For many veteran marketers and brand managers, the shift to data-centric digital marketing has required significant adjustments. It’s not just the automated tools and information streaming in from multiple sources that challenge them; it’s the increasing levels of personalization and micro-targeting that require a group more accustomed to “spray and pray” broad-based appeals to rethink overarching strategies.
But one group of marketers and brand advocates were data-driven before it became a thing: direct response (DR) marketers.
Accountability is all the rage today — clients expect campaigns to deliver solid metrics. But that wasn’t always the case in the traditional advertising world. It was in the DR environment, which is why DR has a lot to teach today’s marketing professionals.
Direct Response TV’s Trailblazers
Direct response TV (DRTV) advertising is a precursor to the data-driven, digital media campaigns of today. In simple terms, DR is marketing that is designed to elicit an immediate response from the consumer and leave a clear trail between the advertising campaign and the sale.
Infomercials are the most recognizable form — long-form TV ads that urge viewers to call a number or visit a website to order a product.
The accountability inherent in the DRTV model is the most obvious link to the new digital models, which can attribute sales to campaigns with precision. But many other marketing techniques pioneered by DRTV are also in evidence. For example, infomercials famously feature actors demonstrating directly how the featured product can add value to the consumer’s life, which personalizes the appeal.
Echoes of DRTV influence are also evident in the way modern digital campaigns move consumers through the sales funnel, removing distractions and providing resources to maximize sales in a linear way.
In a DRTV spot, marketers famously sweeten the deal with “but wait, there’s more!” — throwing in a second widget at no additional charge, offering free shipping, etc., without deviating from the sales funnel.
Direct Response for the Digital Age
Now that accountable advertising has gone mainstream thanks to the proliferation of big data and digital platforms, it’s possible to trace the trails blazed by DRTV pioneers to modern digital advertising practices. DRTV is still going strong, of course. But now direct consumer appeals are taking place on a variety of platforms, including online and mobile, retaining many of the elements that made DRTV a success.
For example, digital DR frequently includes video elements to build value perception. Marketing engagement guru Neil Patel notes that a short, to-the-point video included on a microsite associated with a campaign can improve conversions by an astonishing 86%.
Like their DRTV infomercial forebears, video delivered via digital channels can highlight value, create an emotional connection and serve as a resource for prospects who need more information before converting into buyers.
DR in the digital age enables ever greater personalization, targeting potential customers across platforms and continuously optimizing outreach. Today’s technology allows micro-targeting DRTV pioneers could only dream of, collecting information as customers interact on different device types (e.g., online vs. mobile, iOS vs. Android, etc.) and using responsive design to optimize interactions across screen sizes.
Custom campaign microsites and vanity URLs now augment TV platforms, keeping customers moving through the sales funnel with tailored offers and producing a continuous data loop to optimize results.
Next Generation Direct Response
DR continues to revolutionize the way businesses reach out to customers to sell products and services. Modern personalization tactics enable companies to emulate the traditional pitch process even more closely, communicating benefits on a granular level and providing resources to support sales. In that way, today’s interactions echo the type of personalized service typical of in-store customer interactions, where experienced service personnel could size customers up by sight and anticipate their needs.
With a linear shopping cart process that keeps customers moving through the sales funnel and digital strategies that put a brand’s products front and center without distractions — much as a supermarket endcap display prevents customers from considering other brands’ products — accountable digital campaigns are bringing personalization to the next level.
Adaptable content that is created for each specific consumer is on the horizon, and it will represent the ultimate in shopper personalization for the next generation. “But wait — there’s more” applies to the evolution of direct response commerce as well as the product pitch.
About the Author: John Francis is the Director of Digital Strategy at Hawthorne Direct, a company that combines persuasive brand messaging with proprietary analytic systems to create and deliver highly accountable and hugely successful integrated advertising campaigns.