True or False: Adver­tis­ing efforts tar­geted at brand­ing, aware­ness and per­cep­tion con­tinue to influ­ence direct-response met­rics. Most chief mar­ket­ing offi­cers and mar­ket­ing man­agers would agree. Innately, I know that to be true, but as a mar­ket­ing exec­u­tive, I am hunt­ing for numbers.

Some groups claim a con­ver­sion lift of up to 25 per­cent from brand­ing and aware­ness cam­paigns. Big B2C adver­tis­ers agree. I learned the impor­tance of brand­ing when I worked for a large dig­i­tal sub­scrip­tion busi­ness sev­eral years ago that did not do TV. Upon ini­ti­at­ing a tele­vi­sion cam­paign, they saw more traf­fic dri­ven to the site, accom­pa­nied by an increase in pur­chases. Solid infor­ma­tion for sure, espe­cially if pre– and post-campaign stud­ies back up the state­ment, but again, real num­bers? Still kinda, sorta squishy.

If brand­ing is a stand-alone ad cre­ated to improve per­cep­tion and increase aware­ness, the num­bers are prob­a­bly good. You might think it is gravy on top if brand­ing also dri­ves response met­rics, such as traf­fic to the site, or to bricks and mor­tar, moti­vat­ing view­ers to con­sider and buy. Cam­paigns that try to accom­plish both adver­tis­ing and response can give the impres­sion of a higher bounce rate, lead­ing mar­ket­ing to believe a web­site isn’t doing its job when that is not really the case.

Adver­tis­ing, as defined rather iron­i­cally by the Direct Mar­ket­ing Asso­ci­a­tion, is a vehi­cle designed to change per­cep­tion and elicit aware­ness with­out gen­er­at­ing a direct response. In con­trast, direct response is adver­tis­ing designed specif­i­cally to elicit a response. The two go hand in hand. Brand­ing depends on the prod­uct to live up to its name. Direct response depends on brand­ing to make the intro­duc­tion. There will always be a need for both, but in what proportions?

Three huge trends have pro­foundly com­pressed the top of the mar­ket­ing fun­nel and blurred the defin­ing lines, mak­ing accu­rate attri­bu­tion even more surgical:

  • Dig­i­tal
  • Mobile
  • Social

Con­sider a shop­per in a store that sees a prod­uct and likes it. Shop­per scans the code on the prod­uct with a phone and, in sec­onds, has huge input regard­ing ranks, reviews, and pric­ing, either encour­ag­ing a buy or send­ing the shop­per to a com­pet­ing prod­uct. Might be nearby. Might be online.

Or, say a shop­per passes by a kiosk and is attracted by a mag­a­zine cover. Shop­per uses a smart­phone to scan the cover of the print mag­a­zine embed­ded with an NFC chip, instantly access­ing music asso­ci­ated with an arti­cle in that issue, again influ­enc­ing the buy. Enor­mous trends by any gauge, there are com­bi­na­tions of brand­ing and direct response here that are so closely tied to con­sumer response that they become indi­vis­i­ble. What once took months, from the launch of the aware­ness cam­paign through con­sid­er­a­tion and pur­chase, now wraps it all up in under 30 seconds.

As the heavy hands of mobile, social, and dig­i­tal weigh on the top of the mar­ket­ing fun­nel, our jobs as heads of mar­ket­ing will change. Shap­ing the CRM approaches of the future with empha­sis on pre­ci­sion tim­ing and brand rel­e­vance will build loy­alty, repeated con­sid­er­a­tion, and ulti­mately, con­tin­ued con­ver­sion. What will that weight do to print, broad­cast, and pub­lic rela­tions, and how will that change the tra­di­tional mar­ket­ing funnel?

Will it morph to an hour­glass? A straight shot? A merger of the top and mid­dle lev­els? I believe that the pur­pose of the prod­uct and the type of con­sumer attracted to it, along with global eco­nomic con­di­tions, will influ­ence that change.

I con­tinue to seek con­crete research that illus­trates in num­bers how aware­ness and per­cep­tion move the nee­dle on direct response. Endeav­or­ing to under­stand that rela­tion­ship through specif­i­cally cited, non-anecdotal results will prove valu­able to all in devel­op­ing mar­ket­ing plans for deliv­ery of prod­ucts that cus­tomers want.

Your turn. If you have empir­i­cal or direc­tional results illus­trat­ing brand impacts on direct response, with top of the fun­nel spend improve­ment, or mid-funnel con­ver­sion rate improve­ment, it would be great to read your responses.