Contrary to conventional wisdom, there’s no reason why brands can’t do effective performance marketing and brand building within the same campaign.
As we’ve discussed ad nauseum, performance has arguably become the most valuable currency in a digital media marketplace plagued by a lack of transparency. Gone are the days when responsible spending consisted of little more than handing over a lump sum to your media buying team or agency partner and crossing your fingers. Today, any trust between advertising partners is grounded in quantifiable results.
For most stakeholders, the rise of “performance marketing” has been a net positive. The proliferation of data generated by consumers’ online actions has empowered brands to optimize for lower-funnel KPIs more effectively than ever before. As clicks become harder and harder to come by — the median CTR for display ads purchased through the Google Display Network sits at just 0.46% — the ability to focus on performance-oriented metrics like leads, sign-ups, conversions, and sales cannot be overvalued.
That said, there’s an argument to be made that many companies have taken too strongly to performance marketing — at the expense of their brand. Performance marketers’ (healthy) obsession with tangible results is productive when directed at lower-funnel efforts like retargeting, but it can do more harm than good when directed at upper-funnel brand marketing efforts.
Asking a performance-oriented question about a branding effort — say, “How many new customers have we acquired through a Super Bowl ad?” — is like measuring your weight with a ruler; the tool simply doesn’t fit the task. Companies can optimize for metrics like brand awareness and brand sentiment, but not by relying exclusively on a standard performance marketing toolkit.
Aligning performance and brand marketing efforts can be an enormous challenge. Many organizations are tempted to dismiss performance-oriented brand marketing efforts as impossible, choosing to dedicate separate campaigns to each respective end goal. But the truth is that such campaigns are possible — they just require a firm commitment to collaboration and compromise.
For a company’s performance marketers, this compromise begins with acknowledging the value of upper-funnel brand-building actions. These actions tend to be harder to evaluate than the lower-funnel actions they’re used to, but these marketers should make an effort to cross the divide; they have tremendous value to add to any brand-building campaign.
One key asset performance marketers can contribute is their talent for personalization. While maintaining a coherent brand identity remains as important as ever, there’s an immense upside to providing each customer with a unique brand experience — a different perspective of the same core “brand object,” so to speak.
Performance marketers are optimally equipped to figure out which audience segments respond to which pieces of content. Their goal shouldn’t be to dictate the shape of a company’s brand identity, but rather, which threads of a brand narrative are best-suited to which audiences.
Conversely, a company’s brand marketers must become comfortable with tossing aside their “gut instinct” in favor of their more performance-minded colleagues’ empirical evidence. Human intuition still has a critical role to play, especially when it comes to crafting effective creative materials. Still, brand marketers must learn to face the numbers and accept when their pet brand-building initiatives aren’t as effective as they intuited they would be.
The takeaway here is simple: brand-building and performance marketing should not be treated as distinct activities, but as two mutually-informing sides of the same coin. A company should optimize its media mix by taking a comprehensive view of its marketing activities, not by evaluating its upper-funnel and lower-funnel KPIs in isolation.
The challenge is doing this at scale, in real time. Customers are won and lost in the blink of an eye in the digital age, and companies simply can’t afford to wait for their brand and performance marketing teams to work through their differences at every juncture of a campaign. That’s where a tool like Albert, the world’s first autonomous marketing platform built from the ground up on artificial intelligence, comes into play.
By leveraging sophisticated machine learning algorithms, Albert is able to pilot thousands of micro-campaigns simultaneously, helping companies gain insight into which pieces of their content work and which ones don’t — the perfect marriage of brand- and performance-oriented thinking.
For example, Albert might notice that one campaign is performing exceptionally well with a certain audience segment and suggest a strategy for delivering similar content to that segment in the future. Alternatively, he might notice that a piece of creative is underperforming regardless of its contextual deployment and inform a team of marketers that the creative material behind it has probably become a bit outdated.
A tool like Albert provides companies with a remarkably easy way to ensure that their brand and performance marketing teams have access to the same information at the same time, which is the first necessary condition of cross-team alignment — and ultimately, of better results.