Attention Direct Marketers:

This may seem like a branding post and the “soft” metrics of awareness and people liking your brand.  It is!  And that’s a big, big part of your job even if you aren’t actively putting time against it.

Why?  All your direct marketing has much, much, much more immediate failure than success.  The percentage donating or filling out the lead generation form is tiny.

But, what about the exposed audience that doesn’t give?  Did that letter or email or social ad have an effect on them?  Did it register your brand in their subconscious and make them more likely to see or give attention to your brand the next time?

Brand marketers tend to live in this world of creating impressions to trigger positive association and future equity – i.e. increase the chance someone does something for your brand the next time a direct marketer asks them.

The problem for brand and fundraising folks is thinking all impressions are the same. In the ad buying world this is the ubiquitous default with cost- per- impression buying.

The problem?  Impressions aren’t created equal.  There is very compelling research from an academic, Karen Nelson-Field, turned agency head out of Australia.

Impressions in ad buying world means a transaction occurs when the ad platform serving up your ad charges you.

But impression ≠ attention.

It turns out our attention to an ad and advertising in aggregate (which your direct mail qualifies as) is like a short-wave, high frequency radio signal bouncing up and down at high speed.

Here is the visual:

There are three types of attention:

  • Active attention
  • Passive attention and
  • Non-viewing.

When you buy an impression you get all 3 types.  This is why roughly half your impression buying is wasted on non-viewing.  Active viewing is where the payoff exists.  Quick hits:

  • You need at least 3 seconds of active attention to really get value and long-term brand impact
  • For every 3 seconds of active attention you get three days of the brand staying in memory
  • The platform for your ad matters and determines a large part of how the amount of time spent in and out of active attention.
  • Yes, creative matters too but media placement is more important.
  • The percentage of your ad on the screen and the percentage of the screen showing the ad are big, drivers of active attention.

And perhaps the biggest takeaway?   Always show your brand (logo in most cases), all the time. For mail this means kill the unbranded, white OE that is trying to trick folks.  Why?

It’s a myth that showing the brand in the beginning will undermine the intrigue or excitement.  Any amount of active attention that you can get must be used to drive brand linkage.  Sales and brand equity only go up if active attention is linked to your brand.

And the really big kicker?  Humans are hard-wired to fill-in the missing brand and do so automatically — often attributing your ad to the wrong brand.

I painfully went through this in a prior life where I was involved with Miller Lite advertising.  We found out, after a lot of spend, that the ads were really good at building positive brand associations and keeping the brand stored in memory.

The problem?  Everyone thought the ads were for Budweiser.

An impression is a terrible thing to waste.