This is very embarrassing.

As champions of instant, measurable results, direct response people are supposed to dismiss any form of advertising that doesn't make the phone ring—and ring now.

Yet, here I am, confessing a passion for, of all things, branding.

Branding, as you might imagine, is not typically what direct response agencies, like the one where I work, do. Except, well, yes it is. Because all advertising, including direct response, impacts the brand.

Every commercial for Time Life Books brands. So does every J. Peterman, Levenger and Sharper Image catalog. So does every ACLU, AARP and AAA direct mailing. And so, unfortunately, does every Ron Popeil infomercial.

Even a message that has the sole objective of producing orders leaves an impression about the advertiser. Responsible direct marketers understand the importance of leaving the right impression, and of leaving it on purpose.

They recognize that direct response advertising influences all within its reach, not just the relatively few who actually respond. A chance to leave a strong impression with the non-responding majority is a bonus marketing opportunity that only a fool would waste.

Moreover, smart direct marketers build their strategies upon the brand. The first half of our own agency's strategic process focuses on the brand. We grow the direct response tactics from there.

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Steve Cuno is chairman and founder of RESPONSE Agency (, a direct-response marketing firm in the Salt Lake City area. He is author of Prove It Before You Promote It: How to Take the Guesswork Out of Marketing, due in bookstores December 2008 (John Wiley & Sons). Contact him via