Here’s when, why and how to do advertising without relying on a brand.

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The following excerpt is from Dan S. Kennedy’s book No B.S. Direct Marketing. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | IndieBound

There is a case for ignoring branding altogether, entirely or situationally, when it comes to marketing or advertising. What I am about to reveal here is a very, very powerful advertising and marketing strategy well-known to direct marketers but largely ignored or misunderstood by all others. It is the deliberate use of nakedly un-branded advertising.

What you never want to do is let brand-building get in the way of the most powerful and profitable advertising and marketing opportunities available to grow your business. There are many types of direct-response lead generation ads, designed to motivate qualified prospects for a particular product or service to step forward, identify themselves, and ask for information, which work much better “blind,” absent any company name or logo or branding, than they do with identity disclosed. One version is the now classic “Warning” ad:

Warning to Mutual Fund Investors

Expert Predicts Dramatic Change and Danger in the Next 29 Days.

This Is Information You MUST Have—That Brokers Don’t Want You to Know.

For Free Information and “The Wall Street Secrets Report,”

call the Fund Investor Hotline at 1-800-000-0000 or go online to

You would absolutely kill that ad’s pulling power if you attach a big, fat logo, a national brand name, or a financial planning firm’s name and slogan to it.

In this category, in financial and investment information publishing, one of the all-time biggest successes was a campaign that dominated print, radio, and cable TV in 2011 and 2012, driving traffic to an online video at (You can probably still see it via YouTube.) This ad was aired, seen and heard so much, the domain name itself nearly had brand identity, but throughout, neither the company nor its brand, the newsletter ultimately being sold, the author, or any other identity, corporate or personal, was disclosed in the advertising. It was completely “blind.” I am told it broke all subscriber acquisition records of its company and probably the industry, bringing nearly a million new subscribers into the fold.

The point: Zero brand-building was attempted. But if this ad had been in the hands of most big, dumb companies in publishing, insurance, annuities, gold or other financial goods and services, they and their nincompoop ad agencies would have insisted on mucking up the ads with their corporate names, logos, slogans, years in business.

You can always brand-build internally with customers once they are acquired. There’s no law that says you can’t create powerful brand identity and preference with customers, yet never even mention it to new prospects.

There are even instances where a brand suppresses response because of its virtues. I have, on more than one occasion, had clients in niche markets who had become very well-known and well-respected, and if you asked 100 people in their market about them, nearly all of the randomly chosen 100 people not only had generally positive things to say about the company but could also rattle off the five key components of that company’s sales story and offerings. No mystique, no curiosity. A been-there-heard-that-done-that-before problem. Success came by trotting out “blind” advertising and marketing with fresh promises and bold positioning, which would have been instantly discredited if voiced by the venerable, old industry leader. Then, once interest in the promises was created, information could be provided that revealed the match of the biggest, most respected brand with the hot, new, daring products.

In short, brand is not necessarily the holy grail. Brand-building is best for very, very patient marketers with very, very deep pockets filled with other people’s money. You are likely far better served by focusing on leads, customers, sales and profits directly driven by your marketing, letting whatever brand equity you get be provided as a free by-product of direct marketing.

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