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"Brand" and "Direct Response" are the yin and yang of marketing. On one side, you have brand color palettes and content calendars, and on the other, you have headline swipe files.
The hard truth is that you need to use both branding and direct response in your business. In this article, we'll go over what they are and then how, when, and why to use them.
"The question you should be asking is not 'this or that?', but 'how much of this or that?'"
Brand Marketing is a strategy used to get people to easily recognize and trust your business. A business’s brand is its personality. It’s what people think when they think of the business. Do they recognize the name? What does the business stand for? How does it make them feel? Brand Marketing is a long-term strategy and just like a person’s reputation, it takes a while to develop and can be destroyed quickly.
“It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.’”
Here’s a real-world example of brand marketing... You start to feel sick... nose stuffed, brain fog, and your throat a little sore. You go to CVS to get some medicine. Walk to the aisle and find 2 bottles next to each other.
One bottle of NyQuil next to the store brand medicine. The NyQuil is $1.50 more expensive. If you were to pick up both bottles the ingredients are exactly the same and both bottles hold the same amount of medicine. Even though it’s the same thing, most people get the NyQuil for the extra dollar. Why? Because they recognize the brand and feel more comfortable with it. Daniel Kahneman calls this the Availability Bias. It's a mental shortcut we use, where subconsciously, we trust whatever feels more familiar to us.
Direct Response Marketing is a strategy used to get people to take a specific action that leads directly to a sale. Direct Response is a short-term strategy and because of that, it's more trackable e.g. you spend $1 and can see that it directly brought $5 back to you.
Direct Response can be used to track a wide variety of metrics but works best when it can provide you with a clear Customer Acquisition Cost.
The main difference between direct response and brand marketing can be found in what you measure. Generally, direct response is measuring the sales generated from a marketing campaign while brand marketing is measuring the awareness.
The goal is to use both Direct Response Marketing and Brand Marketing to grow your business, but how much focus you should put into each will be determined by the level of your business. Keep in mind that these are general recommendations and this can be situational.
$0 - $1 Million
In the beginning of business, you don't have money or a following, so every dollar counts more than ever. For this reason, 80% of your marketing should be direct response while 20% can be a brand play. Direct Response is much less risky because results can be tracked almost immediately. This will allow you to quickly take feedback from the market and make changes to your messaging. Direct Response marketing will also help you get the necessary product feedback you need in the beginning stages of business and allow you to achieve Product-Market Fit.
$1 - $10 Million
During this stage of business, you'll have an audience and some money. You can take some more risk with your marketing, but I wouldn't take too much focus off of the direct response strategies that have helped you get here. I'd say put 50% of focus on direct response and 50% on brand marketing. With the direct response you should keep utilizing the messaging that you've proven works and just increase the volume. With brand marketing, this is where you can start to turn your audience from buyers to raving fans. Let them know what you stand for and really begin building your brand identity around the people that you've helped so far.
$10 Million +
This is where you can start to see brand marketing have more of an impact because you're helping more people with your products and services. So, if you can get those people to love and identify with your brand then you'll have a tribe of promoters. You'll also have more money at this stage, so you can afford to take on the riskier brand marketing approach. If it doesn't get results immediately, you can have more patience and allow it the time it needs to compound. For these reasons, I'd say put 80% of your focus on brand marketing and 20% on direct response at this stage.
We can compare Direct Response to fishing. Fishing would be very difficult without bait. So, the first thing you need is good bait. Bait is your offer. It's what you use to grab people's attention and bring them in.
The better the bait, the more fish you'll catch. The better the offer, the more customers you'll get. Specifically, we're talking about your front-end offer. The goal of the front-end offer is to get more people in the door (here's how to create good front-end offers).
Once you have a good front-end offer, then it's about putting it in front of people.
There are three segments of people you can put it in front of
We call these three segments the Buyer's Circle and you can find out more about it here.
To reach these people you'll use the following methods.
Strangers - Paid Ads on Interruption Channels (Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, TikTok), Organic Outreach, Strategic Partnerships.
Searchers - Website Optimization, Paid Ads on Intent Channels (Google).
Subscribers - Text campaigns, Email campaigns.
Focus on just one of these methods at a time and perfect it. Just one method done right can get you to $1m +.
When using a direct response strategy, a simple framework to use on all methods is the following
Grab Attention - Talk About Their Desire - Make An Offer That Solves Desire - Call To Action
Here's an example of a Facebook ad that worked well for a Medical Spa using a direct response approach.
