Christopher Skinner is a frequent speaker at Google conferences and other digital industry events. He founded MakeBuzz in 2001 and has worked with over 250 leading companies, including Vodafone, Target, United Airlines and Oreck. Look for Christopher’s column on The Makegood every month.
Most companies do direct marketing and branding through digital channels, and almost all fail to achieve the right balance between the two. Oftentimes, it’s not the creative, execution, or measurement that is precisely wrong. Most of the time, marketers are not thinking about the problem of balance in the right way.
It helps to think of your business like a lawn full of green grass. The blades of grass are your potential profits. The goal, therefore, is to gather the most clippings on a consistent basis. This means constantly feeding the lawn (to produce more grass to cut), and trimming the lawn in a way that creates sustainability (ensuring you never cut so much the grass dies).
When you’re watering and fertilizing the lawn, you’re making the grass grow—think of that as your Branding. That’s what builds desire for your products and services and for your company over the competitor. It’s what companies like Apple do very well.
When you’re mowing the grass—that’s your Direct Response. You’re simply collecting and benefiting from the demand that Branding efforts have created.
Obviously, your lawn needs both these efforts to grow its greenest and its best, in the same way your business needs a healthy marketing strategy—one made up of both Branding and DR—in order to scale and sustain healthy growth.
The trouble occurs when companies engage in too much DR and not enough Branding. The truth is that most businesses do not understand the value of digital branding, and rely primarily on traditional media to create demand. But with more and more eyeballs online more and more of the day, it’s critical you are addressing every stage of the customer Journey where your target audience spends their time. Unfortunately, most online advertising is still direct-response-(late-stage)-media driven.
What happens when businesses ignore the Branding (Early Awareness) stage is that they short their potential profits. They pick up only those who are already searching for their products, or similar, and neglect all those who are likely profitable customers. Furthermore, they diminish the chances that their brand will be selected over another in the event someone is looking for their products, because they haven’t taken the time to start the conversation earlier.
What digital Branding does is engage that customer before they’re ready to purchase, planting a seed of familiarity and increasing the likelihood of purchase down the road. Companies that engage in Branding see not only greater efficiencies of their DR media, but, more importantly, greater volume of customers—translating to revenue and profit.
The trick is knowing how to allocate and attribute Branding efforts online, so you can make sure your strategy is as profitable as possible.