Put Brand in Its Place
Direct campaigns that have been designed with brand policy edicts in mind—without the proper application of direct marketing fundamentals—consistently cause a direct communication to look great but under-perform and deliver less than acceptable ROI.
For example, an insurance client selling to small businesses is introducing a new brand. The brand is designed to be positive, fun, engaging. These all are great attributes for advertising. However, when using direct channels to get small business owners to pick up the phone and discuss proper coverage, historical evidence shows that fear, worry, uncertainty, discomfort and potential financial loss are what drive prospects to action. So the battle begins between delivering the brand tone and writing hard-hitting direct that works.
How Brand and Direct Work Together
I counsel clients to strive to integrate any brand messages, images, graphics or tone into a direct communication, as long as it doesn’t hurt program performance or cause the cost of acquisition to increase. Sometimes this means putting the branding messages and visual elements in the brochure of a letter package. Sometimes this means using the brand voice to find a clear but effective way to shout the offer.
What’s important to remember is that as much as the president, CMO and advertising director love their brand, consumers don’t really care. To a consumer, well-established, positive brands such as SAP, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Dell convey confidence, trust and value. And the hundreds of thousands of exposures they had to have to build their brands did not come with consumers’ total acceptance or permission.
So when a direct marketer applies brand elements in an advertising-like application to direct, results are suboptimal. The prospect sees this type of brand/response message from across the room, calls it “promotional” and quickly hits delete or finds the trash can. This is a very hard and painful truth for B-to-B (and even B-to-C) direct marketers. And it’s the underlying reason why B-to-B marketers must go back to testing white, #10, business-letter packages against their high-concept efforts. Sometimes it’s the non-fancy, non-award-winning creative that works.