Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Direct (Like it or Not)

According to the invaluable Pew Internet & American Life Project, 85% of Americans own cell phones.  Know what that means? 85% of your audience can respond to your ads.

More to the point, it means that at any time, and in virtually any place, your target can pick up the phone and call a number on a screen.  Or in a print ad.  Or on the side of a bus.  But it doesn’t stop there.  The same survey says that 72%--nearly three quarters--of phone owners text, meaning that they can respond to a text offer.  Finally, over a third (35%), own smartphones, which means that they can visit your site or look your brand up in Google.

In short, every marketer employs direct marketing now because every ad can work as a direct response cue.  How should brand marketers take advantage of this ability?

OK, so maybe I gilded the lily a bit above.  The ability of consumers to respond to an ad does not mean that marketers should regard every ad as a potential sales opportunity.  As we all know, consumer sales cycles include many parts and we cannot assume that the consumer wants to buy every time we talk to him or her.

That said, brand marketers should think a little like direct marketers.  Thinking about response underpins most of my discussions here at the Translinear blog.  So let me suggest a few ideas:

  • Anticipate reaction  Even if a brand ad has the simple goal of raising awareness or driving consideration of a product, the marketer should try to think of how the customer might act.  For instance, if the brand represents something really new, then we may anticipate that the consumer might ask herself “what the hell is that?” and enter a keyword into a mobile search engine.  So, in that case:
    • Does the brand/product come across clearly enough in the ad so that the consumer can type the right name in?
    • If not, have you bought alternate spellings of keywords and brand names?
    • Can your site sniff a mobile browser and put up a mobile-optimized site?

Marketers should think of alternate plans should the response take the form of a toll-free phone call or text.

  • Cheat  Ever watch a good close-up magician work?  (I am a huge fan of this guy.)  Notice how well he can distract you with one hand while making a coin disappear with another?  This kind of magic works because the magician cues you in on what to watch.  Similarly, brand marketers can perform a little magic by stocking their ads with distinctive images or phrases that can drive a specific action on a search engine.  For instance, had the web existed in 1984, you can bet that a lot of people would have searched on “where’s the beef?”

  • Look the part  How does the follow-up relate to the original ad?  On the one hand, it should take some creative cues from the original ad so that the consumer knows that he’s reached the right place.  A color scheme, a phrase from an ad or a product shot may help establish the connection.  On the other hand, the follow-up should move the consumer forward a bit.  Again, to go back to the mobile website example, can a keyword from the commercial take the user to a page below the home page?  In other words, if the consumer finds the ad intriguing, she should be able to use a keyword from the ad and go directly to a page relating to that keyword, rather than have to start over again at the home page.

So you see, my dear colleagues in brand marketing, direct-izing your brand ads doesn’t require a ton of work.  You won’t need to figure out where to put a starburst and we won’t scare you with test grids.  In fact, I’ll bet you have some ideas of your own.  I’d love it if you could share yours in the comments.

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