Brand Marketing vs. Direct Marketing: Helping People Believe, then Buy

Brand Marketing vs. Direct Marketing: Helping People Believe, then Buy

In the lovable Apple TV series, Ted Lasso, the title character played by Jason Sudeikis has a one-word message to help his players get in the game: Believe.

It turns out that this simple, yet powerful lesson from the locker room can also apply to your marketing.

The Two Types of Marketing

Marketing is a broad term, but there are actually two subsets of marketing: direct-response marketing, and brand marketing.

You may find that you identify with a specific type of marketing a bit more based on your interests and skillsets. For instance, I consider myself more of a brand marketer vs. a direct-response marketer.

So what’s the difference?

Brand marketing is about getting your customer to believe in your product or service. Its goal is brand awareness. Brand marketing generally comprises initiatives like organic social media, PR, reputation management, traditional advertising, community engagement, and any storytelling effort. Brand marketers set out to inspire your audience to think positively of your brand. This encourages a conversion, but doesn’t directly produce it.

That’s where direct-response marketing comes in.

Direct-response marketing is considered ‘action marketing’ because its tactics facilitate a purchase. Its goal is conversion. Online advertising, email, SMS, and paid social are all examples of direct-response marketing because your customer can take action and convert in the moment. They’re just a few clicks away from a purchase.

To put it simply, direct marketing helps people buy, whereas brand marketing helps people choose.

How Do We Choose?

What makes you choose a brand over its competitors? It may come down to straightforward qualifiers like better quality, price, or availability.

But your brand’s reputation, values, and personality also play a role. And it’s brand marketers who manage your brand’s reputation, communicate your values, and display your personality through the tactics I previously mentioned.

Even if your brand is the highest quality, readily available, and priced within your customer’s budget, they probably won’t choose you if they have negative perceptions of it. Your investment in direct-response marketing touchpoints will be more effective if your customer has a positive association of your brand. Your digital advertising will be met with a stronger willingness to convert, thanks to brand marketing.

The Brand Marketing Conundrum

When it comes to these two types of marketing, brand marketing presents a certain challenge in contrast to direct-response marketing. Brand marketing is difficult to measure, whereas direct-response marketing is more black and white. This is because you can easily trace a conversion back to the direct-response tactic that produced it thanks to something called last-click attribution.

According to HubSpot, last-click attribution “is when you give all of the credit for a conversion to the last touchpoint in the buyer’s journey — it assumes the final touchpoint is what ultimately influenced the lead’s decision to convert.”

The problem here is that last-click attribution discredits brand marketing efforts. Your customer probably wouldn’t convert if not for the countless brand marketing touchpoints that preceded the conversion. Not to mention, brand marketing is typically a long game. It often requires weeks, months, or years of fostering goodwill so that your audience will gladly choose your company when they’re ready to buy. But as far as measuring what generated revenue, the last click gets the point.

What This Means for Brand Marketers

Last-click attribution puts brand marketers in a difficult position because it’s hard to prove their value. How can social media managers, brand managers, PR professionals, creative strategists, copywriters, and community managers quantify their efforts without easily tying them to revenue?

This is also how social media as a strategy, and also a profession, gets diminished. Sometimes people are unable to see the value in that meme you posted, the TikTok trend you participated in, or the tweets you wrote. But every piece of content helps create relationships, build trust, and inspire customers to choose you over the competition.

One of the best opportunities for brand marketers to demonstrate their value is to measure brand sentiment.

What is brand sentiment? It’s the attitude and feelings people have about your brand. Brand sentiment can be positive or negative, and it’s known as an indicator of your brand’s overall health.

There are several social listening tools and brand health analyses that can help you determine your brand sentiment. For example, that one social media post may not have necessarily created a direct path to conversion, but its story sparked a ton of positive engagement.

Brand marketers work tirelessly to ensure people perceive your brand in a positive light. They convey your company’s culture and motivate a prospective customer to choose you whenever they end up in buying mode. They also cultivate community and nurture customers into brand loyalists who believe in your brand and inspire others to do the same.

Companies that only operate with the bottom line in mind are in it for the wrong reasons. If you serve your customers, strive to do the right thing, and exemplify a strong brand purpose, you’ll meet your goals. With the help of brand marketers and direct response marketers working together, revenue will follow.