This ad grabs the prospects attention with the first line and the video. Then it talks about their desires (looking beautiful and having nice skin). Then it tells them about the $149 special offer. Then it gives them a clear call to action to click "Sign Up". The key with call to actions is to get one micro-commitment at a time. So, for example, in this ad it asks them to click the button first, then it sends them to a form to put in their information, then we book them in for an appointment, then we make the sale. One micro-commitment after another, and all of the steps are tracked until the sale.
That is how to use a Direct Response Strategy with facebook ads, but the approach is similar on the other mediums as well e.g. on your website you can have a special offer pop-up in front of visitors, get their information and then book them in for an appointment after you get the lead.
Creating a brand is the process of personifying your business. Giving your business a personality that aligns with your ideal customers. In order to create a brand that resonates with people, you need to understand human psychology.
There's a great book by Robert Cialdini called Influence that talks about 6 main psychological principles of persuasion. You can use these principles to create a powerful brand that influences people and has raving fans.
Reciprocity - Cialdini’s first principle of persuasion states that human beings hate to feel indebted to others. So if you provide value to them, they'll subconsciously feel like they owe you something in return. To use this principle with your brand, provide value to your audience consistently and make them laugh, think, feel grateful and learn new things. This can be done through the content on your social media or even something as simple as you texting your clients on their birthday.
Social Proof - People are easily influenced and do what other people do. So if you can get people to see that others like your brand, they will like your brand as well.
One way to do this is to add an online community to your offering. A place where your customers can feel like they're a part of something. A place they can communicate with your business and other likeminded people. Our favorite tool to create this is a software called Skool. You can find info on that here.
Another way to create social proof in your brand is by having a lot of 5-star reviews. If people see an overwhelming number of good reviews it'll be very difficult for them to think negatively of your brand and they'll want to have the same positive experience that others had.
Liking - This ones pretty simple. The more a person likes someone the more they'll be persuaded by them. People are much more likely to like a person than a business. So, think about how you can create a brand that has a personality.
One way you can do this is with sponsorships and brand ambassadors. Is there a well known personality that represents what you want your brand to represent? Think about how Nike has used great athletes to tie their brand to excellence. When people saw Michael Jordan wearing Nikes they subconsciously would tie his personality with Nike's brand.
This doesn't need to be on the level of a billion dollar sponsorship either. With social media there are so many micro-influencers that have real connections with their audiences. Even people on the local level, moms running facebook groups, local athletes with a couple thousand followers, etc. Sometimes the micro-influencers can be better than big ones because they have a deeper connection with their following.
Another way to incorporate the "liking principle" with your brand is for your business to stand for something. You'd think that brands that polarize and take a stand are losing 50% of the market, but they're actually getting a more loyal tribe of raving fans. You can see this with coffee. Two of the most popular coffee brands are on opposite sides of the political spectrum. You have Starbucks who caters more to democrats, and then you have Black Rifle Coffee who caters more to republicans. Both have strong brands and make a lot of money.
Authority - People trust people that they view as an authority or expert at something. If you're an expert at what you do you can use that to create a brand that is trusted by your target market. Create content around your expertise and teach people what you know. By doing this, you'll kill 2 birds with one stone by using reciprocity and authority at the same time.
Scarcity - This principle states that we perceive things as more valuable when their availability is limited. If I gave you 1000 new customers tomorrow would you be able to handle it? What about 100? Most people wouldn't be able to. So, there is a genuine level of scarcity in your business. You should use it to your advantage and let people know that there is a limited supply of your product or service. This will make people value your brand more. You can see this principle used well with luxury brands like Rolex.
Consistency - People want to be consistent with their existing commitments. Once they have publicly said they will do something or agree with something, it is very difficult for them to take it back. In order to use consistency in your branding you can incentivize people to post or share something of your brand on social media by doing a giveaway. That way once they post that they support your brand it would be very difficult for them to stop supporting it. You can also get people to wear your merchandise. Once someone represents your logo they'll subconsciously be more inclined to keep supporting what you do. One last way to use the principle of consistency in your branding is to have some sort of membership that people can join. The membership can make people commit to using your product/service on a continual basis.
So to summarize all of this, you need to use both direct response marketing and brand marketing in your business. How to use them, when to use them and how much of each to use, will differ depending on your situation. Hopefully this was helpful. To get early access to more content like this make sure you join the ScaleLocal Newsletter here.