Branding vs. Direct Response Marketing

branding vs direct response marketing

If you ask a room full of marketing professionals which type of marketing gets the best results, you may start a war between the branding and direct response camps. The truth is, each type of marketing has its merits, but sometimes one type is a better tool to reach your goals than the other.

Weighing Branding and Direct Response Campaigns

The trick to choosing the right marketing campaign is understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each. For that, you’ll have to step back from your favorite form of marketing, and take a hard look at them both from an unbiased position. Although this isn’t meant to be completely exhaustive, here are a few of the main differences between branding and direct response marketing:

Measurability. The greatest benefit to any direct response marketing campaign is the high level of measurability it creates. When you ask the customer to take a specific action, you have no doubt they either performed the action or they didn’t. This is why you’ll typically see calls to action that ask for customers to call, engage on social media, go to a website or download apps in the moment, which are great ways to measure response. Branding campaigns don’t ask anything of the customer – not right away, anyway. They hope to create an image of the brand in the customer’s mind, so when they need to make a purchase, they think of the brand first.

Return on Investment. If you’re looking to calculate your ROI on a given campaign, direct response is a good tool to use because it is measurable. With so much direct data at your disposal, you can quickly see how much money a direct response campaign returned with little effort. There are other methods to estimate ROI for branding campaigns, though, including customer self-report surveys. ROI over the long-term can be better using a branding campaign, but it’s a highly variable figure depending on what you’re selling and which direct response outlets you choose.

Revenue Generation Speed. For fast cash, there’s no campaign that beats direct response. When you send a direct response campaign out into the world, you either get an immediate response or you get nothing at all – there’s no gray area. However, this also means there’s little residual power behind the campaign. If you need to generate money quickly for a company that is cash poor, a direct response marketing campaign can be an effective way to get them started.

Customer Feedback Response Time. Brand marketing campaigns are often long, involved processes that take monumental efforts to orchestrate. Because of this, they tend to move at the speed of a glacier – that is to say, very slowly. Depending on your marketing campaign, it might not make a huge difference, but if you’re looking to adapt your efforts as customer feedback comes in, direct response provides both the immediate response some customers seek and an opportunity to adjust and try again.

Marketing Goals. Ultimately, direct response and brand marketing have very different goals in mind, which can be confusing for young companies who are just starting to explore their marketing options. Direct response marketing can be used to gauge interest or get the phones ringing quickly, but brand marketing is the only way to create a long-lasting impression that sticks with customers over time. If your goal is short term, direct response will yield results immediately, but if you have a longer game plan in mind, brand marketing is the way to go.

Ultimately, few products or companies can thrive using just a branding or direct response marketing campaign. They’re truly two sides of a whole – the direct response campaign can help bring in much-needed income quickly, while branding helps create an engaging experience that customers become invested in. Understanding which type of campaign to use under what conditions can help you maximize your advertising dollars and yield the best results for whatever your goals might be, both long-term and short-term.


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