In the old days of advertising and marketing, people that did branding and people that focused on ROI were polar opposites. They lived on different ends of the world. The former were in the high end of the advertising world, where it was all about sizzle and premium traditional media environments, the latter were in the less glamorous direct marketing world, where it was all numbers, postal rates, telesales and the business of managing lists. Their two worlds couldn't have been more different. The former hung out in glitzy, high visibility places like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, the latter in more remote, subdued locales, with cheaper real estate, labor and data geeks--places like Central Florida.
Most importantly, brand advertisers cared little about measurable sales and ROI. For direct marketers, that was all that they cared about.
No more. These days, all marketers want measurable results related to sales objectives from their advertising and marketing expenditures, particularly online. A big part of this has certainly been driven by the fact that a large portion of early online advertisers were direct marketers. Many think that this focus on measurability will go away as more and more of the traditional brand advertisers show up online. I don't think that will happen. All online advertisers, including those for whom branding is the primary objective, will want more and more ROI measurability. Why do I believe that?
It's no longer a black and white world of branding and direct marketing. The future, I think, will be much grayer, as branding takes on ROI characteristics, and direct marketing, likewise, will probably take on elements of brand advertising. Whatever the outcome, ROI and measurable sales results are here to stay. Branding and ROI are certainly not mutually exclusive anymore.