A Marketing Strategy for Today’s Economy

Nov 19, 2011 by Timothy R. Hawthorne

Timothy R. HawthorneSeven Reasons Why Brand Advertisers and Entrepreneurs Should Add Direct Response to Their Marketing Arsenals

[Traditionally, direct response marketing has been looked down upon by some as the red-headed stepchild of traditional brand advertising. After all, direct response is the platform best known for bringing us infomercial products like the Chia Pet, Ginsu Knives, and, more recently, the ubiquitous Snuggie.

However, the more one explores the principles of direct response, the more one realizes just how sound and sophisticated this marketing methodology really is. The explosion of online marketing (the vast majority of which is based on direct marketing precepts) and the increasing demand for accountable marketing brought on by the economic downturn have further boosted the image of direct response. Increasingly, Fortune 500 companies and prestigious brands such as Procter & Gamble, General Motors, 3M, Lexus, Kodak, and Geico are leveraging direct response marketing to great success.

In the following article—which originally appeared in Response Magazine—Tim Hawthorne, one of the world's most respected direct response marketers and a cum laude Harvard graduate, outlines some of the reasons why this marketing platform is enjoying a surge in popularity.]

Timothy R. HawthorneWhen business is booming, rarely do companies stop to think about where every dollar is being spent. Times are good, customers are plentiful and sales are on target, so why take the time to fix what's not broken, right? Weathering and thriving through economic recession requires a more tactful approach, as companies have learned over the last few years. Throwing money down the drain is no longer an option, particular when it comes to nebulous expenses like advertising.

If there's one thing that was proven throughout the downturn and well into the recovery period, it's that direct response—in particular, direct response television (DRTV)—continues to be a viable addition to any marketer's advertising strategy. Whether it's an entrepreneur hawking a new invention, a small company building market share, a brand advertiser seeking a more accountable marketing approach, or a firm intent on generating leads, direct response fits the bill.

Here are seven reasons why:

  1. It's Accountable: Until the advent of the long-awaited, mythical “buy button” on your remote control, no other television advertising medium allows a marketer to track the sales process from the initial point of contact right on through to the actual sale, to the upsell, to the continuity program. Using this valuable information, companies can quickly tweak their campaigns (by redistributing media dollars among networks, for example) and maximize their success.
  2. It Makes Consumers Take Action: Whether they pick up the phone, head to a retail store for a closer look, or pull up a website for more information, consumers are driven to action by DRTV.
  3. It Sells While You Sleep: You might be asleep at 10:00 p.m. every night, but while you're snoozing, millions of households are up watching television into the wee hours of the morning. So while prime time commercial avails hit the masses, it's the niche late-night and weekend watchers who are faithful DRTV viewers—and patrons.
  4. It Plays Well With Others: DRTV is by no means an island. It effectively supplements your firm's existing brand advertising media mix without cannibalizing the investment or undermining brand equity. Whether you want to drive retail sales, direct consumers to the web, or take your brand to a new level, DRTV helps achieve those goals by operating as a viable component within your overall campaign.
  5. It Educates Consumers: It's impossible to tell a viewer everything he or she needs to know about your product in 15 seconds, but expand that time frame to one or two minutes and you wind up with a lot of time to fill. Step into the 28.5-minute infomercial arena and your educational opportunities become virtually limitless.
  6. It Comes in Different Shapes and Sizes: Short-form spots, infomercials, and home shopping are the three main categories of DRTV, but there are many other subcategories that fall under those umbrellas. Lead generation and continuity commercials, for example, accomplish a different task than the infomercial that's designed to sell direct. Pick the format that fits, and then tweak your strategy accordingly.
  7. It Costs Less Than Brand Spot Advertising: Sure direct response media rates creep up every year, but they never reach brand-awareness spot-advertising levels. The upfront cost of a DRTV campaign is considerably less than what a firm would pay for a 30-second image spot, and it provides advantages that the latter can't touch, including the ability to test new campaigns and adjust them quickly, as needed.

The list goes on, and serves as proof of DRTV's viability in today's changing market conditions. With so many positive attributes lined up in its corner, DRTV will become even more of a mainstay for successful companies in 2011, and beyond. It just works.

Author of more than 200 published articles, Tim Hawthorne is founder, chairman, and CEO of Hawthorne Direct, a full-service DRTV and new media ad agency founded in 1986. Hawthorne has produced or managed more than 800 Direct Response TV campaigns for clients such as 3M, Black & Decker, Braun, Discover Card, Time-Life, Nissan, Lawn Boy, Nikon, Oreck, Bose, and Feed the Children. Hawthorne is a co-founder of the Electronic Retailing Association (ERA) and is the author of the definitive DRTV book The Complete Guide to Infomercial Marketing. A cum laude graduate of Harvard, Hawthorne was honored with the ERA's prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.



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