Linking Branded Communications to Better ROI
For decades, there’s been a discrepancy between how general agencies and direct marketers approach communication. General agencies, so it is said, begin communication from the “top down,” or from the perspective of the brand, while direct marketers begin communication from the “bottom up,” or the vantage point of the customer. But does that mean that direct marketers shouldn’t be focused on work that builds brands as well?
Unfortunately, for us, we often operate under this assumption. Many long-time veterans of direct marketing will say that what we do is founded on “quick hit” profitability and that no branded campaign could ever spike sales as quickly as a hard-hitting acquisition effort or well-placed free-standing insert. And, in fact, short-term metrics seem to support this assertion. For the customer, an insight-based piece of communication that appeals to an underlying emotional need may never have the immediate impact of the words “save 50 percent on your next purchase.” Yet in the long term, there’s a downside to ignoring branded communications in relationship marketing, both for the marketer and the agency.
For marketers, there’s a high risk of commoditization—creating the perception that price or incentive alone drives customer choice of a product or service. Constant offers, deals or sign-up incentives can potentially mask real differences in brands and create pools of more fickle customers who are perpetually up for grabs.
For direct marketers the risk is equally as great—being relegated to, at best, a tactical role prevents us from having a lasting impact on our clients’ businesses when we have a greater opportunity than ever to become a valued partner. Indeed, the business landscape has changed over the past five years. Clients are demanding more than ever before from their direct partners for a number of reasons, including:
* A heavier reliance on nontraditional media, such as interactive, which have been linked more strongly to direct media than general media;