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Is branding more important than direct marketing?

Marketers often come from two distinct backgrounds. Brand marketers are the ones whose work you see on TV. They are all about branding, brand image, brand awareness–use whatever word you want–and their success has made Coca-Cola and many other consumer products into household names. Direct marketers are decidedly less sexy, traditionally focusing on catalogs or direct mail letters, constantly searching for the next idea that increases response. They are all about sales, and couldn’t care less about brand image as long as the cash register rings. All of which leads to the question, “Is branding more important than direct marketing?”

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So, what about brand marketers and direct marketers? Ralph Kiner, the Hall of Fame baseball player, once said, “Home run hitters drive Cadillacs, and singles hitters drive Fords.” So it had always been with marketing, where brand marketers worked for the big names, got the big budgets, and the made the big money. Direct marketers were the singles hitters of marketing, toiling away in relative obscurity.

So, given the dichotomy between brand marketing and direct marketing, many people ask which one is more important. Luckily, the answer doesn’t force you to choose between brand awareness and sales. Despite the differences between brand and direct marketing, brand awareness and sales don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Despite its name, brand marketing is not the only way to raise brand awareness or improve your brand image. Direct marketing can raise brand awareness as well as sales. After all, if more people buy from you, I guarantee that your brand awareness is going up and that your brand trust is increasing. But the opposite is not always true. Trying to directly improve awareness and trust doesn’t always translate to higher sales.

What that means is that brand marketing might be important, but it has limitations. While improved brand awareness can lead to higher sales (and often does), the effect is indirect and hard to measure. And higher brand awareness should be a means, rather than an end. Sales needs to be the goal of all marketing, so direct marketing has a natural advantage over brand marketing.

Especially when thinking about Internet marketing, where direct marketing is so easy to implement, you should almost always lead with direct marketing techniques, assured that those approaches will also lead to the brand awareness you desire.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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