What the hell is ‘brand response’?

[From the @SIMONPLENT archive:]

Brand Response. One of the newest manifestations of ignorance, stupidity and fashion that is sweeping through the marketing industry.

In case you haven’t stumbled across it, Brand Response is a new term used by many marketing people and advertising agencies to describe an advertising campaign that is created to do a brand-building/image/awareness job and at the same time generate a bit of direct response. (I’m already getting cross, just writing this description, it makes me so crazy! Deep breaths….)

Now, the smarter readers amongst you (especially the ones who don’t work in marketing or advertising and therefore still have a modicum of common sense left between your ears) might be scratching your head and thinking “But surely all advertising affects the customer’s perception of a brand, whether it’s designed to generate a direct response or just awareness or image building?

Surely a customer’s perception of a brand is affected by every interaction she has with it—whether it’s watching a telly ad, reading some PR, sampling the product, talking to their customer service reps, visiting the website?”

And of course you’d be absolutely correct.

Direct response advertising doesn’t exist in a separate universe to any other sort of advertising. To suggest it does is patent nonsense to anyone who pauses to think for a moment.

You build a brand by getting the punter to sample your products and forming a good opinion about them, about your company, about the way you talk to him, treat the environment and so on and so on. Direct response advertising, like any other form of promotion, is simply one of the many ways whereby your customer can form an opinion about you.

Put simply, every ad is a brand ad. Whether you call it Brand Response or Direct Response is utterly irrelevant.

OK, so we can tick the ‘brand’ half of the equation. But what about the ‘response’ half? This is where Brand Response falls crashing to the ground.

It doesn’t work.

The copy isn’t long enough, it doesn’t focus on the consumer benefits enough. It doesn’t demand a response and rarely uses any incentives, closing dates or any of the other bog-standard, tried-and-tested tools in the direct response armoury.

Brand Response ads are mostly written by agency creatives who don’t know anything about how to write copy that is designed to drive response—a very different skill to awareness/award-winning/portfolio-packing advertising. (Sadly, this now includes most creatives in direct marketing agencies, too.)

These creatives are briefed by planners who don’t know the first thing about what makes direct marketing tick. The work is approved by a Creative Director who is only interested in the next awards ceremony. And the work is sold to the client by an account team raised on the mantra: Short Copy Good. Long Copy Bad. (I wish I were exaggerating here, but I’m not.)

Of course, the client may get a bit of response from the ad—simply because it’s got a phone number on—but nowhere near the response they’ll get if it were put together with the specific intention of driving response.

And of course its ROI (return on investment) will be simply too horrific to contemplate.

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