Aligning Branding and Direct Response to Drive Conversions

A brand expert and a direct response expert sit down at a bar. The bartender asks them, “Hey, how did your most recent campaign go?”

Brand expert: “Great! We garnered more brand awareness. People are really responding to our efforts.”

Direct response expert: “It was very effective! We increased sales by 10% and predict that we can boost our customer base by 200 new customers by the end of the quarter.”

You notice the difference in response between the two. While the objective of branding tends to be more nebulous (market share, awareness, positive response), direct response (DR) tends to go for the hard line when it comes to measuring results.

Neither is more right or necessary than the other, but it’s often hard for the two to find common ground. And trying to agree on a set of signals to measure results by? Forget about it.

And yet, joining forces may be the best way for both types of marketers to actually get the results they seek.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

It’s a fact: marketers want to align branding and DR. According to a report released by the Mobile Marketing Association and RadiumOne, 67% of marketers think the two should work together for the common good. But only 35% successfully align their campaign initiatives.

Why the disparity?

The direct response team may not find value in investing in brand-building initiatives that don’t immediately produce correlated results. Brand marketers may balk at transaction-based marketing efforts that might leave consumers feeling “marketed to.” So how can the two cooperate for the benefit of the company?

Understand What the Other Values

According to the MMA/RadiumOne report, marketers assign different signals and behaviors as priority, depending on the type of campaign.

When it comes to branding campaigns, marketers focus on social signals like what people say about the brand on social media. While 38% of marketers placed emphasis on social signals, other branding-based signals were nearly as important:

  • Web visit history: 28%
  • Customer history: 28%
  • Online ad behavior: 29%
  • Customer feedback and reviews: 30%

On the other side of the equation, direct response marketers prioritize past purchases as indicative of the success or failure of a performance-based campaign. The research shows that intent-to-purchase signals often don’t happen until later in the consumer journey, and so marketers gather information from purchases, online ad behavior, search history, geolocation, and web visit history to track results and mold subsequent campaigns.

If marketers understand what drives the other side to assess behavior and shape future strategy, it may be easier to align efforts. Expect some back-and-forth as teams try to communicate why a given signal is so important to them. In the end, it’s all about educating one another.

Spend a Day in His Shoes

It may be helpful to have a “shadowing day” where your branding and direct response staff spends time observing how the other side operates. Getting out of their own comfort zone is a good way to expand their knowledge of your company’s marketing, and they should get an appreciation for why the other half does what it does. This is a great opportunity to ask questions and engage in meaningful conversation about campaigns and goals.

Create Parallel Objectives

Who’s to say that a given campaign can’t have two goals, one for branding and one for direct response? Let’s take content marketing as an example. The main intent of blog content is to educate an audience and build trust between potential customers and your brand. That doesn’t always translate into sales, at least immediately.

But maybe you can find a hybrid between the two: creating an offer at the end of the blog post where readers can sign up to get a free special report would continue to drive the mission of branding in providing value to its audience while also giving DR something to latch onto and measure.

Each party is happy in that the campaign moves the needle toward their objectives.

Improve Sales Predictions with the Right Analytics

Nothing in marketing should be done without a carefully-measured decision. You’ve got all the data and analytics you need to strategically determine the direction of your next campaign. But it’s important that you define which metrics are most important.

This is where branding and direct response teams must work together. Each should have input into which analytics matter, and be willing to have dialogue when results don’t hit the mark. If a campaign that skewed more toward direct response had lackluster outcomes, maybe the next campaign works to build customer trust through branding.

It’s important to remember that we’re all on the same team, and that ultimately, no matter how we arrive there, we have overarching objectives. We may be taking two different paths to get there, but it is possible to share the road on part of the journey.