Brand vs. Direct: Who Wins?

Anne Holland of Marketing Sherpa, someone for whom I have a great deal of respect, says brand should win, every time:

My response to Anne:

“Brand should always win …”? As a dyed-in-the-wool A/B tester, I respectfully say: absolutely not.

What’s the purpose of an effective brand if not to win business, to enhance business value? I see too many examples of companies slavishly adhering to ill-conceived brands at the expense of tweaks and refinements to their creative image that clearly could improve response to their marketing campaigns.

If a company needs to step outside a brand to increase response and ROI substantially, I see no reason why that approach shouldn’t at least be tested. If the brand in question is worth its salt, the force of that brand should outperform any attempt to circumvent it. Conversely, if the alternative generates the superior response, not just once but consistently, then the value of the brand (I would argue) is in question.

I’m reminded of a well-known Silicon Valley company with whom we worked a few years back whose “brand” consistently – and irritatingly – “got in the way of” what we all knew to be e-marketing best practices. In particular, it forced us to use obtrusive graphics within e-mail design that ultimately would render the e-mail all but invisible to most e-mail readers. But were we allowed to at least test the alternative? Certainly not. As our client put it: the brand police would have a fit.

Tough economic times are the worst time to worship at the altar of brand supremacy. Results are what matter. Measurement is king.

You say: “You could A/B test your brains out from here to kingdom come, but all those incremental gains year after year would never add up to the sole selling power of a strong brand.” Fine. Let’s test it. May the stronger proposition prevail.

What do you think? Add your comment here or join the discussion in our Facebook group, B2B Demand Generation.

One thought on “Brand vs. Direct: Who Wins?

  1. Terry Christiani

    I agree. While an effective brand is valuable, if your message isn’t resonating and converting your brand will begin to suffer over time. Your ability to engage and win consistently with quality messaging is one of the reasons big brands stay strong year after year.


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