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Finding the right balance

Is brand marketing becoming a forgotten hero? Many direct-to-consumer brands in today’s climate have begun to develop an obsession with performance marketing while placing branding in the proverbial back seat. However, there are significant ramifications from prioritizing one strategy over the other.

Brand marketing was the foundation of my career. Identifying authentic consumer insights and using that as a basis to develop inspiring creative briefs and ultimately communicate with consumers for brands like Betty Crocker and Cheerios was my specialty. The truth of the matter is that everything I’ve done since then has been grounded in this framework.

The opportunity to leverage both brand and performance marketing became more and more evident to me when social media went mainstream. After my partnership with MSN to launch the first-ever branded online game, I became hooked on how exciting it was to be able to measure engagement in real-time. Since then, I founded a marketing technology company. We leverage a company’s first-party data to apply customer intelligence to their marketing across performance marketing channels in real-time. I also consult with companies to find the sweet spot between brand and performance marketing – and I never looked back.

It became clear to me that finding a balance between brand marketing and performance marketing is essential for organizational growth and long-term success. 

Brand marketing defines a company’s reputation, its values, the quality of its offerings, its trustworthiness, and more. It seeks to enhance credibility, prompt an emotional response from the consumer, increase customer loyalty, and motivate buyers.

Performance marketing, on the other hand, deals in the realm of concrete data, such as lead generation and conversions (i.e., email sign-ups or the number of purchases).

So brand marketing vs performance marketing? Many marketers are masters of one type, but very few excel at the two simultaneously. It is challenging to go deep into both. However, the best marketers must and do understand the art and science of marketing and are able to bring forward foundational brand elements into communication with the consumer across every channel.

 

The Inadequacies of a Skewed Focus

Brand marketing and performance marketing are becoming increasingly interdependent in a world where personalization and building relationships with your consumers are of paramount importance.

We’ve all seen what happens when the focus is too brand-heavy. This occurs all too often with luxury retailers who maintain a strong focus on aesthetics and art and fail to give the same attention to measurable growth marketing strategies and tactics. We’ve seen the gorgeous websites with beautiful editorial style pictures, long page load speeds, a lack of content that fosters organic traffic, and impossible-to-navigate webpages.

The focus is on the creative aspects. The thought process is that by wowing the consumer with aesthetic and creative approaches, one can stand out from the crowd and make an impact. However, this alone is not a recipe for success in a modern age where the reach equates to ad spend and organic traffic searches. Without strong SEO, UX, affiliate marketing, or PPC strategies, these gorgeous campaigns end up like the Prada store in Marfa, Texas. A beautiful piece of art that draws attraction here and there but confines itself to a desolate landscape. 

We’ve also seen what happens when marketers go too far on the other side of the spectrum. Content has a heavier optimization focusing on performance and little regard for branding or image. It is dry, robotic, or too sales-y and seems more like the byproduct of a content farm than a brand looking to make a strong and lasting impression on its audience.

The thought process is a short-term strategy founded on the principle that when one focuses on the methodical aspects of marketing – the concrete numbers, every single conversion, and data point – then an emotional connection or a strong brand image and voice almost become a moot point.

You can be optimized to the T, and your performance channels can be solid, but without leveraging brand learnings, your organization will never achieve the growth and success that it can when these two realms are combined. The consumer insight is your truth – the “WHY” behind all that you do. The question to ask is: What are you doing on your owned or organic channels that you can leverage for paid?

 

A Recipe for Success

Needless to say, there are serious costs when a company focuses too heavily on the brand or performance aspect. Top of funnel branding efforts with no clear path-to-purchase can impact conversion. Solely focusing only on the bottom of the funnel will impact your ability to grow your business over the long-term. The solution entails finding the right, delicate balance between the two in order to achieve the highest level of effectiveness and growth.

This means making sure that brand marketers understand the more concrete and measurable realm of performance marketing. In turn, performance marketers should understand that every moment is an opportunity to tell your story and connect with audiences on a more personal, individual level.

Brand channels are now more measurable than ever before. Capabilities such as programmatic advertising and performance media can be optimized for branding through tactics like sequential storytelling and a stronger desire to appeal to consumers through traditional branding methods.

Teams of all backgrounds must learn to leverage the insight that data from omnichannel consumer behavior can provide and how it can facilitate more effective results. Establish clear objectives for every single channel. They should all fit seamlessly within the overall business strategy, especially considering the need for executive buy-in.

Laura Joukovski, CMO of TechStyle Fashion Group has embraced this philosophy and explains it this way. “We don’t think of marketing as brand vs performance. We believe a brand is built on advertising, experience with the website and the merchandise. Our strategy is comprehensive and nuanced based on the needs of the channel to ensure we deliver content that is of interest to our consumers. Ultimately, all advertising is evaluated on a performance basis.”

The goal is to combine the worlds of brand marketing and performance marketing. We use this amalgamation to deliver a holistic presence across multiple distribution channels that marry their common principles. But this cannot happen without the cooperation and a strong focus on a long-term strategy of unification versus one crafted for short-term gain from siloed schools of thought.

 

Combining Brand Marketing vs Performance Marketing

If you’re looking to remain competitive in today’s landscape, these principles are essential. It takes the synthesis of these two realms for companies to stand out from the crowd. Only then can we truly achieve the growth and success that we need to make a substantial, and lasting impact. Because at the end of the day, it’s all about driving business results, increasing market share and most importantly, over-delivering on consumer expectations and crafting a strong brand that connects, incites action and instills long-term loyalty in your customers.

This article was originally published in Marketing Profs and can be viewed here.

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