How to Be Extremely Online Like Lizzo

How to Be Extremely Online Like Lizzo

Who is the most engaged and responsive celebrity on social media? 

Lately, I’ve been in awe of Lizzo’s online presence. She not only sees and hears her fans, but she engages back. 

I especially noticed this on TikTok, when her song ‘About Damn Time’ went viral over the summer. During the dance challenge, you could find Lizzo dueting user-generated content from fans and even other celebrities. 

I remarked on Lizzo’s impressive fan engagement with a post on Twitter. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that she liked the tweet! 

Now, I of course can’t confirm if Lizzo manages her own accounts, but she seems to be everywhere. How can we do the same? This is a pressure many content creators or brands face. We try to keep up on every social media platform and we end up burning out or losing consistency.

Before we get into it, I want to confirm that you don’t need to be on every social media platform. I tend to focus on three — I post daily on Twitter, and a few times per week on TikTok and LinkedIn. Then I also publish my newsletter on a bi-weekly basis. The key is to diversify your marketing mix and avoid putting all of your eggs in one basket.

Maybe Lizzo accomplishes cross-platform dominance because she has a team helping her out. And you may have this type of assistance too. Something as simple as hiring a virtual assistant for a few hours per month can help you crank out content more efficiently. 

Like it or not, volume and quantity are a big part of content marketing success. The average creator or small business can also develop a consistent and robust publishing plan. For me, this starts with creating long-form blog content.

Prioritizing long-form content is generally my process, which isn’t necessarily the best and only way, but I thought I’d give you the run-down. Adapt this framework to whatever works for you!

No, Blogging Isn’t Dead!

Now, you may think in the age of short-form video, blog content is dead. But it’s still the gift that keeps on giving. Your blog supports all of the following marketing efforts:

  • SEO
  • Sales
  • Lead generation and nurturing
  • Email marketing
  • Social Media

If nothing else, think of blog content as your opportunity to get your thoughts on paper before you distribute content via other media. Imagine it as your game plan and rough draft. It’s your place to fully flesh out your ideas and gather your thoughts so you can more confidently publish elsewhere. This step also helps you show up on video feeling more prepared.

So how does this work from start to finish? How do you bring your content ideas to life?

Typically, I’ll get an idea in my head, or make off-the-cuff observation, that I’ll tweet out. This is always my first step before I write any blog content. Twitter is almost like stream-of-consciousness, but I also consider it a sandbox for bigger content ideas. 

For example, this blog post started when I tweeted about Lizzo being an engaged celebrity on social media. Other people replied to that tweet, which got my gears turning on how I can keep building upon this thought. And now, I’m taking that random observation and expanding it into a fully-baked and thorough blog post that you’re reading right now!

With a simple tweet or post as the jumping-off point, here’s what my publishing plan typically looks like.

  1. Think the thought
  2. Tweet the thought
  3. Discuss the thought with others
  4. Think some more
  5. Write about it in a blog post
  6. Add subscribe forms to the blog post to encourage newsletter sign-ups
  7. Turn the blog post into a podcast, or invite a guest to discuss the topic further
  8. Share clips from the podcast on social media, or create a video short-form video version for TikTok or YouTube
  9. Embed the podcast audio on my blog
  10. Share the link to the blog on LinkedIn
  11. Share the blog post and podcast episode in my newsletter with some additional supplemental content

This content strategy certainly keeps me busy, but it all starts with a strong foundation with my blog post. Once that piece is developed, the rest is about repurposing. Everything is a building block.

You can certainly rework this in a way that’s best for you. For instance, maybe you like to start expressing your ideas in a quick TikTok video. This is also a great way to test your ideas and elaborate on them with a more refined blog post or podcast episode. You can start anywhere, just make sure it’s where your audience is.

Content Creation — An Ever-Changing Game

As I share my process with you, it’s important to keep in mind that there are lots of content creation best practices, but few hard and fast rules. It’s always evolving and changing, and so are you as an individual. At the end of the day, the creative process that’s best is the one that gets you excited to create. Every time you publish is a chance to gain insights about your art and also yourself. 

