The Merger of Brand and Response
When you stop to ponder the cacophony of advertising and marketing messages jabbering at us on a daily basis, it makes you wonder why we all don't go mad from the constant chatter. I've ranted before about the ridiculous places I've found advertising, such as the back of the door on restaurant bathroom stalls and the slips of paper inside fortune cookies. Here's the latest spot: the cardboard sleeve you get at the local coffee shop to protect your hand from a steaming hot cup of joe. At least I got to choose my advertising message from between that of a powder coffee creamer or a new TV show.
I think the reason many direct response copywriters and designers live in remote areas, or at least retreat for a few months of the year to a vacation home, is because they are trying to cut down on this "noise" that makes it hard to think freely. And they need to be as creative and uncluttered as possible. After all, they are the talent that represents both your product and brand in direct response efforts. Certainly, you deliver the creative brief and supporting data that helps them craft the copy and design for your campaign objectives. But ultimately, it's their job to take this information, along with the conversations they've had with you, and sift through the heap until the "big idea" hits them over the head. They have to find the message that will resonate with the audience like a thunderbolt in their brains and guts.
And it's not easy to come up with the big idea. Competition is frenzied, and the media options are affordable to just about everybody. Companies that sold products and services mainly via direct mail used to be novel and exclusive, while exuding a degree of risk at the same time. Now, the Internet and e-mail have brought them into the mainstream and created a 24-hour shopping mall that allows aggressive companies to satisfy consumers' needs in record speed.
If you don't have strong brand recognition in a selling environment like this, you can expect to be engaged in endless price wars. Customers need to know what you stand for, and what kind of experience they can expect to have when doing business with you. This messaging needs to be constant, regardless of the offer or creative approach you take to sell your product. You can't be discount-oriented on the Web, premium-positioned in space advertising, and service-geared in direct mail efforts.
The amount of anxiety experienced by today's consumer due to distrust of major institutions and the ongoing war on terrorism, coupled with the staggering number of ways in which to spend money, all translates into an enormous need for consistency and stability. The volume of advertising and marketing messages ratchets up the pressure for direct response efforts that powerfully communicate these qualities, without sacrificing response.
Brand used to be a dirty word in direct marketing circles; now it's an ally.