(Marketing Strategy)

The Important Difference Between Direct Response Ads And Branding Ads

WHO are you talking to, and WHEN are you talking to them? That’s the essential difference between Direct Response and Branding.

Jeff Sexton
Jeff Sexton
March 26, 2021
The Important Difference Between Direct Response Ads And Branding Ads

WHO are you talking to, and WHEN are you talking to them? That’s the essential difference between Direct Response (DR) and Branding.

Direct Response

If an ad is ONLY talking to people who are in the market to buy right now, with the aim of closing the sale right now, then that ad is a direct response ad. And from this flows most of what we typically associate with DR ads:

1 Making An Offer and Call-To-Action

In order to close the sale, you have to make an offer and provide a way for the buyer to take the action you want (typically to place the order and give you money). The people that your DR ads are speaking to are already looking to buy what’s on offer. But they can’t say “yes” unless and until you make a specific offer. And they can’t give you money unless you have a way to take the order, whether that’s through an online store, a 1-800 number, or a “come on down” Call-to-Action. Makes sense, right?

2 More Pitch, Less Need for “Creativity”

All ads require high relevance and credibility to work. Irrelevant ads get tuned out — either psychologically or physically. Most ads have to create relevance. But since DR ads are talking to people already in “buying mode,” the ad’s offer is (or ought to be) inherently relevant to that audience. So the ad can skip the shenanigans and get down to selling, a large part of which involves creating credibility for the offer. Where this issue gets fuzzier is for Direct Response ads that are aimed at persuading people to buy today, rather than talking to people already intending to buy today. For example, I doubt anyone has ever consciously been in the market for a Slap Chop prior to seeing an infomercial for it.

But tons of suckers customers have purchased slap chops because the infomercials were entertaining enough to watch, and then persuasive enough to convince viewers, that, maybe it is worth $19.95 to dice veggies with a Slap Chop instead of a knife. And so it is with most infomercials — they’re aimed at convincing viewers they “need” a novel product rather than talking to people already in the market for one. So entertainment becomes necessary prior to making the pitch. Think of the infomercials for Poo Pourri or the Squatty Potty and whatnot.

Whereas infomercials for Proactive have less entertainment, because the felt need pre-exists the pitch, and thus the offer has instant relevance. And regardless of how much entertainment a DR spot has upfront, they’ll almost always switch to the urgency building, deal-sweetening, and risk-reversing techniques we’ve all come to know and sometimes loath, through the ever-present phrases of:

  • “For a limited time only”
  • “Only until supplies last”
  • “Not sold in stores”
  • “But wait, there’s more…”
  • “Pay no money now…”
  • “Money-Back Guarantee”
  • “Try it risk-free”

Every DR ad is also a sales pitch, remember? Hence the need to create urgency and pressure to act, while eliminating objections, etc.

3 Targeted Ads

Depending on how mass-market your product is and the length of the buying cycle, you may elect to target your ads rather than using mass media. This gets into the math of mass media and buying cycles. If a typical American buys a new (to them) car every 5 years — and if they’re only in buying mode for that car over the space of 3 months — then only 5% of a mass media audience will be in buying mode for a new car. If you’re talking to a few hundred thousand people, five percent of the audience might well be enough. Which is why dealerships continue to advertise on radio and TV via direct offers. And in the case of most infomercials, like the aforementioned Poo Pouri or Squatty Potty — well, EVERYONE poops, and many people would like to not be embarrassed about the smell — so mass media makes sense. If, on the other hand, you are selling investment opportunities, industrial equipment, professional training for uncommon professions, etc — then mass media doesn’t make sense and you’ll want to use targeted ads.“The money is in the list,” as the DR marketers like to say. So send your investment pitch to people who are known investors. But keep in mind, targeted ads don’t HAVE to be DR ads. You can use targeted ads for a branding campaign, too. When I wrote that DR ads are only talking to people in the market today, I meant that the messaging was targeted, not necessarily the ads themselves. And that’s how things break down for DR ads. Now let’s look at…

Branding Ads

If an ad is intentionally talking to people who are NOT YET in the market to buy right now, with the aim of winning the sale before it starts, then it’s a branding ad. And from this flows most of what we typically associate with branding ads:

1 Entertainment and Creativity

Because the audience isn’t yet in the market, there is no pre-established relevance for an offer, so branding ads have to offer entertainment to gain and hold the audiences’ attention. A spoon full of entertainment helps the messaging go down. So in addition to Relevance and Credibility, branding ads also have to layer in Entertainment and Hope. If you give people entertainment, they’ll give you their time. If you give them hope, they’ll give you their money. Just note that the entertainment has to entertain right now, whereas the hope can be related to a future moment of need.

