What Does Branded Direct Response Advertising Really Mean?

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If you work in marketing, there’s no doubt you’ve heard variations of the term thrown around. Branded Direct Response, Brand-Response, Transactional Brand Building. Each agency has adopted its own term for this hybrid style of advertising–that’s what we marketers do after all–but pull away the veil of phraseology and what are we really talking about?

Until relatively recently, all advertising has boiled down to two genres of intention: Brand and Direct Response. Important lessons can be learned from each. Let’s start with some definitions:

Brand Advertising: Any commercial mass communication designed to build emotional connections with customers over time through the portrayal of a specific character or personality. The goal of brand advertising is to connect and engage with a broad spectrum of customers and inspire a lifetime of brand loyalty.

Direct Response Advertising: Any marketing execution that calls for a customer to take immediate action on an offer. Direct Response advertising is logic driven and is typical focuses on explaining the product’s features and benefits, telling the customer exactly how it will solve a specific problem.

Traditionally, Direct Response has been of a lower quality, defined by cheesy pitchmen, grainy animation, and minimalist sets (or no set at all). Often these spots were built as half-hour infomercials and ran in cheap time slots overnight and in the early morning when networks had nothing else to air. Harken back to your formative years for a moment and I’m sure you’ll remember waiting out NutriBullet, Little Giant Ladder System, or ShamWow paid-programming before your morning rerun of choice.

While echoes of Billy Mays still haunt my dreams, there’s no doubt traditional direct response advertisements moved product. Through their use of logic driven tactics like product demonstrations and customer testimonials they were able to act as the salesperson in the customer’s living room, pitching the product as a valid solution to their problem and inspiring them to act now.

Brand ads, on the other hand, take a different approach. They’re the kings and queens of primetime, dominating the most viewed–and most expensive–media available for purchase. The crown jewel is the Super Bowl, rarified air time reserved for the largest brands with the deepest pockets. These companies are hunting for eyeballs and want to cast the widest possible net with their advertising. 

The companies that are typically the most effective at utilizing brand ads are those that need to stand out in a group of borderline identical competitors, like beer, fast food, laundry detergent, and airlines. Running high-production value spots in major media slots can make any company–even young challengers–feel big and important. For these companies, the advertising's goal is not to generate an immediate sale, but for the customer to log away the brand name in their mind for the next time they’re shopping within the category. In short, the brand wants to be placed in the customer consideration set, and the ad is the barrier to entry. 

This is why brand ads often feel like short films that end with a logo. At their best, they’re memorable, emotionally engaging, and culturally significant. Think Geico’s famous “Hump Day” spot. It created a catchphrase that was impossible to escape for six months of Wednesdays following its initial airing. It also effectively tied into the Geico brand. However, for every “Hump Day” there are 100 examples of brand ads that failed to stick the landing, the “PS3 Baby” being a particularly disturbing example. That monstrosity was the centerpiece of a $150 million-dollar campaign. Most companies cannot afford failures of this magnitude and should seek out alternative advertising options. 

Today, brands and agencies (like Feld Direct), are applying the lessons learned from brand and direct response advertising to design campaigns that sell and build awareness simultaneously. This hybrid style of advertising is known by many names, but none as simply put as branded direct response. 

Branded Direct Response Advertising: A hybrid approach to advertising that utilizes the positioning power of Brand advertising and the rational appeals of Direct Response advertising to generate immediate sales while building brand preference over time.

Branded direct response ads prioritize high-production value and hard-hitting, sales driving copy above all else. They focus on factors within the product and the brand that differentiate it from competitors. Too often, companies fall into the trap of producing creative that is indistinguishable from the ads of the rest of the industry. The commercial would be the same no matter what logo appeared on the end card. When done correctly, branded direct response advertisements are unmistakable for anyone else.

To do this, the ad must strike a balance between rational and emotional persuasive appeals. The rational appeal justifies the purchase as the obvious solution to the customers' problem, and the emotional appeal pushes them to take immediate action.

Watch these two ads by the same advertiser. One is more in line with a traditional brand spot, while the other is a branded direct response spot:


Brand Spot

Branded Direct Response Spot


While the brand spot does an effective job of forwarding and emotional message of how NewDay USA helps servicemembers, it does not spend any time at all selling the product. That’s not to say a spot like this doesn’t serve a purpose. It’s incredibly effective for driving brand awareness when placed in strategic media timeslots.

The branded direct response spot on the other hand immediately identifies the target audience and the product and then details its distinct benefits. The language is strictly relegated to selling, and the spot ends with a strong call to action, just like any good DR spot.

However, the spot also goes a step further. Notice the logo over the flag and the custom music cue to kick off the branded direct response spot. These consistent brand elements open every single one of NewDay USA’s commercials. Running as often as twice an hour on certain networks, this opening sequence immediately identifies the company to consistent viewers. It’s unmistakably NewDay USA.

This spot also harps on an emotional problem that many people within the target audience face in their quest to buy a home: being rejected by the bank. Many veterans struggle to build credit due to their time in service, and this is an especially resonant message that emboldens them to reach out.

Despite its many names, Branded Direct Response advertising has changed the way brands engage customers and promote their products. For brands that target millennials and older audiences alike it can be a powerful tool in the marketer’s arsenal. Though at the end of the day, like all advertising efforts, it’s all about execution. 

So, if you’re interested in learning more about Branded Direct Response, reach out to Feld Direct. We’d love to introduce ourselves, hear your ideas, and guide you through our approach.

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