A Direct Response to Engagement

As more B2C brands build direct connections with consumers, how will this affect direct response strategies?

Many B2C brands are exploring direct models today because the digital world has disintermediated traditional distribution channels and consumers can pretty much buy anything, anywhere, at any time. So if you want to sell, you’ve got to be where the sale happens, when it happens.

But that’s only one part of the story.

Our world of direct response has changed; it’s no longer just about generating an immediate response from consumers. We’re living in a world of experiences, networks, and engagements. To succeed, we must move from “response” to “engagement” and be willing to let our customers design their own engagement along the way.

The brand experience for today’s consumers doesn’t end with purchase and usage. It includes many small and big, ad-hoc and programmatic, user-generated and terminated, two-way interactions that have become almost as critical as the actual quality of the product itself.

Adding exponentially to that complexity, almost every one of these new engagements is at any time a call or a click away from an immediate purchase, no store visit needed, thank you very much.

Always-on commerce

This permanent, two-way engagement and continuous commerce may be the single biggest change and challenge the digital age has brought upon the world of marketing.

As direct marketers, we’re a bit ahead of the game, since we’ve always looked for a response and interaction. And we’re always in it for an actual sale. But we’re also used to being more in control of the conversation. Today, the consumer is much more in control of the entire engagement and we must work much harder to be desirable, add value, and be the brand of choice.

The key components for a direct response strategy (I would call it “customer engagement strategy”) are:

  • Data: the ability to listen and understand the needs and mind-sets of consumers, based on their actual behavior and “customer journeys”
  • Creativity: the ability to make the engagement to and relationship with the customer interesting and desirable, not just practical and economical
  • Technology: the ability to explore “modern day creativity” and develop a rewarding user experience; and to be agile and responsive at a one-to-one level, millions of engagements at a time, always on, always a click away from a buy

Without data, marketers will second guess their customers and struggle to cater to their wants and needs. Without creativity, brands will become commodities in the engagement space and, ultimately, in the product experience. Without technology, brands will age and fade away and marketers will not be able to scale and keep up with their customers.

Always-on customer engagements, data driven, creatively inspired, infused with technology, are the way to go. But how do you get there?

The right path

I believe that it all starts with the journey: Who is your customer? What is their current journey as it relates to your brand/category? What is the desired journey? How can we create engagement opportunities that build meaningful experiences and provide opportunities for a value exchange? How can we inspire our audience not just to respond, but to share and participate? How does every interaction drive bonds over time?

The world is full of opportunities for brands and direct response marketers. Brands that choose to elevate their approach from response to engagement and that are willing to let their customers design their own journey along the way will reap the benefits.


Gunther Schumacher, OgilvyOne Worldwide

Gunther Schumacher spent most of his 18 years at Ogilvy trying to fi nd the perfect balance between his passion for innovative client solutions that drive business results and the need to “simply get things done.” In his current role as the worldwide president and COO for customer engagement agency OgilvyOne, Schumacher focuses on key client relationships, new business, and new network capabilities. Previously, he led IBM business for OgilvyOne globally and served as COO of the Ogilvy Group in North America. His “pre-Ogilvy life” includes stints as product manager on the client side, copywriter, media planner, and as an independent software developer. Schumacher has a master’s degree in philosophy and literature from the University of West Berlin. After work, he enjoys playing with fast cars and loud guitars, and spending time with his wife and three daughters.

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