I'm conflicted between brand (Nike style ads) and direct marketing (FB ad talking about how awesome your product is and telling people to buy it now). Direct marketing has made us the most money so far, but there must be a reason why big companies are doing brand marketing. What percentage of your marketing strategy should be brand vs direct marketing?
It depends on the stage of your business. If you are at the beginning, spending money on brand advertising is a sure NO.
Which doesn't mean you shouldn't aim to build a brand... Building a brand is always good, it increases the value of your business allowing you also to sell it if you decide you want to exit and start something else.
Spend money on direct marketing, test and refine what works and test new, even cheaper avenues. And build your brand without investing money in advertising, start with defining the mission & main story of your business, its key values them creating a memorable identity- logo, main colors, main fonts, templates for all marketing materials, activities, channels, tagline that captures your brand essence, and finally making sure you are consistent using the above tools. Branding also takes a lot of time but as long as you are consistent and you do a good job with the elements above, you will be on your way and you won't need to spend money advertising it.
Obviously the more unique the business story & brand elements, the higher your chances to achieve brand awareness and recognition faster.
If you are just starting off, the focus should be on sales. Its good to do the groundwork on the messaging and communication strategy, but until there is clarity on unit economics etc, I wouldn't focus on brand.
You build a brand early on by a simple act : deliver consistent value that your customers can rely on.
Around year 2 or 3, when the business model has straightened itself out and the unit economics is stable is when ill focus on doing the larger brand marketing.
It depends on your size - but the answer for the vast majority of companies will be to focus almost entirely on direct.
Not only will direct likely have a higher return on investment, but because of your ability to attribute the performance to the actual marketing investment you can optimize over time.
If you decide to put up a billboard in your city, you can barely target who sees it and who doesn't, you can't properly A/B test messaging, and you can't know which of your increased conversions were impacted by that billboard vs some other marketing channel.
Big brands have the massive budgets and the huge scale in data to be able to get value out of brand marketing. The rest of us generally don't.