Protect Your Brand: Understanding the Difference Between Direct and Brand Marketing

January 10, 2022

In this article, you will learn (6 min read)

  1. What is Brand Marketing?
  2. What is Direct Marketing?
  3. How do they differ from one another?
  4. The pros and cons of each type of marketing strategy
  5. How to use the two types of marketing strategies in your business
  6. Tips for implementing successful campaigns using both Direct Marketing and Brand Marketing


Many small businesses and startups make a common mistake of thinking that direct marketing is the same thing as brand marketing. This couldn’t be more incorrect. Thinking the two are the same is like asking your future partner to marry you seconds after you meet.

Ok, maybe that’s happened, and maybe that worked, but generally speaking, you most likely courted and dated a bit BEFORE you popped the big Q.

So let’s break the two down so you don’t end up wasting more time and money on purposeless exercises.

The best way to differentiate the two is this: 

  • Direct marketing is solely focused on driving relatively instant sales to either a broad or a focused audience (targeted Facebook advertising).
  • Whereas brand marketing focuses on building your company’s reputation OVER TIME with a very specific target audience (social media channels).

The goals of these two types of advertising are completely different, but they also work hand in hand to ensure success for your business. If you’re looking to grow your company’s revenue, it’s important to invest in both strategies so you can reach the widest possible audience!

Let’s further break down each form of marketing and the intersections of both so you can fast-track how you build relationships and forge connections with your target audience and make money and track that pesky ROI everyone is always talking about.

Want a great read on brand marketing? Check out Seth Godin’s This is Marketing.

What is Brand Marketing

Brand Marketing is not about advertising or measuring in a linear sense per se, rather engaging and building trust with your audience so that they identify as part of an exclusive club (the brand). Think about your social media or even how you answer your phones. Brand marketing is a long and consistent game. To borrow Gary Vee vernacular, brand marketing is the punch, punch, jab form, or marketing. You consistently jab at them with value, solve problems, build trust, then hit them with the knockout punch (the sale) after you’ve earned their trust.

What is Direct Marketing?

With direct marketing, you’re pushing a specific message to get the desired action from your audience. “Click here” or “sign up for this” are examples of direct messages. Emails, online adverts, flyers, database marketing, promotional letters, newspapers, outdoor advertising, phone text messaging, magazine adverts, coupons, phone calls, postcards, websites, and catalog distribution are some examples of direct marketing strategies.

Want a great read on Direct Marketing? Check out Business to Business by Robert Bly

How does brand marketing differ from direct marketing?

Brand marketing is about creating a relationship with your customers, while direct marketing is more transactional. Brand marketing aims to create loyalty and recurring business, while direct marketing focuses on one-time transactions.

When should you use brand marketing?

You should use brand marketing when you want to build a long-term relationship with your customers – um that’s mostly every day, right?

When should you use direct marketing?

You should use direct marketing when you want to get a specific result, such as making a sale or getting leads.

The pros and cons of each type of marketing strategy are summarized in the table below.

Brand Marketing Pros

  • Creates loyalty and recurring business
  • Builds long-term relationships

Brand Marketing Cons

  • Takes longer to see results
  • Can be more expensive than direct marketing

Direct Marketing Pros

  • Focuses on one-time transactions
  • IS Transactional and ROI is more clearly measured.

Direct Marketing Cons

  • Can damage your brand if done wrong.
  • Is more expensive than brand marketing when not done correctly or professionally.
  • Not a sustainable business strategy for most businesses. It cost too much to acquire new customers

How should you use both types of marketing in your business?

That really depends on what your business goals are. If you want to focus on building a sustainable, long-term business then brand marketing is the way to go. However, if you’re looking for quick wins and more immediate results, direct marketing is a better option.

Just make sure you understand the risks involved in doing direct marketing incorrectly. I’ve seen a lot of money thrown down the drain, (present company included) on wasted direct marketing campaigns because there was no clarity around the goals and expectations.

When it comes to brand marketing, make sure you’re targeting the right people with your brand marketing efforts and are very clear on your brand messaging and purpose. When done correctly, this type of marketing can create a lot of trust and engagement for your company and help to solidify customer loyalty. 

Direct marketing, on the other hand, is more likely to be effective if you have a specific offer or product that you want to promote.

Tips for implementing successful campaigns using both Direct Marketing and Brand Marketing:

Direct Marketing

  • When doing direct marketing, you want to think about how your campaign will benefit the customer. 
  • What are they going to get out of it? 

Brand marketing is more focused on building awareness, loyalty, and trust for your brand or company.

  • Make sure that what you’re promoting aligns with who you are as a company and resonates with your buyers. 
  • Make sure you are very clear on the brand messaging of your company.
  • Clearly understand that everyone on your team is clear that brand marketing is the long game. Building trust and loyalty is not transactional and takes time and consistency.

A quick story about both direct marketing and brand marketing

Rand was just promoted to VP of the company and placed in charge of marketing. Rand was fresh out of business school and had worked his way up the chain of command quickly. 

Excited to jump into his new role and impress his superiors, Rand hired a digital marketing company to help promote his brand and increase awareness. Rand’s boss asked him to track all results and make sure marketing was giving him an instant ROI.  

Rand understood that through social media he could reach a large audience and asked the digital marketing company to set up social media marketing as priority number one.

Six months into his new role, the boss asked Rand to provide ROI metrics on revenue from all his marketing campaigns to date. They had not made a single sale from social media and Rand fired the digital marketing company and two weeks later his boss fired him.

Granted that might sound a bit extreme, but the truth is, as extreme as that outcome is, more often than not, similar storylines play out all across the business world.

Neither Rand nor his boss nor the Digital Marketing company took the time at the outset of the exploration and discovery to be clear on the strategy and expectations for their marketing. Were they going to approach marketing with a direct approach, or first address their brand marketing?

If Rand wanted to make money, he should have started both types of campaigns  concurrently, or some variation of both strategically. Brand marketing takes time. Establishing a social media presence is not transactional, at least in the sense of a one-to-one relationship. It is however critical in today’s landscape to establish trust, rapport, and buyer loyalty – but, this takes time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither is your brand loyalty. Invest in a cogent strategy, maintain consistency, and over time, your fans will become raving fans – if you are strategic about the value and purpose you add.

Once you have established this platform of trust, then approach direct marketing with a focused and chiseled purpose, and very shortly if done properly you’ll see measurable results.

Enjoy this article? Need help with your brand marketing or direct marketing – let’s chat. We can help break down the best approach. 

Want a great read on why social media is critical for your brand? Check out Social Media Success by Claire Diaz-Ortiz

Sprout Connectors – Brand imagination accelerators helping small businesses and entrepreneurs craft and develop their brand message with compelling and strategic content for ignition and optimization. Check out some of our other articles that will help you to accelerate your brand here.

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