Direct Response Marketing vs. Traditional Image Marketing: Which Is Better?

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There are many different kinds of marketing out there, but the one you are probably most familiar with ‘image branding’. Typically when I say “marketing” people think of expensive Super Bowl ads, car commercials, and billboards. This is what is known as “image branding” – one of the most common (and ineffective) forms of marketing. Now don’t get me wrong, image branding works for major corporations like Coca-Cola & McDonald’s. And if you have millions of dollars and decades of time, it will work for you too. Unfortunately, if you are like most, you don’t have the same resources and time as those big corporations.

Most image branding simply states the company name, location, etc, with a logo and a ‘catchy’ slogan. None of these are compelling reasons to do business with them versus anyone or everyone else. This type of advertising doesn’t make a case for the products or services that you sell, and it certainly doesn’t direct the prospect to any intelligent buying decision.

On the other hand, direct response marketing is designed to get an immediate response or purchasing decision (sale!) from the prospect. It has often been described as “salesmanship in print”, and it focuses on getting dollars right now – not a decade down the road. Direct response marketing tells a complete story presenting facts or reasons why the company / product are superior to all others. It gives your prospects a reason to get up and contact you, as opposed to waiting until they need your service or product and hoping that they might remember your name.

Direct response includes benefits that are relevant to the prospect, and produces a sales message that helps your prospect to either solve a problem or avoid a loss. These are the real reasons why people will choose your product or service, not because you have ads printed on glossy paper. And best of all unlike image branding direct response marketing is trackable so you can find out exactly how much each marketing dollar is earning you.

When placed side by side there are many differences between image branding ads and direct response ads. Typically a direct response ad will have lots of words, usually in small print, with: 1. A Headline At The Top (to draw the reader in), 2. it lists meaningful specifics, not vague generalities, 3. a promise or guarantee, 4. at least one offer, 5. exact instructions on what to do next, and 6. an extra reason to act right away. Now, open any magazine or newspaper that you have handy and you will see that almost none of the ads have these features. They all look pretty much the same with empty “white space” and glossy pictures with no headlines and very few words. This is how you will set yourself apart from your competition.

By the way, some people actually think that people will not read ads that have lots of words in small print. However, the opposite is true: people want as much information as possible before giving someone their money. You will find that the more information you give your prospect, the better chance that they will respond. That is why all of that “white space” in ads is such a waste of money.

Direct Response Marketing, compared to image-branding, is the clear winner hands down. Put simply… direct response marketing is designed to put money in your pocket this very moment, while image based / traditional / institutional marketing is designed to make you money over time; plus it costs you a lot of money in the meanwhile. Unless you have large sums of money and time you shouldn’t attempt any image-branding, instead stick with results-driven advertising that provides a trackable return on investment.

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