Whether you are defending a brand’s dominate market position or seeking to attain it, direct response is relevant to your future. You may decide to explore it now or later, but what if your competition explores it first?
These days, people want things right now. If they have a need or want – especially a want – they don’t tolerate fulfillment delays. This includes everything from their daily conveniences to the products and services they purchase. Remote-activated, instant-on TV’s are within arm’s length anywhere in the house. The microwave oven is now the primary appliance in meal preparation. Timer-activated coffee makers have the brew ready when consumers wake. Pagers used to be fairly common, but instead the mobile phone has become ubiquitous because it grants instant contact with the sender or receiver. Of course, when they bought each of those items, they either took it home right away, or had it delivered overnight. Consumers pull out their credit cards and order goods over the Internet—and woe to the cyber merchant who doesn’t offer overnight shipping.
Why does Direct Response work so well?
Because providing things right now is what Direct Response is all about. Direct response marries immediate access with that innate desire to have everything right now. And when you give the consumer the opportunity to order now, they order now. Further, the Internet has contributed the idea that I can order something right now with just the click of a mouse button or the swipe on a phone.
In other words, the American consumer is primed and looking for ways to “buy now.” Whether it is a TV commercial, mail piece or print ad, that 800 number or Web site address will pull in cash.
Consumers may have associated certain direct-response methods – primarily infomercials – with some unsavory characteristics, but as you join me in this study of Direct Response advertising, I think you will realize that Direct Response is not at all about sleazy salesmen selling sleazy products. Direct Response advertising is simply the most effective method I have found for enhancing or building a brand, and creating sales. Consumers do respond to warmly crafted messages delivered by merchants they have come to trust.
Brands Are Built, Not Bought
The dot-com bust proved this point better than anything I have ever seen. How long does it take to build a brand? Maybe most importantly, how long does it take for that brand to pull ahead of the pack?
There is no easy answer. Brand leadership and market share depend on the product’s market differentiation, consumers’ experience with the product, consumers’ experience with the company, consistency of the message, frequency of the message and duration of the message, among other things.
Case Example: GEICO Direct
GEICO is among the best examples I know. GEICO is a brand built entirely through Direct Response. GEICO has always sold its insurance policies directly to policyholders. Only recently, however, has it turned to television as a Direct Response vehicle, and because of it, the company is nipping at the heels of Allstate, State Farm, and other well-known insurance companies.
GEICO Direct’s Direct Response TV (DRTV) spot first caught the public’s attention with the now famous gecko. The gecko was introduced as an everyman’s lizard that just wanted people to stop confusing him with GEICO. The concept may seem a little goofy, but he did the job so well that GEICO “hired” him as the official company spokeslizard, and he is now in every spot. There is consistency.
The spot seems to pop up every hour of every day. There is frequency. The spot is only 30 seconds long, but with the frequency, the duration of the message is very high.
The spot makes a simple offer that plays directly to consumers’ two biggest concerns; time and money. Make a 15-minute phone call and save 15 percent or more on your car insurance. It’s an offer too good to refuse, and it’s one being proposed by no other insurance company I know. There’s market differentiation.
Effective Direct Response has been key in building this brand. Of course, there’s much more at work here. Direct Response may have built it, but GEICO works hard to keep it. GEICO does not use an outside service to handle the calls it gets. They use their own people. These are highly trained, friendly people who can answer any question about the policies offered. After you have a policy with GEICO, the customer service is superb. Go buy a new car. Call from the dealership with the details, and in two minutes you’re insured. No paperwork to fill out at an agent’s office. There is a good experience with the company.
So with a gecko, warmly crafted content on DRTV, and outstanding service, GEICO has created a brand that’s scaring the pants off the big boys.
Will the big boys exchange their current distribution system for the direct-to-consumer model? Highly unlikely. They have agents out there who would justifiably cry “foul” if they started marketing directly to the public. But with Direct Response, there is a compromise. In fact, the addition of Direct Response to what they are already doing could help them take advantage of what is made GEICO Direct so successful. For example, they could set up a Direct Response call center, write a policy, and then hand it off to an agent local to the policyholder. Or, they could simply gather leads and information, and then distribute those leads to the local agent. With the home office collecting leads, the agent would even see a considerable increase in business. Maybe best of all, they would have a policyholder who did not buy from GEICO.
Other, well-known brands have been built by Direct Response as well, most notably Dell Computer and AOL. These are all credible and trusted brands – built respectably and quickly with Direct Response methods designed to establish an ongoing, positive relationship with the customer.
There is something even more exciting on the horizon for Direct Response.
If you need a reliable company to produce an infomercial check out our list of production companies.