2 Memorability & Recall Cues

Taglines, jingles, and Brandable Chunks are all aimed at creating memorability and recall in the mind of the audience. Because the customer won’t be exposed to the ad at his or her moment of need, the ads need to make sure the customer recalls the messaging and the brand when that moment arises. The goal of branding is to be the company people think of first and feel the best about when they need what you sell. “Thinking of first” means using recall cues and memorable phrases. Winston wanted customers singing their little jingle when they went to purchase cigarettes. FedEx wants you to think “when it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight” when you’ve got an express package to send out.

3 Image and Value-Based Advertising

When an advertiser has to manufacture relevancy, there is one thing that will always be relevant to people — themselves. Just look at how many “What type of Disney / Star Wars / Marvel” character are you?” quizzes there are on Social Media and Buzzfeed. Well, image-based branding can be seen as a “what brand car best expresses your inner self” style appeal. The more you try to sell jeans based on functionality and specs, the more you tempt people who aren’t in the market for jeans to tune out your ad. The more you advertise your brand of jeans as an expression of rugged individualism, sex appeal, and pure Americana, the more anyone listening might be tempted to buy those jeans as a form of self-expression, “need” be damned. Remember how branding is getting people to “think of you first and feel the best about you when they need what you sell”? Well, making people feel sympatico with your brand’s values and symbolism accomplishes that “feel the best about” part.

Can An Ad Be Both DR and Branding at the Same Time?

Yes, you can have an ad that functions both as a Direct Response ad AND a branding ad. If you’re in a business where acquiring a customer means getting them to try you once and then impressing them enough to keep them for life, then a DR-style offer and CTA appended to a branding style opening can work wonders. Craft a great offer, package it in strong brand-building creativity, and watch it work wonders. The following ad is a great example of such a campaign:

Bonney Percolate

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But note how the CTA is not a “limited time offer” — it’s a standing offer. Good now, and good for whenever you need that service.

An advertiser can also sprinkle some occasional DR ads into their branding campaigns if they truly have a worthwhile, limited-time offer.

The Real Take-Aways

This article starting to run long, so I’ll make this short. Regardless of which type of ad you run, always remember:

  • Relevance and Credibility, plus
  • Entertainment and Hope

Those are the ingredients for successful ads. Even DR ads work better with entertainment and hope, as the runaway success for Poo Pouri and Squatty Potty can attest. So find yourself an ad man who knows how to create that for your ads, and you’ll do well.

(Online)
(Offline)
(Branding)
(Offline Advertising)
(Online Advertising)
(Marketing Strategy)
Jeff Sexton
Jeff Sexton

Businesses either sell $5 haircuts, or fix $5 haircuts. I’m your guy if your company fixes $5 haircuts. Working together, we'll de-commodify your business, make pricing pressure a thing of the past, and grab the lion’s share of customers willing to pay a premium for your service or product.

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  1. Under $3.6 million in revenue
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Under $3.6 million in revenue is an investment in your brand. This will serve you well in establishing your brand story early on and help you with your name, logo, and truck wrap design. It's easier to create pictures from a story than it is to make a story based on pre-drawn pictures. You'll be glad you did. Everyone on a fast path to growth is.

Most clients start with Wizard of Ads® for Services between $3.6 and $10 million in revenue. They have often seen a natural ceiling with their leads for demand service and are looking for ways to push past the ceiling. This can only be done with a properly executed brand strategy, specifically in mass media with a sticky story.

Between $10 and $20 million in revenue, Wizard of Ads® for Services has some natural economies of scale. This is a sweet spot where Wizard of Ads® for Services can offer some added value in getting the ball rolling.

Over $20 million in revenue is actually the lowest cost point of entry as a percentage of revenue, but not the cheapest time to start with the Wizard of Ads® for Services. Leveraging all economies of scale aside, we have been left out of the upside along the way, so engaging when over $20 million in revenue means we have to mend a lot of fences damaged along the way. This is also where clients see significant savings in their media buys and production costs.

There are also three market sizes to consider.

  • Primary Markets are the top 50 cities in America.
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When considering an engagement with The Wizard of Ads® for Services, consider what size market you are in. For example, a $3.6 million company in a Primary Market will struggle to get the necessary reach needed to make a splash. You either have to be more patient than a larger company or spend more money to accelerate your reach.

