Ad agencies talk about two kinds of ads: Direct Response versus Image, or “Brand” advertising. What’s the difference, and which one is right for you?
Brand vs. Direct Response
For any company, a ‘brand’ consists of all the visual, emotional, rational, and cultural images people associate with your product. The goal of image advertising is essentially to create a compelling association in people’s minds between product and image. Nike wants you to think of soaring, scoring, winning when you see their swoosh.
Once you’ve made that connection between your brand and its imagery, you hope the connection will lead to a loyal army of customers. With a strong brand you are able to sell more and sell it at a higher price.
If you are a CFO of a large company, you will have even put a dollar figure on your company’s “brand equity.” The strength of a brand name, like Coke, and its “refreshing” imagery can actually be measured in dollars and can be counted as part of the overall value of your company if it is ever sold.
As you can imagine, it’s expensive to build and maintain brand identity. You can blitz the market with a month’s worth of ads, and this blitz can create a favorable buzz. But once you stop advertising, the impression is fleeting and the impact falls off quickly. Without money to support the brand, its equity falls.
Smaller companies often can’t afford to advertise constantly. They can’t afford to maintain brand equity. Also, companies who are marketing to other businesses — rather than to consumers (business-to-business marketers) — may not have adequate outlets for keeping their brand name constantly in front of their potential customers. So what do they do?