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Cheesy, overly energetic calls to action like these have been part of our culture since the earliest days of advertising. This is direct response! It’s not image communication. Those are two different animals, right?


Image is used at the top of the funnel. Setting a tone. Creating a voice. Making people understand the essence of your brand.

Direct response is used when people are ready to buy and need to be nudged to act.  Tell a lot of people to do something, and a certain percentage of them will go and do it. Smarmy as they may seem, traditional calls to action do work.

But don’t you feel like taking a shower after you get one hurled at you?

Analytics show you what your target wants and when they want it, and good UX design makes it easy for them to act. But if you pop up, slide in or overlay the information your target is actually interested in, don’t you still need to whack them over the head with a verbal hammer to keep them from clicking you away?

Um, no. In fact, the more effective solution is (are you sitting down, traditional DR marketers?) charming your target into engaging with you, treating them with respect and trusting them to make the right decision.

Of course there are UX tricks you can use—rounded buttons get more clicks than squared off ones, using imagery near your call to action generates more clicks, too. But you can create urgency without inciting a panic attack.


Rather than ordering your target around, Susan Weinschenk, PhD, author of the book “How to Get People to Do Stuff” suggests something novel—persuading people without being mean, pushy or obnoxious.  Among other ideas, she suggests showing someone achieving the thing you want them to achieve, rather than ordering them to take steps toward achieving it.

Or, consider the decidedly non-abrasive example set by email marketing website To entice you to order their guide for choosing the best color, shape, copy and placement for creating a “click here” button that will skyrocket your click rates, myemma uses this short, sweet, exclamation point-free phrase: GET THE GUIDE.

Why are the experts changing their call to action tactics now, when we know traditional direct response techniques have time-proven sales value?

Because creating a call to action that treats the target with dignity does more than just bring in quantifiable conversions. It does that thing digital marketers have been struggling to figure out how to do for years. It makes you look confident. It makes you seem trustworthy. It makes people feel good about engaging with you.

In other words, it boosts your brand image.