Direct Response Marketing Is Having a Moment

As brands and consumers continue to grapple with and respond to the Coronavirus pandemic, we’ve seen no shortage of coverage analyzing the impact on marketing and advertising. Frankly, life for just about everyone has been turned upside-down, equally rocking the way we live our day-to-day lives and the way we behave as consumers.

And what affects consumers affects marketers like us. The marketing landscape has been equally turned on its head in the last couple of months—and you’ve probably seen some of the results. How brands engage with the market amidst lagging sales, high unemployment, and a complete shift in consumer behavior, has been fascinating (to say the least). These challenges extend to every industry, every corporate marketing team, and every boutique agency. But one interesting development for marketers has been brewing during the pandemic.

Direct response marketing is having a moment.

And in these “unprecedented times,” to borrow a phrase from most brand messaging out there right now—direct response may be perfectly positioned to maximize your marketing budget and drive the sales and signups your business needs.

How so? Well, we’re here to explain it. We’ll be exploring the marketing landscape, the impacts of the coronavirus on direct response, and how you might be able to connect with your customers and make the most of these strange times.

COVID and Q1: A Bit of Background

So, we all know what happened in mid-March. States began instituting safer-at-home warnings, encouraging folks all across the United States to hunker down, stay inside, and try to stem the growing pandemic. While we’re far from out of the woods on that front, it did immediately change consumer behaviors.

Specifically, people were out far less frequently, driving down spending in retail, events, hospitality, dining—basically any industry that relies heavily on people being out and about. But at the same time, people were staying in that much more. Deliveries and online retail purchases were up, as were sales in some other areas that might have surprised a few months before. (For example, good luck finding a home workout system.)

But when you can’t go out to the movies, you bring the movies home with you. Streaming and scrolling through Facebook feeds or tooling around on Google searches went through the roof, benefiting some of the biggest homes for direct response. Companies like Netflix, Amazon, Facebook, and Google posted surprisingly high figures for Q1 as compared to basically every other company. And for Facebook and Google, these high numbers were driven by ads.

Direct Response Ads: Supply and Demand

But that didn’t change the overall picture of the economy. Many companies were—and are still—feeling the pain. Even huge, seemingly buoyant companies like Disney experienced layoffs and furloughs as the economy slipped into recession territory. And that meant brands, already stretched thin, needed to make a decision for themselves when it came to their marketing:

Do we keep buying ads as usual, or do we tighten our belts?

Because of the inherent uncertainty of this pandemic (Could we be out from under the worst of it, or will COVID be in our lives for a couple years until we have a vaccine?), most brands decided to pull much of their direct response ads. And that has a big impact on direct response marketing.

Specifically, it drove prices down. Supply and demand works the same way in advertising as it does on the price of oranges. When summer rolls around and oranges are plentiful, you can get a deal. Similarly, when there’s a lot more freed up ad space because people aren’t competing for certain keywords or industries, you can save some serious money on a direct response ad campaign. Depending on your industry, CPMs are down 10 percent, 20 percent, even 40 percent.

The Time to Capitalize Is Now

So how do you make the most of a bad situation, especially when your marketing budget may be tight? Most brands right now are deciding between two types of marketing: direct response and brand building.

The theory is that brand building can position you well in a long-term, post-COVID sense. And if your brand doesn’t have a hard product, or if direct response isn’t your usual marketing method, perhaps that’s the best spend! However, even then you might be able to use direct response ads to build your brand. Why not utilize low CPMs to drive email signups and develop a brand-focused email campaign?

If you do have room in the budget, now could be the right time to invest in direct response. Achieving a healthy ROI is a heck of a lot easier when your investment is lower. Your product, service, online class, webinar, or software can get in front of more people and drive more sales while prices for you are lower.

Direct Response Marketing in 2020

We didn’t think 2020 would look quite like this, but we have to roll with the punches. Fortunately, it may be easier than we thought to transform a bad situation into an opportunity for our marketing campaigns and our customers. From here, the creativity, approach, and results are up to you.

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