#33 Seth Godin: When to use Brand Marketing vs Direct Marketing
August 10, 2021
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In an episode of Behind the Brand, Seth Godin and his host explain the difference between brand marketing and direct marketing. Seth recognizes the importance of direct marketing, but makes a strong case for why investing in brand marketing is key to long term success. 


What’s the difference between brand marketing and direct marketing?

Seth’s host posits an answer in the form of a clever metaphor. Brand marketing is a pull lever and direct marketing is a push button. You can consider brand marketing as an effort to attract or pull people toward and bind them to you over time – a more subtle action. Whereas direct marketing is more of an attempt to push people into an immediate measurable action. Brand marketing is trying to build attention and trust that will pay off in the long run. 

Direct marketing is more about getting an immediate return on your investment and getting someone to jump through a hoop and buy something or take a specific step along the customer journey. Brand marketing’s impact is difficult to measure. Direct marketing is measurable marketing, or you are doing it wrong.  As Seth says, “if you can measure it you’re gonna act differently because you can see what happened Tuesday and change what you do on Wednesday.” Viral Octopus offers gigs for analytics support, if you are not currently able to make decisions based on clear data.


Brand Marketing Is A Long Experiment

Seth points out that Absolut invested in full page branding ads for years until finally suddenly their aesthetic took off. And that was a huge change when it finally came. You can’t achieve that sort of result with direct marketing. A single superbowl commercial is not going to change the big picture – it takes sustained effort. 


Direct Marketing Gets Immediate Results for You.. and Google and Facebook

Direct marketing should deliver positive ROI quickly. If you can’t achieve positive ROI for direct marketing in-house, you can outsource. But the most popular and accessible platforms for direct marketing take a sizable chunk out of your potential profits. By taking the long view, you can keep more of the results of your efforts for yourself. 


Direct Marketing is the Hare, Brand Marketing is the Tortoise

In the race, the runner with their eye on the long road ahead wins by making steady slow progress while the sprinter eventually falls behind. In real life, brand marketing gains may come in fits and starts rather than at a turtle’s steady pace, but Seth believes you need to be focusing on distinguishing yourself. Direct marketing is commodifying race to the bottom, a bitter fight for clicks between gladiators for the benefit of Google & Facebook shareholders. Don’t race to the bottom, strive for the top.

Be something special and show people with effective brand marketing.