Alternatively, a $5 million company in a Secondary Market will look like a pretty darn big fish in a medium-sized pond.

A $20 Million company in a Primary Market will feel like a $50 million company using our strategies to potential customers.

The key to remember is that the earlier you start with the Wizard of Ads® for Services, the lower the investment to get started. As they say, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.

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Offline, the Wizard of Ads® for Services Creative Lead will create the ad copy, cast the voice actors, source the production house, direct the performance, pick the music bed, manage all the edits, and provide you with the completed ad for final approval before sending to air on your behalf. This is included in our fees.

You pay for the production house, actors, royalty-free music, and jingles directly to avoid any potential for markups, commissions, or management fees.

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In approximately three months of activation, we’ll just be getting live on air. In six months (3 months on air), you’ll be getting anecdotal feedback from people that you are being heard, but there will be no direct line to revenue.

After 6 months on the air, you’ll think you made the biggest mistake of your life signing up for this branding nonsense. After 9 months on the air (12 months in) you’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel.

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The general guideline is 70-120 days, depending on the level of production needed and if there is a name change to your business.

This includes an onsite visit, a deep dive into research, and getting things created, negotiated, approved, produced, and live on the air.

  • Uncovery - 15-30 days based on travel. 1-2 days onsite.
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  • Creative and Media Buy Process - 45 to 60 days
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This means planning for roughly 90 to 120 days in the proper development and production of a completely unique Marketing Strategy before anything hits the airwaves.

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Creatively, yes. During the term of this Agreement, all Creative Partners assigned to your Account shall not engage, directly or indirectly, as an employee, officer, manager, partner, consultant, agent, owner, or in any other capacity, in any competition of the client, including any company engaged in marketing consulting.

For clarity, the Creative Partner is defined as the individual Wizard of Ads® Partners who is responsible for creating your creative strategy and ongoing creative copy. Competition is defined as companies that engage in the same industry and business units (e.g., Furniture, Automotive, etc.) as you. The market area is defined as the area where the marketing message naturally reaches through DMA or 60 miles from the city center of the client's service area(s).

Naturally, we exclude any potential future competition in markets where you are not currently active at the date of signing.

We do not limit Media Buyers in any market. Media Buyers get better deals for larger volumes, making it beneficial for the client to have the Media Buyer available to do as many buys as possible to secure the best deals on the client’s behalf.

Do you do digital marketing?

Wizard of Ads® for Services can provide a host of digital marketing solutions for services. Wizard of Ads® has specialized Partners that provide digital services that serve services effectively. Under no circumstances will digital marketing services be offered without Wizard of Ads® for Services core solution.

It is most likely that Wizard of Ads® for Services will work with your existing digital partners and suppliers. If you do not have a reliable digital provider, we would be happy to introduce you to a number of great providers that play nice with Wizards.

Do you do jingles?

Wizard of Ads® for Services can assist you in getting a jingle for your business. Like any other tactical element of a marketing strategy, we do not produce a jingle for the sake of a jingle.

If you do not have a story or a strategic reason to have a jingle...or an ad campaign to tie it to, do not waste your hard-earned money on a jingle. You are wasting your time and money.

When you do build a single unified marketing strategy that incorporates a jingle for a specific (often scientific) reason, we have a Jingle Wizard who has studied the art and science of jingle design.

He will score you an original, royalty-free jingle, including professional singers, musicians, and producers. He will not knock off a generic jingle from a publicly available music bed that sounds like everyone else's jingle.

Your jingle will serve a very specific reason and produce a very specific result. Have you guessed how much we love jingles yet?

Who owns the copyrights?

Wizard of Ads® for Services owns copyrights for two very specific reasons. We also provide a fair use clause in all contracts to ensure you are in no way limited to the access of your creative works, whether you are working with us or not.

The first reason we own your copyright is to ensure that we do not have to go up against our own creative works in other markets we serve. This means you are not allowed to lend, give, borrow, tweak, rent, lease, or sell your creative works to any other company at any time.

The second reason we own your copyright is that we can establish a one-time value for your creative works in the event that someone steals the content. Upon selling you the copyrights, you can go after the perpetrator for theft and make a considerable bounty in a slam dunk case.

Here is how Wizard of Ads® word the fair use of your copyright for as long as your business is in operation:

All writing and/or marketing materials we create for you are not works-for-hire. Wizard of Ads® for Services hereby irrevocably grants you, and your successors in interest, the non-exclusive, royalty-free, non-transferable, and worldwide right to use the Works in connection with the marketing of your business pursuant to the Marketing Strategy for so long as your business is operational.
How do I measure brand results?