Create for fun, experiment, test, learn, but don’t wait for things to be perfect. You’ll gain your own wisdom along the way.


Kelly Clarkson Proves Karaoke is Your Key for Better Social Media

Kelly Clarkson Proves Karaoke is Your Key for Better Social Media

Being a talk show host on cable television isn’t as easy as it used to be. The ’90s gave us Ricki Lake, Jenny Jones, and our queen, Oprah. In 2022, Maury is still conducting DNA tests, and Ellen DeGeneres just wrapped up her final season.

With so many cord-cutters and people spending more time scrolling TikTok than watching TV, today’s talk show hosts need to be extra compelling to capture attention.

Kelly Clarkson has been hosting her show going on three years now, and if you ask me, she’s doing an amazing job. There’s something about Kelly’s personality that makes us feel like she’s just like us, although we know no one has a voice like hers.

Speaking of her voice, Kelly incorporates a daily segment that promotes the show in a way that’s true to the talent that made us fall in love with her in the first place. Can you believe it’s been 20 years since she won our hearts as the first American Idol?


Kelly Clarkson’s Social Media Brilliance

To start every episode of her show, Kelly takes the stage to sing a cover of a popular song. It can be the latest Billboard chart-topper, or a throwback that hits us right in the feels. The segment is branded as #Kellyoke, and it may be my favorite use of a branded hashtag for a few reasons.

• It’s not a gimmick. #Kellyoke lets Kelly do what she does best: sing. She’s even compiled the songs into a mini album released earlier this year. My favorite is her cover of ‘Happier Than Ever’ by Billie Eilish.


• All the songs she performs are requests from the audience. This is a brilliant way to foster fan engagement and make her viewers feel like they are contributing. It also creates a powerful storytelling moment. After each performance ends, Kelly will interview the fan who requested the song. Nine times out of ten, there’s a heartwarming backstory about why the song is meaningful to them.

• The covers are shareworthy. You’ll often see them shared on social media after Kelly elevates a song with her own rendition. This is a perfect opportunity to keep her talk show top of mind simply by sharing a fresh new cover every day. The concept is consistent, but each performance is unique. It’s repeatable but never stale. It’s also a great way to tap into new audiences by appealing to different fandoms across generations, depending on the song choice.

• It’s a fully integrated idea. The Kellyoke concept is bigger than her talk show and social media. She and her team are taking it on tour with the Kellyoke bus, where they’re searching for the next big star to sing with Kelly. They’re making stops in New York, Chicago, Dallas, and LA. This is such a fun and creative guerrilla marketing strategy!

What is a repeatable content idea you can incorporate into your marketing strategy? If you need help coming up with surefire themes that help you become a more strategic and efficient creator, check out this article about how to apply the content formula.

Why Social Media is a Lot Like Karaoke

There are a lot of takeaways from Kellyoke, but there’s also something we can learn about marketing and social media from the regular ol’ karaoke you do with your friends during a rowdy night of bar hopping.

In fact, social media and karaoke are actually very similar.

Whether karaoke is your jam or not, it’s a special form of live music. The audience gets to come on stage and share the spotlight. They get their own moment to shine.

To an extent, you can mimic this magic on social media, but most brands get it wrong. They treat their social media more like a solo act.

They hog the mic and make it all about them. They don’t invite others to participate. They focus more on promoting something instead of making people feel part of something.

Your path to conversion starts with more conversation. Instead of always talking at your audience, listen, engage, and share the stage.

Attention is Earned on Social Media

So, how can you make your audience go from a passive person in the crowd, to an engaged participant who is on the metaphorical stage, singing your praises?

A common misconception about social media is that we automatically have our audience’s attention. But just because someone follows you doesn’t mean they follow you. This is quite literally the case because social media algorithms may not distribute your content. But beyond that, your content has to be interesting to capture attention.

Your audience will only feel prompted to engage if your content resonates with them.

More brands need to realize this truth: people want to talk about themselves. It’s not about what your product or service does, but about how it fits into your audience’s lives.

When you find more ways to relate to them and make them feel seen and heard, they’ll find more ways to support you. They will also feel more comfortable opening up and engaging with your content.

