Enhancing the Brand through Direct Marketing
Direct marketers always have a purpose. A direct campaign will reach “X” number of people and have “X” results. It’s clean. It’s clear-cut. Abstract concepts don’t
fit well into the model.
However, one core marketing concept (which is a little abstract) that should be in every direct marketing plan is a solid brand strategy. The brand strategy should never be
a separate item in a marketing plan. The brand should permeate into every nook and
cranny of the marketing toolbox including direct marketing.
For many organizations, branding is misunderstood. Too many companies treat their brand strategy much like some companies treat a corporate mission statement. It’s
something cool to tell people you have, but then it’s put away to gather dust and is
forgotten. But the brand will not be forgotten. Your brand will develop with or without
Branding has gotten a bad rap for two reasons. One is that branding is not truly understood by business decision makers. They see “the brand” and “the logo” as the same
creature. Another reason for branding’s bad image is that branding efforts are sometimes
looked upon as a waste. Agencies that push “image campaigns” often don’t effectively
educate clients about the outcomes of the campaign and companies feel their investment
So what is a brand? Simply, it’s everything. Everything that people think about your company. Every message that your organization sends out develops or destructs the
brand. This is obvious in the realm of what we all think of as “marketing”. Ads, direct pieces, and websites all send brand messages that are easy to control. You send a
message and you send it on purpose.
But every touchpoint that you directly or indirectly have with customers also impacts the brand. Word-of-Mouth, media publicity, blogs, and individual customer
satisfaction all play a role in brand development as well, but are harder to control.
The key is to always control the message. There are few outlets that are as open to control as a direct marketing campaign. Direct marketing is actually one of the most
effective branding tools. This is because of the personalization that comes so easily to a
direct campaign. A brand will achieve greater loyalty when the consumer feels that the
brand belongs to them. The personalized targeting of consumers in direct marketing helps
Direct marketers always look at response rate as the indicator of a successful
campaign. Looking at the campaign from the brand perspective shows an even more
effective campaign because the brand message was impressed even onto those consumers
who did not respond.
So how do you incorporate a brand strategy into a direct marketing campaign? The first step is to build the entire campaign around the brand. That sounds like the brand
is taking over the entire process. But you’re probably doing this anyway. You have a
general idea of what customers think about you and what messages you want to send and
you design accordingly. But take it one more step. What if someone who had never heard
of your company picked up the piece? What impression would they get from it about
When you build the entire process around the brand, the other work will fall into place more easily. Elements you might have included in the campaign will stick out like a
sore thumb when they don’t mesh with the brand.
No big surprises here. Marketers develop consistent campaigns all the time. The true test of the brand comes later. Say you want your brand to evoke the feeling of
customer service. You had all of the brand-influenced marketing pushing friendly and
helpful employees. A potential customer calls in response to the direct marketing offer
and gets put on hold for 15 minutes. Or perhaps they come into contact with an employee
having a bad day.
Game over. You’ve lost the brand battle in that customer’s mind. Where you feel your brand is focused on customer service, they feel it’s full of long waits in telephone
purgatory and rude employees. And it doesn’t matter what you think your brand
represents. Your brand is solely determined by what your customers think.
And that’s what makes direct marketing such as great brand builder. Consumers have already thrown up a protective force field with TV, radio and other traditional media.
A direct mail piece or a personalized e-mail reinforces the ideas and feelings you want
associated with your company. It gets “under the radar”.
The key to winning a brand battle with direct marketing is on the backside. You MUST make sure that the brand message that is sent and received by a consumer is the
one that they experience with your company.