Brand Marketing or Direct Marketing: Which Are You Doing?


When dealing with communications, a big part of getting the execution right, is getting the overall strategy right. And this is often the most overlooked part of the process.

The strategy for the communication can be started with one word; why?

Why does this communication exist? Who’s it for? What should they think? What action should they take?

This is most evident in the distinction between brand advertising and direct marketing (also known as direct response marketing). Each has their own place, but are often confused for each other.

On Brand

Brand marketing is the long haul of communications. It seeks to establish emotional and trustworthy connections with consumers over a long period of time.

Companies that use brand advertising, build recognition throughout their audiences, with a view of motivating them to take action in the future.

This is a suitable approach for brands that are in it for the long run. If Colgate take out a billboard on a busy shopping street, the goal of the billboard is that you remain aware of Colgate.

A person seeing such a billboard, may not even register it consciously. But six months later, when faced with a choice at the toothpaste aisle in his local supermarket, maybe he picks the brand he recognises – Colgate. Or not.

Brand marketing is unmeasurable. How can you gauge the effectiveness of a press ad, or a TV spot during the big game?

Therefore it’s a strategy mostly suitable for brands with an eye on cultural impact. Brand marketing is often a marathon, not a sprint.

In my experience, most businesses want to do brand marketing. Everyone loves doing big, sexy advertising, but it’s largely ineffective if the strategy is wrong.

For example, a local florist would do better to buy Facebook ads, instead of a huge billboard on the side of a busy road.

However, in 1986, a young upstart of a fashion label, became an overnight success off the back of perhaps the most iconic billboard of all time. His name was Tommy Hilfiger.

If you want to create marketing that creates a specific action (join/buy/sign up/follow this), then brand marketing is not for you.

But if you want to impact culture over a long period of time, it might be.

Direct Lines

Direct marketing on the other hand, is measurable. It includes most forms of online advertising.

As such it can be counted in interactions and clicks, allowing advertisers to track and measure the performance of their campaigns.

A brand with a line of products, can tailor each online campaign to reach specific demographics and psychographics.

Advertisers only pay for these ads if the required action is fulfilled – not every time the ad is viewed.

So as the data generated by direct marketing can be analysed, it can offer insight into performance, conversion rates, and ROI of each campaign.

But just because it’s an ad on Facebook, doesn’t mean that your audience should and will click it.

As a studio that has created a lot of online advertising campaigns, we’ve seen consistently low retention in digital advertising.

The trick is to be able to gauge the ROI of a communication – something that can’t be done with brand marketing.

Best of Both Worlds

Neither approach is better or worse, it’s a case of understanding which one is right for you.

If you want to sell a particular product listed on Amazon, direct marketing is going to be far more effective than a billboard.

And there’s no point in engaging in brand marketing, and then wondering why sales haven’t picked up 3 weeks later. Building that kind of connection could take months, if not years.

The best case scenario, is that in doing brand marketing (building awareness), you’ll also enable some direct marketing (more sales), and vice versa.

But doing one and expecting the other, leads to many a furrowed brow.

And this is usually the point where people start asking, why?

– Greg Bunbury


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

+ 27 = 35