With everything you post, ask yourself what’s in it for your audience.

Will they see themselves in your content and identify with it?
What emotion will it make them feel?
Does this content address a relatable perception, pain point, or objection they face?
Why will it resonate? What makes it relatable?

And frankly, why should they care? As marketers, it’s important to practice putting yourself in your customer’s shoes as often as possible. It’s far too easy to get caught up in our company’s initiatives, deadlines, meetings, and corporate ivory towers that by the time you share something with your audience, we’ve lost our way a bit. But it’s always about them.

Sparking Engagement the Right Way

Lastly, I’ll leave you with another thing to keep in mind when creating content.

I see a lot of businesses that think simply posting on social media is enough — as if each post is just to check a box for the day. The biggest mistake you can make is posting and expecting engagement instead of proactively inviting it.

I’m not saying every social media post needs a call-to-action, but why not be direct and tell your audience exactly what you want them to do?

I’ve spoken about this during marketing seminars and one thing people aks is, what happens if you ask a question on social media and nobody responds?

There are two answers to this:

1. Your question may be too complicated or open-ended. People are scrolling through social media — they’re not taking an exam. Simplify your question, or incorporate an easy opportunity to engage like a poll with limited answers. There’s more on this in this post: How the Boy Band Wars Can Boost Your Social Media Engagement

2. We always start off talking to an empty room. If you’re starting from scratch, assume your content won’t get a lot of engagement right off the bat. But if you keep at it, one day, one person will respond. And with the nature of social media, that one person’s response will amplify your post. Their own followers may see it pop up in their feed, and then one more person responds. Audience building is something that compounds over time.

Be patient. Growing your brand and attracting an audience takes effort, consistency, and creativity. Be okay with posts that flop, because it will happen. Experiment and try again. And as Kelly Clarkson says, the posts that don’t kill you make you stronger… or something like that.


READ MORE: The Fool-Proof Content Marketing Formula

RELATED: All the Small Things Content Creators Need to Remember

How the Boy Band Wars Can Boost Your Social Media Engagement

How the Boy Band Wars Can Boost Your Social Media Engagement

Like it or not, pretty much every brand has its competitors. It’s a reality of being in business.

Coke has Pepsi.

McDonald’s has Burger King.

Nike has Adidas. 

The list goes on and on.

But the first time I declared my own brand loyalty was during the historic rivalry between the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC. An entire generation was forced to choose.

No matter where your allegiance lies, you may not know this boy band rivalry was man-made. 

A notorious businessman named Lou Pearlman got his start in the blimp business in the 1980s, but by the 1990s he started chartering airplanes in central Florida. That’s how he met New Kids on the Block. He had no idea who they were, so he was confused about how a bunch of young kids could afford a private airplane.

After he learned New Kids did $200 million in record sales and $800 million in touring and merchandising, he thought to himself, “I think I can do that. I think I can put a group like that together.”

And in 1993, he helped create the Backstreet Boys. As their manager, Lou paid for choreographers, vocal lessons, tutors — everything they could ever need to be successful.


And just as the Backstreet Boys were rising to fame, Lou realized there would eventually be competition. That was his light bulb moment – why not create it himself? That’s when he built *NSYNC behind Backstreet’s back… ALRIGHT! 

There’s an entire YouTube documentary produced by Lance Bass called Boy Band Con that goes into this in more detail. It turns out Lou Pearlman was a con artist and cheated both bands out of millions of dollars.

But anyway, I share this backstory to demonstrate the power people feel when given a choice. Declaring your side of the boy band wars was one of the main ways millennial girls around the world expressed themselves. The question of ‘Backstreet Boys or *NSYNC’ sparked impassioned debates at every slumber party. 

So what does this have to do with marketing? Well, let’s talk about this within the context of social media.

How to Get More Social Media Engagement

All brands want more social media engagement. So how do you get it? It starts with giving your audience easy ways to express themselves. Too often, we ask too much of them. We present them with obstacles instead of options. If your call to engagement is too complicated, your audience will scroll past.

Most of us are on social media to connect with friends and pass the time. This means your brand is already at a disadvantage. Your content seems out of place — showing up among all the personal things our friends and family are saying. You’re competing for attention, so your content has to be extra interesting. You can’t afford to be boring.

