Marketing is Dead…Long Live Marketing

Remember the Columbia House Music Club? Send in a penny taped to an order form to get 13 tapes or CDs for only 1¢. This was a genius use of direct response marketing. I can’t remember who the brains behind it was, but what it did was allow the company to “see” which of their marketing avenues were performing best so they could double-down on what worked and abandon what was not.

The penny meant nothing – the dollars were all made on the auto-shipping of albums, tapes or CDs (depending on the era we’re talking about). They loved it because a successful campaign can be measured immediately. Brands and marketers all loved this concept precisely for this reason – it is dead simple to know if it worked.

Fast forward (no pun intended) 20+ years and we’re surrounded by direct response marketing. Black Friday is a great example – and since it actually is Black Friday, how appropriate…This day is built on the premise of getting a direct response – that being sales. Retailers have banked on this weekend for decades. Now that’s scary.

Welcome to Black Friday 2020 – Freezes & lockdowns due to an out-of-control pandemic has lead to this no longer working – all reports (and general observations) show that people did not stand in line in the middle of the night, the fervor isn’t there – retailers that started opening on Thanksgiving Day for the last few years, just to try and get a leg up on their competitors, not only were closed for the holiday, but many also opened at normal time on Black Friday.

More and more brick and mortar retailers of all sizes have been living from one direct response promotion to the next for years. To the point that missing on a promo can kill their business.

Let’s talk Brand Marketing now.

Before everything having to have an offer or discount to track with the marketing effort were the days of Brand Marketing. It serves a different purpose, but it is certainly no less important. The goal is to be the first one a customer thinks of when they need what you offer. It’s less about immediate gratification and more about living rent-free in someone’s head (in a good way).

When I think of brand marketing, I think of large companies like Volvo, Coca-Cola, Geico, and Gap (in a different era) for example. While these are all enormous companies, small businesses that are smart also use brand marketing – they just have to execute it a little differently.

If I send this blogpost out as a newsletter it would be brand marketing. It is a purposeful reminder that I exist and a reminder that I want you to think of me when you need what I have to offer.

This makes me sound like I am against Direct Response marketing – not at all. Truly, Brand marketing and Direct Response marketing complement each other perfectly when properly planned and executed. They are like Peanut Butter and Jelly – delicious alone, but ethereal when together.

Build your brand so it means something to the right people, give those people reminders of what you can do for them, and finally, top it off with a promotion that gives rise to a direct response.