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Branding vs. Direct Response in Small Business Marketing and
by: Joel Walsh

Branding vs. Direct Response in Small Business Marketing and Advertising

Joel Walsh

Think your small business's advertising and marketing need to build your brand? Have you considered these important reasons why you should get some direct responses to pay the bills before dedicating resources to branding?

Too often, small business advertising and marketing campaigns prioritize branding at the expense of direct response--i.e., actually getting leads and/or sales right now. That is almost always a foolish and even dangerous proposition.

Small Business Branding Advertising and Marketing an Oxymoron?

Unless you're a ubiquitous consumer products company, the value of branding is far, far less than the value of direct response. What good is impressing someone with your brand if he or she never comes into contact with your business again—and why would they come into contact with your business again if you haven’t gotten a direct response?

Branding is essential for Coca Cola and Microsoft and Sheraton and all the other consumer giants because they don't need direct response. Their offering is available every time you drive down the street, so burning their logos into your eyeballs will actually make you more likely to buy. But if you have to search out the business, having a logo floating in your consciousness won't be enough to motivate you.

Even if branding alone could drive business, how long will it be before that logo or slogan or jingle has left your memory forever? A few hours? A day? One of the basic requirements for branding is repetition. Numerous repetitions. Like seeing the little Microsoft flag every single day, in the lower left corner of your screen, on your computer's case, in magazine advertisements and on television commercials. One visit to your website or one glimpse of your advertisement won't accomplish this—and remember, unless you have Coca Cola’s budget, one exposure is all you’ll likely get.

In reality, even numerous exposures to your brand might not be enough--you've got an awful lot of deep-pocketed competition in this game. People must be exposed to your brand again and again and again, not just for a certain span of time, but forever. Otherwise, your brand will get pushed out of their minds by all the logos that do appear again and again and again.

In contrast, if someone requested a whitepaper from you, or called in for more information, you would have their attention for much longer.

The two cases when branding make sense in marketing your small business

  1. When branding enhances direct response rather than detracting from it.

    Good branding enhances trust in your business. A good tagline, graphic design, and logo can also make it instantly clear what your business does, allowing users to go directly to your message without having to decide if you’re worth listening to.

    Simply put: if you’re a watchmaker, put a watch in your logo, and the word “watch” in your name and your tagline or slogan. When you’re selling services picking a logo can be trickier, but it can be done. UpMarket Content’s logo is a scroll and pen. Just make sure your logo communicates what you do, rather than something foolish like a black rocket for an advertising agency.

    There is, of course, nothing saying that you can’t work a little branding into your direct response, and indeed, you should. All your web pages, whitepapers, brochures, newsletters and other collateral should be in the same font and using similar color schemes. But if you find that a different font or color scheme does significantly better in getting responses, it’s the brand that has to give.

  2. When you actually do have the opportunity to impress your brand on the same person dozens of times over the course of an average month.

    Let’s be absolutely clear: in terms of branding, exposing 1,000,000 people to your brand once each is infinitely less valuable than exposing 1,000 people to your brand 1,000 times each. For branding to work, you don’t just have to maximize exposures. You have to maximize exposures to the same individuals.

    Aim for a hundred exposures per individual if you want to really enter people’s consciousnesses. Of course, it may take far fewer than a hundred individual exposures. If someone is sitting in front of your branding advertisement for more than a few minutes, they may in fact be exposed to it several times, each time they come across it. But this kind of long-term exposure is likely going to cost you more.

    How can you ensure that your brand advertising will maximize your brand exposure per unique individual? Place your brand advertising where users will come back often to see it. For instance, a banner on a website that has a strong following of returning users, or an advertisement on the local diner's placemat.

  3. Even when branding does make sense, direct response will often also make sense, so you should combine the two if possible. For instance, at the bottom of a banner advertisement with your logo and tagline looming large, put a button labeled “get more information.” Or, underneath your businesses sign, put a telephone number with an offer to get more information.

    Because if they never visit or call, who cares if they have your logo burnt onto their retinas?

    About the author
    Joel Walsh is the head writer of UpMarket Content ( Visit their website to find out more about online copywriting and internet marketing for small businesses.


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