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Editorial Advisory Board

Is Branding Dead?

1 Jan, 2009 By: Thomas Haire Response

No, but as the economy struggles and marketing budgets are slashed, measuring ROI on every marketing dollar is now a necessity. In the new age of direct response, marketers are turning to 'response-branding' methods more than ever.


How are marketers best utilizing measurable direct response methods to serve in a dual capacity — as branding and as a purchase driver? Which media — TV, the Web, etc. — is the most effective to introduce what is becoming the norm: a branding ad with a call-to-action attached?

Avi Savar, founder and CEO, Big Fuel: TV has the most reach, but the Web is the most targeted and effective. The Web can pinpoint specific audiences, specific conversations, specific targets — and deliver relevant messages at a relevant time. The most effective way to do this is to deliver story-driven communications. Delivering content that is relevant to the audience first (what we call "people?stories") leads to bridging the?experience?to the brand to deliver a message (what we call "product stories"). With consumers seeing 5,000 brand messages every day, they have been programmed to block you out — you have to connect with them on a direct level.

Pruett: It depends upon the product and age group being targeted. However, we should be clear that, in DR, theoretically every ad should be a purchase driver. It's what sets us apart from other brand-driven advertising. In today's market, with prices for certain channels dropping precipitously, it may make sense to have your brand appear in previously overlooked channels because current ROIs justify the spend.

Savage: We have many clients that apply a branded DR, hybrid approach to their marketing, and they are quite successful in doing so. It's most apparent in cost-per-acquisition campaigns for services and for direct-sell/retail-driving campaigns for hard goods. Most marketers apply the approach across all media, but television and online remain the most prominent channels for introduction of this strategy.

Murray: There are lots of examples of "direct branding" — Geico is probably the best known (and biggest spender) of this genre. J.G. Wentworth also has had much success in driving down lead cost by leveraging this concept. TV is the hammer that drives the message home for us and, even though it is an expensive endeavor, its audience reach and potential impact via frequency and effective creative can't be beat. Once the audience is intrigued by and familiar with the TV pitch (whether it is the first or 100th time they've seen it), the advertiser needs to be able to re-sell the offer online. Plenty of bad execution exists in this territory, so it is critical that search engine optimization (SEO) and Web experience fundamentals are in full force.

Sarnow: There are a few direct response models that have picked up momentum during the past 10 years [that include branding]. The "retail model" is a product that runs a DRTV campaign (often with a $ 19.95 product) that goes to retail during the campaign and builds the brand while creating a transaction. The real beneficiary is the retail outlet carrying the product, because many people won't buy products they see on TV but will buy them in retail sometime in the future. The offline advertising strategy to get people to a Web site is another model that builds brands well. Priceline.com, eDiets.com and Zappos.com are three good examples. A third excellent model is the "customer acquisition model," whereby a marketer pays more to acquire a customer but makes up the acquisition costs downstream with an auto-ship or subscription program. Branding on these programs is excellent because the downstream revenue allows additional media purchases.

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