Brandformance: the best of both worlds

June 2023

Brand marketing and performance marketing have traditionally competed for budget and attention. But it doesn’t have to be a case of either/or. Incorporating brand and performance marketing (it’s called “brandformance”) can benefit the business in the short and long-term. It’s about using the right metrics and targeting the right audience from the start.

Performance marketing is everywhere. It’s the ubiquitous not-at-all-new kid on the marketing block. It’s when you pay only for the results, such as leads, clicks or conversions, of marketing campaigns on third-party channels such as search engines, social media or programmatic.

It is extremely popular with brands because these technology-driven performance tactics help them deliver personalized, hyper-targeted campaigns with near time optimization and automation. It’s seen as the fastest (and most cost-effective) way to drive sales, and the ROI can be easily and effectively measured.

“Brand building is key to standing out from the crowd in a competitive landscape”

But its popularity can be at the expense of brand building activities, such as creative advertising, which focus on the earlier stages of the customer funnel and reach new audiences. Unless you’re an established household name, brand building is key to standing out from the crowd in a highly competitive media landscape.

Brand marketing: the forgotten tool in the box

The 19th-century retailer John Wanamaker is credited with saying: “Half of what I spend on advertising is wasted. Trouble is I don’t know which half.” Until recently, that conundrum still existed for chief marketing officers, who would know they typically lose 50% of their budgets, but were uncertain about which half of the budget would yield favorable results.

“Marketers had to rely on common wisdom and opinion to report on campaign success”

There were no reliable, effective ways of measuring branding activities. Marketing leaders had to rely on common wisdom and opinion to report on campaign success. When they did use performance metrics, they tended to use the same ones to measure up-funnel and mid-funnel campaigns as for low-funnel marketing. That is not a realistic approach, since brand awareness campaigns are not intended to generate clicks or conversions, so the reported results tended to be much worse than purely performance ones.

This situation resulted in a mix of confusion and frustration. Consequently, marketers turn to media agencies for feedback and knowledge. However, there remains no dependable method to show how marketing can spur growth through brand awareness efforts, while simultaneously bolstering short-term outcomes with performance marketing.

It’s not only about measurement – it’s targeting as well

These days there is an abundance of consumer data and insights available that can help marketers reach relevant audiences with messages that resonate with them. This is why programmatic advertising, for instance, has been so successful and appealing to CMOs and CFOs alike.

Traditional (mass) media planning, on the other hand, can achieve maximum brand exposure through TV, outdoor advertising and print, but can be hopeless at targeting audiences precisely. In other words, most of the people who see your expensive ad probably couldn’t care less about your brand.

“Big portions of budgets can be thrown out of the window with traditional media planning”

As a result, big portions of marketing budgets are thrown out of the window with this more traditional media planning. No wonder companies prefer to spend money on performance marketing; after all, performance enables them to know exactly what the return on investment is.

What businesses need are ways of measuring brand marketing’s business impact and having the tools to hyper target and personalize messaging in the early stages of the purchase journey. And that’s where “brandformance” comes in.

A perfect marriage: branding & performance

Marketers nowadays have access to a vast trove of user data and insights, obtained either through zero-party collection (data that the user intentionally shares), user surveys or desk research. On platforms such as DV360, Meta or Pinterest, it’s possible to use these data and insights to determine the audience profiles that you can target with your brand awareness campaigns.

It allows marketers to launch multi-funnel campaigns targeting the same people at different stages of their journey.

“Without effective efforts in earlier stages, there will be no customer to purchase from you”

In the up- and mid-funnel stages (brand awareness and consideration, respectively), you are building quality audiences that will potentially make a purchase later on, and which are measured in views and clicks as well as product detail pages and add-to-cart. 

Simply put, without effective efforts in earlier stages, there will be no customer to purchase from you. At least, not in the long run.

When it comes to targeting, platforms such as DV360 are extending their offering of premium placements beyond desktop and mobile devices onto connected TVs and OOH. Smart TVs, which have unique IP addresses and incorporate automatic content-recognition (ACR) technology, can deliver a level of personalization never seen with regular TV ads.

Measurement of reach metrics is not a problem in these environments, and neither is cross-platform integration.

But we still don't know what the brand impact is

“Brand metrics tell you whether consumers love you, hate you, and whether they intend to buy from you”

Brandformance marketing means making sure you measure the brand impact of your campaigns. Marketers are turning to brand lift studies to find out precisely how their brand is perceived and using metrics such as brand awareness, ad recall, brand preference and brand affinity to form a fuller picture and find more engaging approaches for their next campaigns.

Elespacio partners with Nielsen, which conducts both digital ad ratings (reach) and brand reputation studies for our clients. The first relies on ad tech to deduplicate impressions from all channels (Google, Meta, Pinterest, etc) and give a more accurate picture of how many new users actually see an ad versus how many users see ads on different platforms and may have seen the same ad twice or more. This helps advertisers plan more efficiently and get a better idea of their marketing budget’s ability to reach new audiences in the most cost-efficient way possible. It also provides gross rating points (GRP) and frequency metrics.

The second report relies on audience surveys of people who received an ad impression in less than 24 hours. These surveys reveal which brand attributes the ad campaign reinforced and the user’s purchase intent after seeing an ad. That’s in addition to known metrics such as brand lift, ad recall and brand awareness.

And both digital ad ratings and brand reputation metrics are available in easy to access dashboards.

Promise data. Nothing but the data

Promoting a data-driven culture must be a top long-term priority for businesses of all shapes and sizes. This means building the right teams and the right processes for collecting, sharing and reporting on data across the organization. It also means investing in technical infrastructure that can deliver on a single agreed source of truth. In other words, a CDP.

A CDP (customer data platform) is a software tool that centralizes and manages customer data from various sources, both internal and external. It is designed to create a single view of customers by collecting, organizing and integrating data from multiple touchpoints – from email marketing, to retail, ecommerce, display, mobile apps, social media and more.

“CDP enables businesses to gain deeper understanding of their customers”

Driven by powerful AI engines, CDP enables organizations to gain deeper understanding of their customers, segment them into clusters to personalize future campaigns and offer tailored customer experiences, in whichever funnel stage the user is in.

A CPD will also offer easy-to-use reporting dashboards that CFO and P&L leaders can access to analyze insights on overall marketing performance. This can help build confidence that marketing is able to drive business growth, from early consideration to purchase and retention.

Brand and performance, a beautiful marriage…of teams

The point of brandformance marketing is to take a holistic approach, with performance teams working alongside brand teams going after the same goals and applying similar methodologies and tools. In other words, speaking the same language when it comes to planning budget allocation and reporting on overall business performance. 

“It’s important that marketing teams are reporting performance holistically”

It is, however, easier said than done. You’d be surprised by how many large companies still have departments working in silos. It’s difficult enough to align with CEOs and CFOs on how to report the business impact of marketing budgets, as top executives need some learning on how to grasp metrics evolution and predict future growth based on terminology that tends to sound fluffy and vague. So, it’s extremely important that marketing teams are not reporting performance on a per channel basis, but rather holistically – ultimately on clear bottom-line business impact metrics.

Brands who do that and make brandformance a priority, could be the ones with the healthiest bottom lines as we head into an ever-more competitive future. 

Illustration: Midjourney