So You Want Branding and Direct Response, Huh?

About 12 years ago, I read a book that changed the way my then-fledgling agency approached advertising and direct marketing. The book was called Maxi-Marketing, by Stan Rapp and Tom Collins.

What Stan and Tom proposed made a lot of sense to me. They introduced the concept of “double-duty” advertising; advertising that both supported and enhanced the brand AND included a tangible call to action.

Over the years since Maxi-Marketing came out, I’ve seen more and more ads, particularly in the trade press, adhering to this philosophy. These ads convey an image that is consistent with the advertiser’s desired brand association, while at the same time devoting space to making an offer of some kind: a free white paper, a free demo, or a free evaluation unit, for example. It makes it easy for readers to take action on the offer.

Curiously though, I’ve yet to see many implementations of this approach on the web. Yet this medium, with its singular ability to support the entire brand-to-sale process, is perfect for this approach.

Perhaps it’s because the branders and the direct marketers are still two separate camps. The branders don’t care about click-through rates or conversion rates; they only care about the brand impression they’re making. The direct marketers don’t give a damn about brand impression; they only care about how many site visitors they generate and how many of those visitors convert into leads or sales.

If this is the reason that double-duty advertising (Jupiter refers to it as “Brand Action Advertising”) hasn’t taken hold, then it’s time for a new breed of agency. It’s time for one that can integrate the best of branding with the best of direct response to create advertising that is truly fit for this new medium.

Here’s what you, the advertiser, might expect from this new breed of agency:

  • A keen sense of your brand personality — the words, images, and feelings you want associated with your brand.

  • A willingness to work with your established brand guidelines.
  • An understanding of all the steps involved between creating brand awareness and ringing up the sale.
  • An appreciation of what step you are trying to get your audience to take next, and what will motivate them to take that step.
  • Empathy from your creative team regarding your desire to build brand AND stimulate action (yes, most creative folks still resist messages and images that are in any way action-oriented).
  • Proactive suggestions on how your campaign results will be measured and what steps will be taken to optimize creative and media performance over time.

You don’t have to choose between branding and direct response. But you do have to let your creative team know whether these objectives are equally important, or whether one is more important than the other is. And you need the know-how to be able to determine whether the creative being proposed is likely to accomplish your objectives.

To this end, if you haven’t read Maxi-Marketing, go get it. It won’t even mention the web, but it’ll teach you a lot about how you can make your web advertising work.

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