One way to foster more social media engagement is by implementing what we call ‘See and Choose’ content. This is content where your audience sees options in front of them. This gives them a simple opportunity to choose a way to engage.

This is done with tactics like:

– This or that
– Multiple choice
– Fill in the blank
– Would you rather
– Rank your favorites

The Benefits of ‘See and Choose’ Content

There are so many reasons to love ‘See and Choose’ content. Not only is it easy for your audience to engage with, but it’s also easy for you as the marketer or brand to create.

You don’t have to create fancy graphics or any assets. For polls or multiple-choice content, just write a question and a few options and you’re done. But don’t make your polls random and for the sake of creating polls. Always ensure they tie back to your brand’s overall strategy.

‘See and Choose’ content is also one of the fastest, cheapest, and most effective ways to learn about your audience. Instead of wondering what your audience thinks or wants, you can just ASK! And in real-time. Every post is an opportunity for insight.

Another reason to love ‘See and Choose’ content is because they have a low barrier to social media engagement. The call-to-action is baked in with clear options to select. This approach is way more effective than asking your audience a broad question because most of the time, we ask questions that are just too hard.

This isn’t my opinion — this is based on the science of System 1 and System 2.

System 1 and System 2 Thinking in Social Media

In his book, Thinking Fast & Slow, Daniel Kahneman explains how our brain and thinking process is broken down into two parts: System 1 and System 2.

When we employ System 1 thinking, decisions are easy and automatic. We decide based on intuition and instinct and are able to think quickly.

System 2, however, calls for more rational thinking vs. instinctive thinking. When we activate System 2, decisions are slow and take a lot of effort. They require more logic and analysis.


System 2 is often way too complicated for social media! Remember, your audience is there to socialize and pass time, not to take an exam. Questions that require too much processing or logic are better suited for a different medium.

‘See and Choose’ content, you activate System 1. You ask your audience a question, but you also give them the answers. It makes your content damn near irresistible — your audience will want to weigh in with their choice. 

So now you know to avoid System 2 at all costs, here’s another common mistake I see brands make on social media: asking rhetorical questions.

For example, let’s say you do social media for a restaurant that offers a weekly happy hour on Fridays. You might be tempted to post a picture with a caption that says
“Who’s ready for happy hour?!”

This is just boring. Your audience isn’t waiting for your post with bated breath just dying to drop what they’re doing to tell you they’re ready for happy hour. Instead, ask them something specific. Better yet, ask them a question that allows them to express themselves. 

“Who’s ready for happy hour” with “What is your go-to happy hour cocktail?”. Most people have a favorite drink of choice. This immediately gets your audience reflecting on their personal preferences, and better compels them to share. Then you get to engage with all the fun comments!


Social Media is a Skill

Remember, social media isn’t just a place to share information. It’s a place to start conversation. You can’t just expect engagement — you have to prompt it. And more audience participation starts with an invitation.

I like to think these takeaways I’ve shared with you today are further proof that although everyone can do social media, not everyone can do it well. It requires a deep understanding of your brand, your audience, and how people think.

It may be tempting to have a friend or family member handle your social media, but investing in a true social media professional with the proper training is one of the best things you can do to grow your business.

Want to Get Hired? T-Pain Says You Need a Personal Website

Want to Get Hired? T-Pain Says You Need a Personal Website

I never imagined that my blog would have not one but two posts inspired by hip-hop artist, T-Pain, but this man is more influential than we may give him credit for. 


My original post about T-Pain talked about his masterful use of autotune and how it helped put him on the map and stand out among every other hip-hop artist of the late 2000s and early 2010s. 


With that in mind, it turns out that T-Pain knows a thing or two about personal branding. Aside from establishing a unique and authentic brand voice, T-Pain understands the importance of a personal website.

In January 2022, T-Pain took to Twitter to announce he was hiring several positions for his company, Nappy Boy Entertainment, ranging from videographers, photographers, and editors. Twitter is such an incredible place to find talent, so why not open it up to his fans and followers who may be qualified?


His call for applicants had very specific instructions, asking them to send in resumes, reels, a website, and portfolio. And when he says, reels, he doesn’t mean an Instagram Reel. He means a highlight reel showcasing your work.


