What’s the difference between brand marketing and direct response marketing?

brand marketing vs direct response marketing

Brand marketing and direct response are very different marketing strategies. Brand marketing is what Apple, Nike, and many others excel in. That type of ad spend is designed to make brands top of mind for consumers by reinforcing an idea or image. The idea with this strategy is when you need computer products, you’ll automatically think of Apple, and when you need sports shoes or clothes, you’ll think of Nike.  

Direct response marketing differs in that it is intended to invoke a specific action. Both means work towards the same goal and are essential in their own ways. When brand marketing and direct response are implemented in conjunction, they achieve a synergy that is highly effective at marketing your business. Let’s look a little deeper into each, then talk about how you can increase their efficacy when you implement them together.  

Brand Marketing  

Brand marketing is a long-term goal to develop brand awareness. It works to do what Coca-Cola did for soft drinks: the brand has become synonymous with carbonated soft drinks. In some areas of the South, you may order a Coke and hear, “Okay, what kind? Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Sprite, or Dr. Pepper?” That is the epitome of a successful brand marketing campaign when all other products fall under your brand in everyday vernacular.  

The most successful brand marketing campaigns have similar characteristics. Qualities of a successful brand marketing campaign include the following: 

  • It is delivered consistently over time. 
  • It targets a specific audience. 
  • The message is simple and clear. 
  • Multi-media works best, such as using radio and digital to more effectively reach your audience. 
  • Frequency is key. 
  • There are KPIs and metrics for measuring success. 

Though brand marketing is broader and more nebulous, it is still crucial. There are many ways to make your brand recognizable. One is a radio sponsorship, such as weather and traffic brought to you by Your Business Name. It keeps your brand in front of a wide and loyal listening audience multiple times of the day, such as weekday drive-time programming or during popular radio shows. 

Direct Response Marketing  

Direct response marketing is aptly named. It differs from brand marketing in that it is designed to elicit a quick and specific action, often for events such as short-term sales promotions, end-of-season sales, product launches, and more.  Direct response marketing uses calls-to-action to achieve its goals. A direct response ad will have the following characteristics: 

  • Personalized and targeted audience 
  • Clear CTA 
  • An offer as a result of an action 
  • Sense of urgency 
  • Trackable and measurable 

If you’ve ever listened to your favorite radio host talk about a new business, they probably encouraged you to visit the business using a call to action. It likely went something like this: 

“If you’ve been looking for a new place to relax and unwind, Total Spa is now open. Have a glass of wine while you get your hair and nails done, get a massage, or try a facial. If you live in or near Chicago and are ready to feel pampered in luxurious surroundings, make an appointment today. The first 20 callers to 1-800-CALLNOW, online appointments that use code PamperMe, or in-person mentions of our radio show get a 20% introductory discount.” 

The phone number, discount code, and radio show mentions allow you to measure the efficacy of the radio ad in several ways. You can use one method or a variety, as in the example. Giving your audience multiple methods to take advantage of the offer increases your chances of a quick response. 

Using The Two Together  

Businesses can multiply the effects of their marketing campaign by leveraging both methods simultaneously, depending on their short-term goals and long-term strategy for keeping consistent top-of-mind awareness.  Direct response is great for new campaigns, increasing event attendance, and attracting new customers. Branding is the method of choice for year-round advertising that helps to develop customer awareness and build a long-standing customer base. Together, you create initial urgency and excitement with long-term, sustained brand awareness to keep your audience interested and thinking about you. 

Direct response and brand marketing are the perfect pairing. You can consider them as two sides of the same coin. Brand marketing helps people narrow down their choice, while direct response helps them make the purchase. Using the two together, you usher your target audience quickly through the sales funnel.  

Supercharge Your Campaign Strategy With Direct Response and Brand Marketing 

Traditionally, marketing organizations treated direct response and brand marketing as two distinctly different strategies. They occupy two different positions on the sales funnel, with brand marketing at the top focusing on the long-term and direct response at the bottom focusing on the short-term.  Though they have the same goals, they are different approaches with little overlap. That is exactly why businesses are missing an opportunity if they don’t maximize their potential by using them simultaneously. 

Implementing a combined strategy using direct response and brand marketing helps guarantee you’ll bring in new customers and remind them why they purchased from you initially. Properly introducing variety into your strategy helps maximize the strengths of each method to attract and retain customers long term. The companies that have been phenomenally successful in brand marketing weren’t initially well-known but used the techniques that made them top-of-mind for their target audience. As their companies grew, they inserted direct marketing to grow their customer base and create urgency and demand for their products.  

Share This


Stay on top of industry news and trends.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Recent Posts



There's so much more to talk about.

They say word of mouth is the best advertising. Well, we’ve got a big mouth. But in a good way. A way that drives interest and demand in your business. Check it out!