“60% of all digital advertising goes toward direct response goals.”



“81% of shoppers research online before buying.”

Retailing Today


“60% of all organic clicks go to the organic top 3 search results.”


Decoding Modern Marketing

4. Direct Response Campaigns

The second type of Brand Advertising is called Direct Response. It is technically any ad that is designed to elicit a measurable response. However now that almost all advertising is measurable that distinction is less relevant. A better definition is an ad that is designed to lead directly to a sales action. That might be a banner ad that sends you to a landing page where you can watch a video, or a TV spot with a toll-free number to call. Basically any ad focused on getting the consumer to take an action which lets the brand start a sales cultivation process is a direct response ad.

If you are introducing new ideas start with brand campaigns.

The degree to which a brand can use direct response techniques is really a function of the offering and the situation. If your ad were giving away new cars for free, it wouldn’t need to do much branding in order to get a response. A good rule of thumb is if your audience are people who are already actively interested in your category, direct response approaches will work, but if you are introducing new ideas, new products or new brands, start with brand campaigns.

Perhaps the most unique form of direct response advertising is Search. Google not only reinvented our lives with search, but with Adwords, its paid search advertising platform, it reinvented advertising itself. I’m sure you know the concept, but it bears repeating. When you search for a word or phrase on Google you are presented with organic, also known as natural, search results. You are also presented with paid search results, which is often called SEM or search engine marketing.

With Adwords, its paid search advertising platform, Google reinvented advertising itself.

With paid search, the idea is to rank at the top of the results so the viewer sees you first. Best of all you only pay if someone clicks your ad. Ranking of paid search results is determined by who offers the most money for a potential click. So if I buy the search term “auto insurance” and bid more for a click than anyone else, then when someone types in “auto insurance” in Google, my company’s ad will come up at the top of the paid search results. Since everybody conducts searches for almost everything they buy, paid search is an important part of introducing your brand to your prospects, in this case prospects already actively in market.

Organic search results on the other hand are not paid, but earned. They are even more valuable than paid results because they are not ads and feel, therefore, more credible and trustworthy. Google works very hard to constantly improve the quality of the information they deliver. They also work hard to fend off the hordes of search experts trying to manipulate the system to their advantage every day. Organic search results, like paid search are a great way to get “found” by people actively looking for a solution. In general, they are less effective for introducing new ideas or brands, but with a little creativity that can work too. Getting to the top of the organic listings involves a combination of quality content and good SEO (search engine optimization). Rankings are determined by things like the number of other sites that link to your content or the number of times that people have shared it. These are measures of quality, which is another way to say how important people find the content to be. SEO is the process you use to make your content more likely to be found and ranked by the search engines, which send automated programs, called spiders, to crawl around the internet 24/7 looking for content to rank.

Search is amazing, but only if it connects intelligently to the rest of your marketing system

Together these two forms of search have become essential to modern marketing. There is a lot to know about both and it’s easy to get lost in minutiae. The important things to remember, however, are that search is a foundational part of any marketing plan, and it only works if connected to the rest of the marketing system. When you click on a search result it’s just the beginning of a process that should result in sales. What happens after that click determines whether you just made a smart investment or blew your money. This is particularly important at this stage of the game where the prospect probably doesn’t have a pre-deposition towards your brand yet. So for search to work it must be supported by a comprehensive cultivation plan, which is covered in the next chapter. Search is amazing, but only if it connects intelligently to the rest of your marketing system.