The effectiveness battle: performance marketing versus brand marketing

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One of the key themes at DMEXCO earlier this month was the effectiveness of performance marketing versus brand marketing, and the related tension between offline and online marketing.

A trending topic

A week or so ago, ECI attended DMEXCO in Cologne, and there was a lot to take in from the 1000 exhibitors on over 100,000sqm of exhibition space! We shared our summary of what we learned straight after it finished, but there is one topic that particularly piqued our interest that we explore in more detail in this article. That topic? The trends and debate around the effectiveness of brand marketing compared to performance marketing and the related tension between offline and online advertising.

Short-term results versus long-term relationships

As online media generates a vastly larger amount of data than traditional media, and much more rapidly, it is tempting to find ways to obtain higher click and conversion rates from digital campaigns. Marketers and their bosses have always been under pressure to prove the impact of marketing and, ideally, to cut out the parts of a media plan that aren’t working as hard as others. Performance marketing is a relatively new term for short-term, sales-driving online marketing that often uses layers of data and targeting to ensure that as few impressions as possible are served to people who are unlikely to register a conversion that can be attributed to the campaign in question. Performance marketing therefore contrasts directly with traditional brand marketing, for which TV is still a key channel. Brand marketing techniques are the result of decades of academic research which have concluded that high brand equity – and resulting long-term sales growth – are the result of moderately frequent messaging that resonates thanks to evocative creative. Those fundamental truths have not changed with the invention of online media spaces. However, it might never be possible to prove a direct and independent cause-and-effect relationship between a specific ad impression and a sale. So while brand marketing is great for building consumer relationships, it’s difficult for any responsible marketer to turn down a form of marketing that actually has the word ‘performance’ in it!

The word on the street at DMEXCO

At DMEXCO, the advantages of both brand and performance marketing were covered in detail – with tools to support the latter dominating the exhibition floors of the expo, while the advantages of a more sustained brand marketing strategy were extolled on the stages of the conference. There has long been feisty and fascinating debate between marketers about which should be given the lion’s share of a marketer’s budget, especially their online media budget. At the DMEXCO debate entitled ‘How marketers can be enlightened, empowered and enabled in a mobile world’, the MMA’s Chris Babayode explained how conversion attribution modelling accentuates the tension between performance marketing (the champion of last touch attribution) and brand marketing (which looks better when using multiple touch attribution).

Last touch attribution of conversions for example is a common, simple method. It tends to demonstrate that methods such as search and retargeting generate a large number of conversions, leading many marketers to shift significant budget into these areas. Multiple touch attribution, on the other hand, recognizes that a click on a Google search link is not itself the cause of a conversion, and that various recent campaigns and on- and offline touchpoints should be taken into account. Multiple touch attribution can, for example, reveal what audiences and what sites will generate conversions further down the road.

Don’t pick sides

An interesting take on the debate appeared in an article by Mark Ritson in Marketing Week last month. It’s a well thought-through piece which we strongly recommend that any marketer

reads, but Ritson’s conclusion is that, in fact, marketers shouldn’t pick sides: the best way forward for your business in the long term and the short term is to keep up a traditional mix of more long-term branding and more short-term sales promotion. Ritson quotes Peter Field and Les Binet’s book The Long and Short of It: you want ‘60% of your budget invested in long-term brand building and 40% on more immediate activation’.

The effect of GDPR

It is interesting to see how the introduction of GDPR in the European Union has further blurred the line between the trackability of off- and online channels and therefore the distinction between which should be used for performance or brand marketing purposes. Many people have stopped allowing brands to track their data, meaning there is, and will continue to be, a large market for non-trackable impressions that are therefore similar to offline impressions. This shift in supply and demand is a huge, although likely temporary, opportunity. Several speakers at DMEXCO remarked on the drop in programmatic supply after GDPR was rolled out in May this year – despite the fact that media consumption of course didn’t drop.  It’s all about choosing the right media for the right job – a truism that was illustrated perfectly by the exhibitors of some of the world’s most advanced ad tech companies using paper fliers for their marketing at DMEXCO!

Demonstrating how online can be an effective channel for brand marketing campaigns

An interesting case study into how effectively online platforms can be used for brand campaigns was highlighted in the YouTube-hosted event ‘How consumer choice has changed the video landscape’ by Johnson & Johnson’s Northern Europe Marketing Director Meghan Davis. She related the story of how J&J briefed a few different creative agencies to create an ad, independently of one another, using the same dental hygiene brief. All three resulting videos were then tested on YouTube and the one that performed the best was run on a wider scale. This brilliant campaign showcases how using quick-effect metrics and the flexibility of online media can improve the impact of a branding campaign across both online and offline; and demonstrates how live data can inform decisions to optimize a campaign and maximize its short- and long-term impact. We believe that this is an online strategy that could be adopted by more marketers looking at how online media can be leveraged for brand campaigns.

As is so often the case with advertising, the answer to the brand marketing versus performance marketing conundrum is not binary. The best results lie in achieving the right balance: as Ritson says, ‘a great brand plan will deliver short-term results within the year and set up longer-term, enduring advantage from stronger brand equity and improved funnel conversions. A great brand plan manages to hit short-term sales targets while also funding longer-term brand objectives that focus on brand health metrics.’ That means just the right mix of on- and offline channels, working in harmony to drive brand equity and meet sales targets. And to achieve that holy grail, robust strategies and creative messages and visuals that resonate, backed up with insight and measured with the right KPIs, are of critical importance.

To see how ECI can help you to obtain the perfect balance, contact us at .

Thumbnail image: Shutterstock

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