T-Pain was then flooded with replies from interested people who sent in links to their Instagram profiles and social media accounts to demonstrate their work, which didn’t sit well with him.


A follow-up tweet said: 

This then sparked a debate about whether a website is necessary when we have social media, with many followers poking fun at T-Pain saying he is showing his age with this old-school mentality. 


But T-Pain doubled down and said:<

Do You Need a Personal Website?

Can you get by showcasing your work on social media? Sure, but it won’t be an ideal experience for the hiring manager. Sifting through Instagram content to understand what you’re all about can be clunky. And as one applicant of many, don’t you want to make it as easy as possible for the hiring manager to choose you?


This probably isn’t the advice you want to hear, but the answer is, you should have both. 


A personal website is your own slice of the internet that you can tailor exactly to your goals. It puts your work on a bigger stage, and does your skills justice. You can organize the site strategically with categories and sections that are easy to navigate and let people know your main objectives. It’s an investment in yourself, and one you never have to worry about potentially disappearing one day.


The other strength of a personal website is that you are in control. There are few content limitations. You have the flexibility to tell your story seamlessly, vs. in a series of posts that may lack continuity or consistency. Your blog section is a surefire way to demonstrate your expertise, even in the absence of workplace experience. 


How Your Personal Website Gives You a Competitive Advantage

I preach this idea to my students all the time. Our channels empower us to prove what we’re capable of. You may not have the picture-perfect credentials a recruiter is looking for on paper. But if you intentionally build your personal website to illustrate what you can do and how you think, they’ll evaluate you a lot longer than if you had nothing to show.


And for the entry-level applicants or those who are returning to the workforce in hopes of pivoting to a new industry, your personal website can help you do this. If you’re a recent college graduate with a degree in communications, and you REALLY want to get into the competitive field of sports marketing, dedicate your website to this craft. Write about the recent rebrand of the Washington Commanders, or the most inspiring storytelling moments from the Olympics. 


If you have a mid-life realization that you want to switch your career path from nursing to becoming an author, build your personal website about being an author. Share excerpts of the drafts you’ve scribbled in your notebook, or blog about your writing process and challenges.


Ultimately, your personal website allows you to focus your goals with more organization and flexibility than your Instagram profile would. And as long as job applications are still asking for links to your personal website (spoiler alert— they are), don’t let that be a box that goes unchecked. Never miss an opportunity to make an amazing impression. 


From a more tactical standpoint, a personal website is key to growing and scaling your brand for the future. Social media isn’t where people go with the main intention to shop. They’re there to scroll and pass the time. Your website sets you up for the long-term if you ever need a marketplace to sell products, services, courses, or anything that suits your niche. Even if you go viral on TikTok, the next place you want to direct people is to your website to buy your offering.


Then, the gift keeps on giving. Your website gives you a chance to gather email addresses and create a list of qualified contacts that you own. When you have an email list, those are people who have willingly signed up and said “Yes! I want to hear from you!” You can create tailored emails with more of what your audience is looking for, and send them knowing delivery is guaranteed. Unless you have a misspelled email address, or you get caught by a spam filter, you can guarantee your email is hitting the recipient’s inbox. You no longer have to rely on dubious social media algorithms and hope your audience gets your message. 


As if these weren’t enough reasons to put together a personal website, another is that it simply couldn’t be easier to do in this day and age. You no longer need to know how to code, or even how to design. Platforms like Wix, SquareSpace, Weebly, and WordPress have gorgeous layouts that are entirely customizable. You can choose a simple portfolio or resume template, or go for a more robust business-oriented site. The point is, you have options, and it’s something that can totally be done in just a few days.


I’ll end with a main point that has a double meaning. Something I always say is, you become known for what you own. This applies to the fact that you literally will own your website. If an algorithm makes you pay to play, or if a social platform fizzles in popularity, you can rest easy with your site and list of contacts you’ve built. 


But more figuratively, you become known for what you own — the skills, talents, and knowledge you have. Own them and shout them proudly. Demonstrate them confidently. Declare who you are and what you can do, and believe it. Paint that picture for your audience so you become top-of-mind for what you do best.