There are a number of interesting ways to measure results. Some people like to get unique identifying telephone numbers, or create branded URLs that redirect to landing pages or the website. However, much of this is a waste of time and energy as it never tells the true story of the brand journey and how it affected the decision-making process.

Other indicators of brand effectiveness include tracking new customers, reactivated customers, or running a brand equity survey to get a sense of your share of mind. Digitally you will see direct search increase, which cannot be affected by anything digital, as well as branded keyword inquiries increase. You’ll, of course, need to get your digital people to add these to your campaigns if you hope to see an increase in conversions.

Wizard of Ads® for Services racks the simplest of indicators. Top line revenue. When your branding takes effect, and the company responds in kind from the phone call or form fill-on, top-line revenue will increase. Efficacy is plotted on a T12, and total lead volume from all sources is tracked.

12 things you should know before signing up.
  1. Quality relationships take time. Branding is a long-term strategy. That’s why most services do it wrong, or not at all. There is always a lag between the start of the new campaign and the time it takes your customers to connect the dots. You MUST BE READY, WILLING, AND ABLE to endure this lag period. In our experience, the lag is typically 6 to 9 months, depending on how competitive the marketplace is, your company’s reputation, your budget in relation to reach, and the eight uncontrollable environmental factors. During this time, we will be helping you implement a transition plan to ease the pain. The good news is that this lag only happens once.
  2. Decisions by Committee. We completely reject the notion of decisions by committee. We work with a single, courageous decision-maker. We welcome decision influencers, but we only look to the Owner for the final decision. All decision-makers and influencers must be involved in the Uncovery and Marketing Strategy Presentation if they want to offer input in the future. It is critical that we have a 100% fully approved plan that can be defended and championed by all leaders in the organization.  
  3. Proven Strategy. That means we are not the low-cost provider. With hundreds of service clients and a playbook of strategic devices, tools, and tactics, this isn’t a guessing game for us. We know what to do to make your goods and services appealing to potential buyers. If you can deliver the goods, we can  build the relationships. If you are uncomfortable with the idea that you are paying us less now so that you can pay us considerably more once revenues allow, please do not commit. We intend to be your true partners, in sickness and in health...so long as you own your business.
  4. Automatic Payments. Everything is on automatic payments. If you struggle with managing cash flow, figure that out in your business first. We accept all major credit cards and ACH payments.
  5. We Cause Problems. If you don’t have a capacity issue now, I promise you will in about 9 months. Let’s deal with recruitment out of the gate as part of your comprehensive marketing strategy.
  6. We Own the Copyrights. All writing and/or marketing materials we create for you are not works-for-hire. We irrevocably grant you, and your successors in interest, the non-exclusive, royalty-free, non-transferable, and worldwide right to use the Works in connection with the marketing of your business pursuant to the Marketing Strategy for so long as your business is operational.
  7. Brand Building. We will be steering you to limit the use of discounts, rebates, coupons, and sales to attract clients. We know this feels counterintuitive to many, and we will clarify our reasoning. Rest assured, we have considerable experience in creating similar offers that are not damaging to your profitability, your brand’s integrity, and your preferable long-term client relations.
  8. Creative Authority. We must have creative authority over the words. You can accept copy as written or reject it outright, but you cannot modify the words yourself. If you do not like something as written, we are happy to discuss it and make the necessary change to maintain the integrity and intention of the words chosen. Alternatively, we will scrap the concept and create new copy that you are happy to get behind 100%.
  9. Proprietary Algorithm. The media buy must be structured in a very specific way, including running a full 52-week schedule. It is based on brain chemistry, not P&Ls. Once we have committed to the buy, it’s important to avoid adjustments unless they are calculated additions.
  10. Knucklehead Factor. You should expect knuckleheads. For example, when you start running ads that are certain to get attention, you need the courage to continue running those ads, even when you receive complaints. We celebrate complaints. It means we’ve made people feel.
  11. Digital Weasels. In about three months from the time your advertising campaign hits the airways, your digital marketers will show you a marked increase in direct and organic traffic. Some Digital Marketers will mistakenly claim this success as their own. Done properly, you can continue to spend less and less on digital lead generation by increasing your branded keyword online presence.
  12. Annual Marketing Meetings. Travel permitting, we prefer to hold Annual Marketing Meetings (AMMs) outside your city. Years of experience have taught us that we get better results when decision-makers are outside their sphere of influence, away from the day-to-day distractions of the office.

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