Brandformance – Merging great branding with performance marketing

While advertising has never been easier, whether on or offline, the battle to catch consumer attention & trust keeps getting more challenging and expensive. In a space where historic big names are also moving into digitalisation (e.g., Coca-cola), tracking the impact of advertising campaigns while working on high-quality creatives remains key; even if actions are not solely based on performance marketing.

As consumers grow more conscious of the products they buy, brand perception is becoming one of, if not the most essential consuler purchase-driver. The growing attention to global political and environmental issues, accelerated by the ongoing Covid crisis, and the increasing share of digitally native consumers are putting companies under pressure to build trust and stand for bigger causes than just mere profits (Edelman brand trust report).

So how can companies do that? Well, they need to break the traditional silo dividing brand and performance marketing in favor of a new, synergetic mixed approach – Brandformance. Brandformance means optimizing your brand marketing spend by tying it to your core business KPIs. The evolution of automation, tracking, and artificial intelligence tools give marketers the possibility to craft a personalized brand experience at scale, consistent across online and offline channels.

Every company has its unique way of defining success, and KPIs differ significantly throughout the funnel, but the bottom line must always be top of mind, even for brand marketers. This concretely means breaking down the funnel into different steps (awareness, consideration, action) and finding adequate KPIs for each of those steps. No one expects people to buy a product when being exposed to a simple billboard, but companies have to be aware of the impact of brand awareness on their bottom line.

Marketing Funnel and KPIs

At the top of the funnel, a well-executed brand strategy might result in increased views, social engagement (views and comments), earned media (online and offline), and an increase in direct traffic or brand search term volume. Marketers can also start experimenting with more cutting-edge tools like facial recognition to test advertising response and tweak the approach before settling on a final version to distribute across channels. Offering a consistent brand experience means echoing your offline presence online by enhancing campaigns with additional content, special offers, and personalization based on data points such as previous purchases, interests, location, or life events (e.g. birthdays, weddings, new child, graduation). When appropriately executed, at mid-funnel, this strategy should result in a lower cost per lead (CPL), better ad click-through rate, and overall increased engagement (reactions, share metrics) in the brand’s content.

Finally, at the bottom of the funnel, the most recognized brands experience an uplift in performance across purchase volume, velocity, and value. In other words, more people convert faster with higher average order volume (AOV). Suppose the product satisfies customers’ expectations and your company manages to gain trust. In that case, over time, this translates into a lower customer acquisition cost (CAC) as people will have your brand as top of mind in the category. High repurchase and referral rate are two good indicators of a brand that has gained its customers’ loyalty in this phase. To assess customer satisfaction post-purchase, you can also measure net promoter score (NPS) and monitor social mentions as a good way to pulse what people think about your brand.

A pivotal point to consider here is the KPI you are optimizing for at the campaign level. The metrics above help us measure the overall brand impact, but each interaction plays a different role within the customer journey and should be measured accordingly. If you are trying to build awareness for a specific new feature, impressions alone might not be a good indicator of success. Term-specific search volume would be a better metric to prioritize in this case.

As mentioned, every brand is different in how it defines success, and even more nuances apply at the product and at the specific campaign level. Here are some of the ways you can start implementing your Brandformance strategy.

  • Make sure your branded terms are covered in terms of SEO and paid search. You don’t want someone to see your ad, search your brand online only to land on a competitor’s page. Branded search terms often reveal high awareness and might indicate purchase intent;
  • Accelerate the distribution of your top creatives with paid social. Test your ads in a controlled environment (e.g., smaller-scale campaigns, geographically localized), select the best performing, and scale their distribution through paid social. Consider any upper funnel social & video opportunities you haven’t tried yet (e.g., Pinterest, YouTube, Connected TV);
  • When your product has a longer sales cycle, you can lean on display retargeting testing messaging via programmatic video, display, audio, and out of home (OOH);
  • Youtube might be your top unexplored Brandformance channel. It’s the second biggest search engine, and video is the most engaging type of content today. You can enhance your offline media with additional content on your Youtube channel with deep-dives, webinars, tutorials, and other ways to convey your brand values;
  • Leverage content marketing through influencer and user-generated content (UGC). Hand your most engaged clients “a megaphone” to be the advocate of your brand impact in their lives. In our portfolio, Vita Coco for instance has been banking on its influencer campaigns by branching out on Tik Tok to develop social listening through trend recognition in order to maximise UGC video impact;
  • Closely monitor and experiment with less traditional tools such as digital out of home (OOH), connected TV, podcasting, voice search, and new social media platforms (Clubhouse). Make sure these are targeted and relevant to your specific audience (you don’t want to advertise vegan milk options on a podcast about BBQing).

Finally, mix it all up. Many of today’s best campaigns have found a way to incorporate all channels in a way that leverages the strengths of each. For instance Oatly has aired its first Superbowl ad in 2021; as they were already dominating OOH advertising space using quirky slogans across all the large (and less large) cities of the world, they have decided to take advantage of the 92 million viewers of the Superbowl to create an echo of their brand’s unconventional identity by having Oatly’s CEO, Toni Petersson singing an ode to his product with a questionable singing voice.

Lastly, don’t get too caught up in cashing the numbers. Brand awareness and trust take time to be built. It takes consistency and repetition. In today’s marketing tech world overinflated with tracking and measuring tools, it’s easy to lose sight of the most important thing – your customers. Measuring is important, but don’t treat them as numbers. Solve their problems, be transparent, be present and relevant for them, and they will repay you with trust and loyalty.

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