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Brand Awareness vs. Direct Response Ads: the Differences and Choosing the Right Approach

Shae Henrie

Content Strategist @ AdRoll

One of the most important things to ask yourself before creating an ad is: what is the objective? For example, if you’re launching a new company, you’ll want to get eyes on it and have people remember your name with a brand awareness ad. However, if you’re hosting an event and need people to sign up, you’ll want them to act fast using a direct response ad. We’ve covered the differences between brand awareness ads and direct response ads and how to choose the best approach!

Brand Awareness Ads

Have you ever watched an ad and knew right away who was behind it? That’s the power of brand awareness. Brands utilize these types of ads in order to reach new customers and build familiarity with them. Brand awareness is usually the first step in building a larger ad strategy including retargeting ads and social media ads. The more ads shown to potential customers the more brand recall they will have. The hope with this ad journey is to continue to build a relationship with the customer up to purchase and keep them as a loyal customer. 

Brand awareness is vital for newly launched companies or companies that have expanded into new geographical locations. Here are some ways to implement brand awareness in your ads.

  • What does your brand stand for? If your brand focuses on sustainability, make that a key message so that whenever someone thinks of your ad, that is what's associated with it. Let’s say your brand recycles plastic water bottles and turns them into tote bags; make that consistent in your imagery. Be clear and transparent about its sustainability so your consumers trust you and begin bonding with your brand. 

  • Create a memorable ad. Ad recall is an essential aspect of brand awareness. You’ll want consumers to remember seeing your ad days later. The ad should be engaging and personal and share your brand's story that people will remember. Creating an unforgettable ad may require more effort and research to ensure it stands out to consumers among the sea of advertisements encountered daily, thus making ad testing a valuable tool.  

  • Attach a personality or slogan to your brand. One way to stick out in pop culture is to have a mascot or a face of the company! From Tony the Tiger to Flo from Progressive, your ads can put these characters in the spotlight to become household names. Sticking with a character for a while might be tricky and risky if not done correctly, but the payoff can be worth it. If the risk or budget doesn’t allow for it, coming up with a slogan or jingle is another great way to get your brand recognized.

Does “Got Milk?” still ring a bell? Decades later, the slogan lives on. It might take a lot of brainstorming to get it right, but eventually, you’ll find what sticks out to your consumer the most. It’s important to note that whatever the character or slogan is, it should be timeless since people don’t like significant change. If you need help creating a brand awareness ad, watch our 3-minute tutorial

Direct Response Ads

Direct response ads prompt the consumer to take a specific action. Whether it’s a limited-time offer or purchasing a product, direct response ads generate leads quickly. So if you’re in a time crunch and need a comprehensive marketing plan, direct-response advertising will be best. There are lots of ways to elicit an action from your audience.  

  • Have a clear call-to-action (CTA). State your offer clearly and how consumers can act on it seamlessly. Don’t just say there’s a special promotion that gives consumers little to no information about your product or the amount saved. Entice the consumer to want to act on the discount before it’s too late, and don’t forget to include any promo codes or QR codes needed to guide people to purchase. 

  • Emphasize the discount or urgency. Consumers are drawn to discounts and there are many ways to engage with them for it. By offering a promo code or eBook, you can gather emails to expand your email lists. You can even capture their phone number by offering a larger discount to send recurring texts in the future. If your objective is more app downloads, offer specials for in-app purchases or throw in a free gift for large purchases. Whatever the offer is, express urgency so consumers feel motivated to act. 

  • Make it personal. Consumers want to feel special and seen by brands. Consumers are more likely to make a purchase if personalization is involved. It can be as simple as using their name in an email, drawing them back to their abandoned cart. With personalization, you’re also making recommendations based on their preferences instead of showing them an ad they might hate. Using this approach is also helpful because the consumer is now positively associated with your brand and is likely to recommend it to their friends and family. 

Choosing the Right Approach

Now that we’ve covered the fundamental differences between brand awareness and direct response ads, you can determine the most suitable ad format for your brand’s current objectives. The best way to choose the right approach is by laying out all the goals and metrics you hope to achieve with your campaign.

Direct response ads are for immediate responses, so if you’re looking for a quick return on your investment, this is the best type of ad. This type of ads works best when you include language with a sense of urgency, such as “while supplies last.”  If you want more clicks to a webpage, brand awareness ads might not be the best since it won’t have a clear CTA to click on that link. However, if you want more impressions, brand awareness is all about getting more eyes on your brand.

Brand awareness is a great approach to increasing your customer base. For example, if you’ve been in business for a few months and plan to start a new service soon, ideally, you’d like to gather a lot of interested customers. You’ll want to spread your brand name far and wide then you can target any leads captured with an offer for that new service. 

Brand awareness ads are a long-term investment since you have to wait to see results immediately. Slowly but surely, more and more people will begin to recognize your name and branding (logo, slogan, etc.). 

Final Step: Reaching Consumers

Our platform makes it easy for brands to launch display ads, social media ads, and emails that engage existing customers, attract new customers, and grow revenue. Not convinced yet? Check out our customer success stories!

You can learn more about the power of brand awareness and direct response ads with our resources below!

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