Performance Marketing vs Branding: A Convergence of Paths in 2021
Updated: Oct 15, 2021
A fair number of people may read the title of this piece and wonder how performance marketing differs from brand marketing in the first place.
Branding has long been at the core of marketing - think brand marketers at your big FMCGs like Unilever, Proctor & Gamble, Nestle, LVMH and more.
On the other hand, performance marketers have played an increasingly critical role in marketing in the digital world in the past 20 years with the ability to reach customers with hyper targeted, personalised messaging through data-driven techniques.
Privacy Laws and The Stance of Google, Apple and Facebook
The ability to understand your customers and consistently create value competitively for them to build loyalty are some of the key pillars of successful brands.
The privacy updates on iOS 14 and Google’s choice to go cookieless in 2021 are just the beginning of a new age in marketing. These updates mean that marketers can no longer leverage micro-level user data to understand the individual, and serve them with personalised advertising content to maximise their business gains.
While the rise of data-driven marketing has led to branding taking a slightly less important (sweeping statement here) role in the past 10 to 20 years, it’s time for brand marketers to step back into the limelight.
First, let us take a quick look at the difference between branding and performance.
The Difference Between Brand Marketing and Performance Marketing
One of the easiest ways to separate the two from each other is to remember these words from marketing guru Seth Godin:
“If you want to do brand marketing, you have to refuse to measure.”
In contrast, you measure everything in performance marketing. If you can’t measure something important, you better find a way to.
Performance marketers typically focus on critical conversion metrics in particular. They want to deal with conversion performance, i.e. figures that show how many people buy, sign up, sell, etc and the ability to measure the flowthrough across each stage.
That means vanity metrics aren’t as important to them - metrics for awareness and social engagement are usually considered less vital to track, for instance.
In brand marketing, on the other hand, conversion measurements aren’t the priority. That’s understandable: you’re building a personality for a brand, after all, so conversion numbers aren’t as important.
Of course, in recent years, performance figures have been leveraged upon in brand marketing. A/B testing and multivariate testing are both common strategies in performance testing, which brand marketers use to identify the best and most relevant brand message against their different target audiences.
In a nutshell, branding is the process of establishing who you are.
As such, brand marketing focuses on the way consumers perceive a business or the emotional connections they have with it.
Questions brand marketers often ask are the following:
What do people think of when someone mentions my brand?
What are my brand values? My company culture?
What inspired the creation of this business?
Why do I want to offer my products or services to my target audience?
What kind of value (tangible & intangible) does my Brand create
Brand marketing is all about consistency. To establish a brand, marketers have to portray it consistently and often, patiently, over time. You can’t keep overhauling your brand’s message, values, and culture. Doing so will fracture consumers’ perceptions of your identity.
This is also why measuring a brand marketing campaign’s outcomes can be a challenge - you’re constantly trying to quantify a very diverse set of views (the individual customers) into a broad outlook (the brand persona).
Performance/Direct Marketing in Brief
So then, what’s performance marketing? Essentially, it’s about getting people’s attention by putting out your message or offering through the right channel at the right time that gets you highly accurate and measurable results.
These results may be sign-ups for a service, sales, site visits, and the like.
As you can see, these are all possible to quantify as outcomes of a marketing campaign. Examples of marketing techniques you would use for this would be Google ads or social media ads, for instance.
With such tools, you can directly track conversions and break your audience down into many different groups and serve them the most relevant message that resonates with them.
So Why Should Performance Marketers Learn from Brand Marketers?
Well, with the iOS14 and iOS14.5 updates, Apple is moving away from feeding performance marketers data about individuals and only providing broad level, aggregated data.
How then, can we continue to drive successful performance marketing?
Know That Branding Is at the Core of a Marketing Strategy
This is one of the most important things a performance marketer can learn from a brand marketer. Brand marketers know that the branding is responsible for the position of their whole marketing strategy. They know that the strength of their branding is often what fuels their campaigns.
Hence, though they may employ different marketing tools or techniques to achieve their goal, they never forget the foundation from which their marketing begins. This helps them keep a consistent image or underlying message in all of their campaigns.
This unifies their strategies, preventing them from losing sight of three key things:
What the company is actually about
Who the company’s target audience truly is, as this is linked to the company’s identity
The constant need to maintain a competitive advantage that stands your brand apart from others
Using the Marketing Flow as a Guide
If you’ve not gone through our series on the Marketing Flow, read more about it here.
When you focus on driving a consistent message throughout your marketing flow, you’ll be able to assimilate branding and performance strategies.
Drive traffic with accurate targeting - but concise and well planned messaging that aligns with your brand.
Capture and convert traffic with tangible competitive value, instead of simply reaching them at the right place and the right time with promotional hooks.
Nurture traffic through creating additional layers of product and service offerings that reinforces your brand values.
Retain and multiply traffic by building loyalty, i.e. remaining true to your brand and your customers.
Learn the Value of Brand Activation Strategies
Brand activation is a brand marketing technique that many performance marketers could stand to use. It’s basically focused on heightening both awareness of a brand and fondness for it.
Generally speaking, it makes use of experience-based promotion for that. That’s because it strives to forge emotional connections with target audiences - and experience-based marketing is superb for that goal.
Examples of brand activation efforts are typically events, interactive marketing strategies, and other techniques that allow audiences and brands to engage with each other directly.
They can be used to expand an audience base, solidify customer loyalty, and even re-establish a brand’s identity by redefining audience perception.
You can see samples of such events in trade shows and experiential marketing initiatives.
As an example, take Lipton’s #BeADaybreaker event that included a 100m yellow slide being put up next to the busy King’s Cross Station in London.
It aimed to promote the brand to busy Londoners of the ages 18 to 34, making Lipton beverages and the brand synonymous to “a break” they could take at any time.
Remember that many consumers require multiple touches to finally cross the “conversion line”.
Strong positive feelings for a brand may well be what gets them there. And in fact, note that 98% of people feel more inclined to purchase a brand’s products after attending an activation event.
A Final Word on Brand Marketing Lessons for Performance Marketers
It is crucial for performance marketers to start to broaden and assimilate or integrate their goals and strategies with the fundamentals of brand marketing.
Never forget the need to deeply understand your target audience, your brand representation and more, to be able to glean useful and accurate insights from aggregated data. Only by taking on a branding perspective and adapting their digital strategies will performance marketers be able to sustain their performance metrics.
A good way to look at the lessons brand marketers have for performance marketers is to see marketing as a long-term investment.
At the end of the day, you’re technically sustaining an ongoing effort to build your identity and image as a business. It’s this identity that you need not just to encourage new audiences to become customers, but also to keep current customers and even turn them into advocates for your brand.
In any case, whether you need help with your performance or brand marketing - or both - feel free to reach out to us. We’ve helped many businesses get their marketing back on track.
We’ll be happy to talk to you about what your options and possible strategies are. So, don’t hesitate to drop us a line if you’d like some assistance!