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.