August 4, 2021

How brands are winning using direct response marketing


When some people think of direct response marketing, they conjure up the image of an infomercial presenter urging them to “call the number on your screen.” But, in reality, infomercials and 800 numbers don’t even scratch the surface of direct response marketing. We sat down with the team at MuteSix to better understand what direct response marketing really is and how to leverage it to boost sales. 

What is direct response marketing?

Direct response marketing—sometimes called direct marketing—is a form of marketing that aims to elicit an immediate response from prospective customers via a specific call-to-action. In direct response marketing, organizations are communicating directly with a specific customer (or group of customers) typically via email, SMS, or messaging on social media. You can think of direct response marketing as a subset of performance marketing—a specific set of tactics employed to beef up your performance marketing results.

Direct response marketing is designed to have an immediate impact on ROI, whereas mass-messaging techniques like billboards are designed to create brand awareness. Most successful companies employ a mix of direct response marketing and advertising campaigns. In the context of the marketing or sales funnel, you can think of direct response marketing as a bottom-of-funnel tactic vs. a top-of-funnel mass-advertising campaign.

Direct response marketing best practices 

Kunal Parikh, Senior Director of Client Success at MuteSix, highlights two best practices in direct response marketing: compelling creative and a sense of urgency. 

“Creative is one of the most important components of direct response marketing. Brands tend to focus on highly produced, cinematic videos that sell the brand; however, this doesn’t always do the trick,” he explains.

“Make sure calls to action are included within the first few seconds of your campaign”

It’s not about how expensive or professionally produced your direct response creative is, but rather the content of your creative. As Parikh puts it, “Direct response creative is very unique and doesn’t necessarily need to be costly. Instead, it can be produced professionally or simply filmed using your phone.” He recommends two best practices when developing direct response marketing materials:

  • Introduce products to consumers with differentiating value propositions at the onset of your campaign
  • Include calls-to-action within the first few seconds of your campaign

“If you don’t capture their attention within that short timeframe, you risk losing the attention of a potential customer,” he says. “Creating a sense of urgency is another direct response tactic with a strong track record. That’s because shoppers want to buy popular products with positive reviews that are at risk of quickly selling out if they don’t act fast.” In other words, you want to capitalize on your potential customers’ FOMO (fear of missing out). 

Direct response marketing channels

Because direct response marketing crosses many channels, it can be overwhelming when first building out your direct marketing strategy. It’s important to remember that you don’t need to jump into every single channel at once. Instead, get familiar with one at a time and experiment with each to see which drives the best results for your business. Let’s take a look at some of the top direct response marketing channels, as chosen by the team at MuteSix.

Influencer marketing

You’d be hard pressed to find a marketer or founder who hasn’t heard about influencer marketing. It’s been one of the fastest growing channels in digital marketing for several years now, and for good reason.

Sarah Grosz, Head of Influencer Marketing at MuteSix, describes why influencer marketing is one of the top direct marketing channels, “A guaranteed success for direct marketing is influencer content. Repurposing influencer content for ads will drive more scale and ROI for your media-buying efforts. Pair that with the additional top-of-funnel awareness from organic influencer impressions, and you've got a winning strategy.” 

Email and SMS

As Chanel DeVetter, Co-Head of Lifecycle Marketing at MuteSix, explains, “Email and SMS are the most effective tools for direct response marketing because you are able to control your brand story and craft the narrative as it relates to the individual consumer.”

While neither email marketing nor SMS marketing are new marketing channels, they’re sometimes overlooked despite the fact that they both boast several key benefits. In addition to offering control of your brand story, they’re “free” channels, in that you don’t have to pay for your emails or texts to go out. If you’re already using an email or SMS marketing platform, you can reach out to your audience quite easily at no additional cost. 

But, what about SMS and email marketing best practices? “They include timing your messaging to deliver it when your customer is most likely to engage, as well as personalizing that messaging based on what your subscribers want to hear at that moment,” says DeVetter, adding, “Making it seem like you aren’t speaking to a consumer, but, rather, with them will take your brand from being one they’ve just heard of to one they’ve tried, and eventually to one they incorporate into their everyday life.”

