Direct and Branding: Brothers in Arms

Back in May, I wrote a post quoting Denny Hatch about how branding and direct marketing don’t mix. Here, Dave Dumanis, guest blogger and CDI Creative Director, offers his thoughts on how to make direct and branding work together:

“In my experience, the relationship between direct response advertising and branding or image advertising is simple: if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. DR and branding should work together, to synergistically benefit both arms of your marketing plan.

Unfortunately, many companies seem to think that a knowledge of DR best practices—which is certainly critical—means that they can turn their noses up at branding.

This situation is exacerbated by the frequent deployment of DR by companies that can’t afford or haven’t yet thought about branding tools like style guides, logo usage, or brandwide copy tonality.

The end result is a creative product that appears to follow the “letter” of DR best practices, yet may generate an indifferent response—and certainly does nothing for your overall messaging or positioning.

Some symptoms of this syndrome include:

* Logo abuse (making it too big or too frequent, altering it, etc.)
* Exclamation point and all-caps abuse (“NOW! LIMITED TIME!!!”)—not to put a moratorium on either, but a little goes a long way
* Inappropriate misuse or exaggeration of urgency (“Order this product now—or let hackers have their way with your system!”)
* Humorlessness, heavy-handedness, lack of wit, and other signs of best practices being followed in a highly rote way

If your DR materials show any of these symptoms, to the degree that they’re inconsistent with your branding strategy, the brand will suffer—and so may your response.

Obviously, you don’t want to employ wit or a calm, confident tonality if that’s not part of your brand. But to the degree that your brand is developed, your DR campaigns should reflect who you genuinely are as a company—not what you may think DR looks like as a genre.”

Thanks Dave! Comments anyone?

One thought on “Direct and Branding: Brothers in Arms

  1. Mike O'Sullivan

    Dave, I agree with your overall point but I frame it a little differently…

    I think that when people *separate* “branding” from DR, or “brand building” from direct marketing, that starts them on the road to trouble.

    An even more simple way to look at it is that there’s one discipline called DR. Every single marketing piece you create, you should want someone to do something as a result. They might not do it immediately, but they’ll do it. Consider a leave-behind collateral piece that gets read (and understood! and kept!) and so it sits in the recipient’s subconscious.

    And then a few months later something comes up in discussion that makes her think back to it. And then as a result she gets back in touch with whoever at your company initially gave her the leave-behind!

    I use “leave-behind” as the medium here but of course the same thing can and should happen with an image advertisement. (If we consider everything “DR.”)

    So where does “branding,” come in, then?

    I’d say that following the “letter” of DR best practices should (must!) mean that your DR gets a response AND keeps the respondent in the fold for the long term.

    In B2B “long term” of course might mean the course of a long sales cycle, in B2C, it’d mean getting the respondent to not just buy once, but buy again.

    So DR that gets a *short-term* response but doesn’t lead to *longer-term* dollars (or in the case of B2C, immediate AND ongoing dollars)…it therefore *is NOT effective DR!*

    And *one* way a DR piece will be effective in the short term AND long term is by being aware of what you point out, Dave. Call that adherence to “branding,” but really it’s just further attention to detail and consistency, I think?

    On that note, Dave, you say…

    “You don’t want to employ wit or a calm, confident tonality if that’s not part of your brand” and “your DR campaigns should reflect who you genuinely are as a company.”

    But — and forgive me if I’m misreading anything — such considerations (style guides, logo usage, consistency of tone, “who you are”) must *only* come after you’ve answered the fundamental questions…

    Why does your company NEED to exist? Does the text you’ve written show you *clearly* and *specifically* understand your prospect’s life? And clearly and specifically communicate how you’re going to help her?

    I.e., if your marketing materials & campaigns don’t answer *those* questions successfully, then all you’re doing is shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic. Putting lipstick on a pig. (Pick your cliche…)

    Now perhaps I’m saying the same thing as you are — i.e., perhaps successful answering these fundamental questions is part of what you mean by having a “branding strategy”? — but, again, I’m just framing it differently.

    In any case, Dave, you are dead on when you say, “If you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem!”


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