotiable.

Branding or Direct: Cats Just Don’t Care

At the end of the day, customers don’t care whether you’re branding or marketing directly. They can’t tell the difference and don’t care enough to try. Technology and interactivity confer more control over the buying process and countless angles of approach for experiencing a brand. All consumers see is what’s relevant to them. The rest they ignore or, worse, use to shape (and share) a negative perception of you.

Your customer has more choice and more control. She must no longer conform to a seller’s selling process. She can take control and move on to another seller. She can act like the cat she’s always been.

After all, no cat wants to be taught to bark.

We’ve spent the last year writing a book about this. You can read Rebecca Lieb’s take on it.

Branding or Direct: Why Pick One?

For every online marketer who ignores branding strategies, another marketer misses an opportunity to sell today.

Take the recent PetSmart TV ad, a touching :30 spot featuring a Dachshund and its stuffed toy. The ad depicts the owner gently taking the beloved (and ragged) toy from the dog while it naps. It ends with the dog and the owner checking out of PetSmart with an identical new toy. The dog and the toy are adorable and endearing. And though this is clearly a branding campaign, it seems obvious that demand for this particular toy is created as a byproduct. Yet without knowing the actual name of the toy, it’s impossible to find it on the Web site.

Worse are marketers with direct response campaigns that fail to convert or fail to realize a satisfactory ROI (define), so they dub them branding campaigns.

Marketers needn’t choose one or the other simply because they’ve been led to believe the medium better supports one over the other. We’ve used traditional direct metrics (i.e., conversion) to measure and prove branding online not only is possible, but involves the same process direct marketing does. And there’s the rub. A plan to integrate both strategies is hard work. The challenge is even more multifarious than just a decision on long- versus short-term marketing.

Marketers must now account for:

To all that, they must add the traditional marketing challenges businesses have been tackling since the dawn of commerce.

All It Takes Is a Plan

Although there’s no shortage of dilemmas for marketers, every indication is that customers from all walks of life still love to buy. To persuade is to create the common ground between your selling process and how your customers buy.

Planning persuasion scenarios is the only way to align your selling goals with customers’ buying goals. Persuasion scenarios needn’t end in a sale to be measurable; they can be used to measure brand value and engagement with your visitors in a more tangible way. They manage the complexities and accounts for customers’ catlike behavior. Persuasion scenarios are manageable and measurable. They’re the only way to reconcile long-term branding goals with direct-response marketing accountability.

What are your challenges?


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