She adds that you can achieve this relationship “by having a well-thought-out, creative full-funnel strategy and utilizing automated technology in innovative ways.”


Amazon’s Sponsored Brands video function allows advertisers to use direct response tactics against specific keywords—or audiences—they’re looking to reach on Sharing some of his best practices, Aaron Mizrahi, Director of Amazon Advertising at MuteSix, explains, “One best practice would be aligning the keyword that’s being targeted to a video that’s most relevant to how that shopper is searching.”

These tactics are quite similar to those employed in paid advertising. Mizrahi goes on to say, “If someone is searching by colour, open the video with a five-second reel showing that specific colour. If someone is looking for a specific solution, open the video with a few seconds explaining how you're about to show a product that meets their specific needs.” He recommends that founders use this type of creative—or media—against unbranded keywords because shoppers are only in the consideration phase of the buying journey. That being said, he adds, “It can also be leveraged to steal share from competitors on the marketplace, too.”


Programmatic advertising is a form of automated buying and selling of online advertising. It’s a popular direct marketing channel because it streamlines the process of buying ads, making it more efficient and effective. 

As Matt Prince, Director of Programmatic and Marketplace Media at MuteSix, puts it, “By allowing direct response brands to precisely target and personalize creative messaging to individual shoppers based on overlapping qualifying criteria, programmatic is an essential element in the direct response arsenal.” The following qualifying criteria can be used in programmatic advertising:

  • Psychographics
  • Demographics
  • Firmographics
  • Behavioural data
  • In-market intent signals
  • Brand safety

“When a MuteSix apparel advertiser increased shopper personalization by leveraging dynamic ads, they observed a consistent 500% improvement in ROAS compared to their previous best efforts—95% of which originated from first-time buyers.”

Prince elaborates, “People prefer and respond more frequently to personalized messaging tailored to their individual interests, aspirations, and affinities.” He highlights that programmatic advertising is uniquely designed to deliberately amplify in real-time, pointing to one of the agency’s clients: “When a MuteSix apparel advertiser increased shopper personalization by leveraging dynamic ads, they observed a consistent 500% improvement in ROAS compared to their previous best efforts—95% of which originated from first-time buyers.”

Paid Social

As Josh Henry-Hicks, VP of Paid Social at MuteSix, explains, “The most successful brands using direct response marketing are taking a full-funnel approach that encompasses every touch point a consumer has with their brand.” He points to three main factors that these successful brands are doing right:

  • Using compelling ad creative
  • Creating an educational and convincing website experience
  • Leveraging a personalized email and SMS retention strategy

“Facebook, Instagram, Google, and TikTok are the platforms on which we communicate to our audience,” says Henry-Hicks, but the way in which you communicate can make or break your paid social strategy. He points to creative messaging as the key to cutting through the noise, and adds, “Brands should understand their USP (Unique Selling Propositions) and what makes them different from others.” 

Henry-Hicks recommends that brands develop content that clearly communicates these unique advantages, and points to the term “brand-response,” which refers to creating “... premium creative that elevates the brand but also increases purchase intent and sells products in the process.”

How direct response marketing helped Pacha Soap Co. win

The team at Pacha Soap Co.—a personal care retailer focused on finding sustainable solutions to poverty around the world—wanted to start leveraging the power of direct marketing. So, they turned to the experts at MuteSix for help. As part of their performance marketing efforts, they targeted three main channels: influencer marketing, Google Ads, and Facebook Ads. 

The Pacha team adopted an influencer marketing strategy in 2021, only to see a vast increase in both impressions and unique clicks. From 2020-2021, they scaled their Google Ads spend by 514%. As a result, they currently hold an impressive 44.98% search impression share in their vertical. Finally, after pausing their Facebook advertising efforts in 2020, they came back in full force during 2021, increasing their ad spend by 1,126.92%.  While these numbers may seem astronomical, the results speak for themselves.