“Bonding” is falling in love with a company, a product, a spokesperson, an outlook, a belief system. This bond of love inevitably manifests itself in a tangible way. And then again. And again.
A bonding ad is about the customer.
A direct response ad is about the offer.
Direct response ads trigger immediate action.
Bonding ads do not.
The results of a direct response ad can be measured immediately. The public either buys what you’re selling or they don’t. This is how you know whether or not the ad is working. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to build your company on direct response.
Bonding ads build customer loyalty.
Direct response ads do not.
I have a client who started his radio campaign a few months ago running a low frequency schedule. He is already starting to see the success of his campaign both through website visits and actual inquiries from potential clients. In the beginning his creative was written by us and read by him. He sells life insurance. My client is now concerned with measuring the effectiveness of each ad. He is trying to determine which ads are generating the most website hits and inquiries. He has stated:
“With any direct response ad the trick is to determine wording based on the effectiveness of the ad. If the testimonials are driving the most hits, we should be pushing those. I want every campaign I do to be measurable. Without being able to measure each ad’s effectiveness we are just shooting in the dark. If I look at my website hits for instance, I can see that yesterday I only had 7 hits but on July 8th I had 39. What ad played on July 8th to garner such a response?”
Any advice on how to explain why his radio campaign is effective without needing to measure each individual ad for its effectiveness?”
Jon, the success of a direct response ad is determined by the attractiveness of the offer made to the customer. What offer can this life insurance salesman make? Keep in mind that the offer must be compelling enough to get a person to take immediate action.
This insurance agent’s best hope would be to use radio as a promotional vehicle for content marketing. What insights, solutions or valuable information might he publish on his website and talk about in his radio ads that would cause listeners to immediately visit his website to read it? Without this kind of “content” as bait, his direct response campaign on radio is likely doomed.
Business people are attracted to direct response ads because they want their advertising to function like a gumball machine. “You put in your money and you crank the handle and out come the results.”
In theory, direct response marketing is tidy and scalable and predictable. “Put in a penny and you get one gumball. A nickel gets you five gumballs. Give it a dime and ten gumballs emerge. A quarter? You guessed it: twenty-five gumballs.”
The problem is that this gumball machine called “advertising” never functions quite like it should. Sometimes you crank the handle and get a huge gumball. Sometimes you get a tiny one. Sometimes you get nothing at all.
Even when you’ve found an offer that generates predictable, scalable results – such as the response to that “content marketing” offer we described earlier – you’ll find these results will erode over time. The longer you keep pumping coins into that gumball machine, the less well the machine will work. The gumballs will keep getting smaller and smaller until you finally go broke.
No direct-response ad campaign has ever worked long-term.
Each offer has to be new, surprising and different. And then you must say, “But wait. There’s more! Order now and we’ll include at no extra charge…” This is called benefit stacking.
Remember Columbia House? They did $1.4 billion in 1996 as a result of direct response marketing. Nineteen years later, Columbia House filed bankruptcy. Their 1.4 billion fell to just 17 million in total sales. In other words, the size of the gumball coming out of their “predictable, scalable direct response machine” used to be 8,200 percent bigger.
You could argue that what killed them was the emergence of the internet, but your argument won’t hold water. If Columbia House had built their business around the customer instead of around the offer, they would have become iTunes.
Google just told me iTunes is trending to do $5.03 billion this quarter; more than $20 billion this year.
Apple built iTunes through bonding, not direct response.
The reason gumball people don’t like to invest in bonding ads is because it’s like flying on a commercial jet. You hear a roaring noise as the plane begins to rattle and shake and unsustainable amounts of fuel are consumed and OH-MY-GOD we’re approaching the end of the runway! The client shouts, “This sucks. I don’t like it. Shut this thing down and get me out of here.”
I weep at the number of advertising flights I see aborted. All that money invested and the twitchy little bastards never even left the airport.
If you can find the courage – and fuel – to embrace a long-term bonding campaign, sooner or later you’ll experience a moment called “liftoff” when everything suddenly gets smooth and quiet and the nosecone of the plane tilts sharply upward.
You’re pushed back into your seat as you climb.
Wow. You can see forever from up here.
Goodbye Columbia House.
Roy H. Williams
Want to know some ways – other than content marketing – to integrate a direct response ad into a longterm bonding campaign? Pop your head into the rabbit hole and I’ll tell you on page 3. – Indiana Beagle
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