Branding vs. Direct Response Marketing

The marketing funnel has changed.  The old concept of offering repeated exposure and hoping for the best is on its way out.  A new, multi-prong approach requires marketing efforts to first attract consumers, then find a way to connect with them, and then engage and nurture them to the point of purchase.

One of the classic rivalries in marketing is branding versus direct response marketing. Here, we’ll take a moment to look at each approach on its own and then delve into some commonly understood comparisons.



Robison Wells at LucidPress offers the following: a brand exists in the minds of your customers; a brand is the sum total of all the impressions a customer has, based on interactions they have had with you, your company, and your products.

Entrepreneur Small Business Encyclopedia defines branding as: a marketing practice of creating a name, symbol, or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products.

Branding is also called delayed response marketing or brand management and commonly understood to reference making your name known to consumers.


Branding is, in essence, mass marketing with a focus towards building awareness. It builds a communication channel between a business and the targeted audience while appealing to the values and desires of that audience. The goal of branding is to remind consumers about a brand, products, and services. It tells your customers what they can expect, shares with them company values and the benefits offered.

Branding is about awareness, reputation management, community engagement, etc. A consumer’s impression of a brand will actually impact the way their brain evaluates products and services. Exposure to a brand (as in TV ads and most content marketing) = hopefully on a consumer’s mind when he goes to purchase. And while branding produces responses and conversions, it does so in a different, not as measurable manner as direct response marketing.

There are some benefits of brand marketing. It provides a conduit between a business and its customers that establishes a friendly environment for direct response marketing conversions. Also, it doesn’t ask anything from consumers. It is simply looking to make an impression and leave a positive memory.

Brand marketing is, however, quite expensive and requires a great deal of time. It also lacks the compelling calls to action of direct response marketing as it presents no reason to contact the company. An additional challenge is that it is difficult to measure the ROI but that doesn’t mean you can’t gauge the effect. You can measure the impact of brand marketing but the metrics are not as relatable to ROI. You have to look more at vanity metrics (number of likes, retweets, and shares), types of reviews, and number of impressions, none of which necessarily leads to conversions.

Direct Response Marketing

The Internet has made it easier than ever to engage in direct response marketing and amply provides the metrics that help determine the success or challenge of your efforts.


Techopedia defines it as a type of marketing that elicits a specific, measured response. They iterate there are 4 parts: a proposal, supporting information, a call to action, and options for consumer response. refers to it as a promotional method in which a prospective customer is urged to respond immediately and directly to the advertiser through the use of a ‘device’ provided in the advertisement.


Direct response marketing is pushed out to a specific target audience and the content of headlines and the copy are optimized for persuasion. It provides an offer for the customer to respond and is designed to elicit a direct response, to have customer take a specific action. The goal is to directly tell people what you can do for them and to then provide them a way to do business with you immediately. The call-to-action, or multiple CTAs, use concise language and give specific directions regarding the desired action. And responding is made easy – it involves clicking a button to go to a website, social media profile, form, etc.

Direct response marketing often includes a timeliness component in an attempt to take advantage of many consumers’ FOMO (fear of missing out). These ads often share a specific deal or offer and are focused on a specific consumer problem and how a product or service can solve that problem. They present to consumers helpful information by offering a solution to a known problem or challenge. Direct response campaigns are usually multi-step and provide opportunities for short term follow-up. The availability of metrics allows for the continued pursuit of unconverted leads.

Another benefit of this type of marketing is that it is most cost-effective, has a number of low-cost options and, therefore, requires a smaller budget commitment than brand marketing. Direct response marketing can help stimulate quick sales and build buyer momentum. Also, the response and conversion rates are trackable and measurable so businesses are able to easily compute the ROI of their efforts.

There are challenges with direct response marketing. Strong calls to action demand that consumers do something and there are people who might take exception to that more aggressive approach. It has also been found that overuse can put a focus on pricing instead of the quality of a brand and its offerings.

Straight out comparisons



  • Helps people buy

  • Short-term effort for immediate response

  • Creates revenue

  • “Do something, THIS thing”

Most people agree that a combination of branding and direct response marketing is needed and that the focus should be to make the two approaches work together. Each method has platforms on which it is most efficient and places it should or should not be used. Choose the type of marketing campaign that works best for the goal you are pursuing at the time. If a consumer is looking for entertainment, he or she isn’t interested in being pushed to make a purchase. If a consumer is ready to buy, he or she doesn’t need brand marketing.

Unless you are a large brand, like Nike or Pepsi, with millions of dollars, your best ROI prospects are from direct response marketing. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work on building brand awareness, it just helps you better understand where to focus your budget.

The experts at Strategy Driven Marketing are ready to assist you wherever you are in your marketing journey. Contact us today.