What Is Direct Response Marketing?

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  • Written By: Terry Masters
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2019
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Direct response marketing is advertising that requests an immediate response from the audience. The advertisement typically asks the audience to respond by telephone, Internet, or reply card. This type of marketing technique is often used when a product has limited distribution options, and the best way to sell it is through a direct pitch. Success with direct responses over time can be used to garner retail placement for a unique product that has no competition or way of proving demand.

Ordinary marketing is designed to create brand awareness. It educates the consumer and attempts to influence a purchasing decision that will be made at some point in the future. For example, when a person watches a commercial, the marketer is concerned about capturing his attention and impressing upon him certain features and benefits that distinguish the product from the competition. The hope is that the next time he goes shopping, he will remember the commercial and buy the product.


Direct response marketing presents the same type of information as in ordinary marketing, with the addition of an immediate call to action. The advertisement makes a specific request of the consumer to do something to contact the company at the end of the pitch. A direct response advertisement typically has four parts. It presents the information on the product, specifies the offer and makes a call to action, asking the audience to do something proactive in response to the advertisement. Last, it provides the means of making a response, usually by telephone, mail, or over the Internet.

The most obvious example of direct response marketing in action is the infomercial. This type of television commercial presents a product and asks the audience to make an immediate purchase at the end of the presentation by calling a toll-free number. Direct response marketing vehicles, like the infomercial, work best with unique inventions that can be easily demonstrated and supported by testimonials.

Another common example of direct response marketing are the advertisements used by many nonprofit organizations to raise money. Part of fundraising for charitable causes is the presentation of a need and a request for immediate action in the form of a donation. Child sponsorship organizations, for instance, have combined the infomercial format with the typical charitable pitch to create a direct response vehicle that visually presents the plight of children and asks for an immediate commitment.

It is important to understand the difference between direct response marketing and direct marketing. The two terms are not interchangeable, though in some instances they are incorrectly substituted for each other. Direct marketing is marketing that reaches the consumer without passing through a middleman, like a retailer. An example is direct mail, where a company sends advertising material directly to a person's mailbox. Direct response marketing is a type of direct marketing, but not all direct marketing requires a direct response.


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