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Indirect Response Marketing: Where Direct Response & Branding Intersect

by Brian Colling - April 09, 2019

Indirect Response Marketing: Where Direct Response & Branding Intersect

Marketing is deeply rooted in two advertising concepts; Direct Response Marketing and Brand Marketing. Either your company’s marketing budget goes to advertising messages asking for the sale or feeds feel-good product/service messages. Results from branding advertising are hard to measure. Most companies feel more comfortable executing direct response marketing. There is another way to think about the effects of your marketing efforts: Indirect Response Marketing. Before I offer up a new take on rethinking how you execute your marketing strategy, here’s a look at each method.

In this article, we cover…

  1. Brand Marketing
  2. Direct Response Marketing
  3. What is Indirect Response Marketing?
  4. Indirect Response Marketing In Action
  5. Conclusion

Brand Marketing

Brand marketing is described by as an investment in building a brand’s value and in turn the company’s value. The investment-based strategy makes brand marketing different than other marketing strategies such as direct response marketing.

Many companies, especially those companies in business-to-business sales, need to build brand awareness and top of mind recognition. Branding helps with recall when a person is in the market to purchase a product or service.

Brand marketing usually includes no clear call-to-action. The goal is an overall awareness of a product or service and keeps the brand relevant.

Colling Media - Cache Homes Billboard, Brand Marketing
Colling Media - Chas Roberts Billboard, Brand Marketing

Direct Response Marketing

Wikipedia defines direct marketing as a form of advertising where organizations communicate directly to customers through a variety of media including cell phone text messaging, email, websites, online adverts, database marketing, fliers, catalog distribution, promotional letters, targeted television, newspapers, magazine advertisements, and outdoor advertising. Among practitioners, it is also known as direct response marketing.

Direct response marketing is the darling of the advertising world. It’s estimated that companies spent $316 billion in 2018 asking for the sale. Furthermore, online direct response marketing is outpacing traditional media in ad spend for the first time.

Direct response marketing usually includes an offer, a clear call-to-action, and a reason to act sooner than later.

Colling Media - LPGA Founders Cup, Direct Response Marketing
Colling Media - Hendel's, Direct Response Marketing

What is Indirect Response Marketing?

Companies combining brand marketing and direct response marketing often see a lift in sales. Both are necessary to be considered at the time a customer is ready to purchase a product or service.  Brand marketing helps keep customers aware of a product or service so the recall is high when needed. Direct response marketing asks for a sale when a customer is searching for a solution to a problem.

Indirect response marketing is achieved when your potential customers know your brand exists, your product or service is top of mind, and your audience has a positive opinion about your product or service. Retention rates increase when customers see the products and services they use in advertisements. Referrals are more like your customers talking about a product or service to others who already are aware of them. Sales teams have an easier time prospecting new business because they are selling a familiar service and company to potential customers.

Very few people call and sign up for Aflac supplemental insurance from its TV commercials, but everyone is familiar with the brand name. However,’s sole purpose is getting potential customers to enter its sales funnel. Aflac uses brand marketing for awareness and “mindshare” and uses its website for direct response marketing.

Indirect Response Marketing In Action

One of our business-to-business clients planned to scale back its marketing budget because many in the C-Suite were having a hard time attributing sales to radio and billboard advertising spend. Since our client’s sales cycle is extended (one call does not usually close a sale), our campaigns combine direct response and brand marketing to ensure the company is in the best position for sales opportunities when decision-makers are ready to engage.

During a Phoenix Open golf tournament in Scottsdale, AZ, numerous clients, referring partners, and people who saw them mentioned hearing the company on the radio ALL the time. Although it’s a small sample size, we believe our client is starting to benefit from indirect response marketing by combining direct response and brand marketing.

Indirect response marketing is digital too. Why does a branded advertiser doing push marketing see better search results?  Because people naturally search for names of advertised products. When someone Googles using broad keywords and a branded paid search ad appears, a click is more likely due to page position and product familiarity: brand marketing, direct response marketing, and indirect response marketing work in concert. The parallels between branding marketing and direct response marketing are closer than ever before.


Most of our clients benefit from running direct marketing and brand marketing campaigns concurrently. It’s the best way to find out how a business sales cycle works. Combining approaches reveals what percent of sales close immediately and what percent of sales take longer. Colling Media is in the business of helping grow businesses, and we recommend clients invest in both strategies for maximum advertising results.

Colling Media helps companies grow by combining direct response marketing with the brand marketing campaign.

For more on how Colling Media can help your business, contact us to schedule a meeting.

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