How performance marketing strengthens brand strategy — and vice versa
There’s a growing belief that the days of untethered, brand-based advertising strategies are numbered.
Plenty of companies think they need a Don Draper on their team. But as marketing continues to interconnect with tech, storyboards and scotch become less important than analytics and customer feedback.
What you might not know is this:
Prioritizing hard, quantifiable data doesn’t mean branding is dead. Branding is important for building connections and loyalty with your target audience. Value-driven brands sell 4x more than their peers — how’s that for quantifiability?
The problem is, brand marketing is difficult to scale and even harder to quantify. ROI is a core marketing KPI — brand-focused marketers know their financially-minded colleagues tend to roll their eyes at those budget proposals.
So, on one side of the dance floor we have the ever-elusive value-driven brand. And on the other side, we have cut-to-the-chase digital marketing. How do we get these two sweethearts together?
Performance marketing breaks the ice between these two strategies, allowing value-driven brands to market effectively at scale.
Too busy to play matchmaker? Here’s a TL;DR:
Value-driven branding is important but it’s difficult to scale and even harder to quantify — especially with marketing budgets under more scrutiny.
Performance-based marketing means you only pay when an impression, click, subscription, conversion, or other attributable marketing event occurs.
Before incorporating performance marketing in your brand strategy, make sure of the following:
You know your brand like the back of your hand
You align your brand with the values that drive engagement
You prioritize data investments, particularly tools and expertise
Merging brand and performance marketing in this way allows you to maximize marketing ROI and free up creative teams.
First thing’s first: before diving headfirst into performance marketing, get your branding on track with our ultimate guide!
Take performance anxiety out of brand marketing
There’s always some marketing method getting hype. Content marketing. Search engine marketing. Product-led marketing. Why should you care about yet another sub-discipline?
But performance marketing isn’t just another sub-discipline — it’s an entirely different paradigm.
What is performance marketing?
When you boil it all down, performance marketing is a commission arrangement — you pay for the service when an event occurs. The “event” in question is entirely dependent on the needs of your company. It can occur in any part of your acquisition funnel:
Social media impressions
Landing page views
As long as the event is attributable, it’s fair play for performance marketing. Instead of paying for the effort that a marketing team or agency puts into driving results, you just pay for the results themselves.
By finding the right performance marketing team — can’t understate the importance of this, but more on that later — you liberate the brand team from performance anxiety. Less time crying in front of Analytics pages, more time focusing on creative iteration (link to FB ad post).
Now your creative team can start pushing the boundaries of your top-of-funnel marketing campaigns, identifying new avenues for brand and customer growth.
But before diving headfirst into the clear waters of performance marketing, make sure your brand knows how to swim.
Unlocking brand growth and insights with performance marketing
Performance marketing is all about the nuts and bolts of increasing revenue. Identifying and iterating content that drives the most acquisition. It’s quantitative.
Branding is interested in creating a narrative. Outlining purpose and telling stories that resonate. It’s qualitative. It's about every single touchpoint. For example, when a person purchases a TV package from Infinity Dish, it's installed by a rep wearing the company's branded apparel, toting branded boxes of branded products.
For years, companies have struggled to reconcile this type of deep, cohesive brand structure with performance marketing.
Performance marketing can create a jump in sales today. A strong brand builds loyalty with your customers for years to come — it will make sales easier in the future.
With strong branding, it becomes easier for performance marketing to scale and become a vehicle for long-term growth. You don’t have to worry about marketing budgets and allocating spend because the spend is directly tied to events that encourage growth.
Imagine if Don Draper had big data and big tech on his side. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, this is all assuming that you merge brand and performance marketing correctly.
How to seamlessly incorporate performance marketing in your brand strategy
In a recent interview with Forbes, Tinuiti CEO Zach Morrison describes performance marketing like this:
“Remember the transitive property in middle school math class? If A=B and B=C, then A=C. That applies to performance marketing today.
The performance marketing transitive property is this: all marketing is going digital, all digital is measurable, therefore all marketing will become performance [measurable].”
Think about this powerful property when merging any performance-based model with your current brand-based marketing strategy.
The majority of your brand lives in an online space — social channels, web pages, email drip campaigns. That means there’s a metric out there to measure the performance of any and all brand marketing efforts.
No, seriously, all of them.
Once you start thinking of your brand and your marketing performance as one and the same, you’ll start recognizing more opportunities to scale.
This is how you do it.
1. Know your brand like the back of your hand
If you don’t, how are you ever going to apply measurable marketing tactics? How will you create a roadmap for creative development and distribution?
Performance marketing works best for companies that live and breathe their brand. You can’t just say, “Hey, we’re a brand targeting older (sorry, experienced) millennials, let’s get on Facebook!”
From core values to product positioning to public perception, you need to be aware of how your branding fits into the culture.
You need to live your brand.
The team behind ramen brand immi (Air users, by the way) does exactly that.
See, immi built its healthy ramen brand on authenticity and transparency. The founders are very aware of how their products, brand, and customers interact. How? Because they constantly engage with all three. Here are some examples:
Incorporating their love of Asian food culture as a core brand component
Giving their target audience a full view of product experimentation
Prioritizing candid communication with current and potential customers in social channels
So, when it came time to scale marketing efforts, immi knew exactly where performance-based acquisition fit into their strategy. In this case: email leads.
It turns out that brand marketing isn’t “too elusive” or incompatible with performance marketing, it actually helps unlock its potential.
2. Align your brand values to drive engagement
Performance marketers aren’t just going to pull these events out of thin air — at least not ones you’ll derive any value from. So help them help you and align your brand with your values to drive some engagement at the top of the funnel. Be value-driven.
Be like Bev.
By being value-driven and, more importantly, aligning their mission with their branding, Bev cultivates a highly engaged audience.
Now imagine how useful that is when running performance marketing.
Bev’s brand strength is already reverberating through their different social channels, meaning they can get more creative in the way they test acquisitions farther down the funnel. The acquisitions Bev pays publishers to drive will be of a much higher quality because they are already engaged.
If your brand and company values are aligned, customers see that. And if your brand is engaging, that means it’s measurable. If A=B and B=C then A=C. It’s easy as 1, 2, 3. (I’ll see myself out…)
3. Don’t get punked: prioritize data investments like expertise and tools
Performance marketing isn’t something you just pass off to a firm willy nilly. You’ve spent countless hours developing your product and brand and have valuable data to show for it. Why pass that off to just anyone?
A firm understanding of your brand means a firm understanding of the ways in which your customers are engaging with it. Without this intel, it becomes difficult to answer these questions:
Are you looking for someone who specializes in clicks, leads, acquisitions, or sales?
What are your marketing margins?
How much experience are you looking for?
What’s your favorite color?
But for real.
Attribution is the core of the performance marketing model. The entire premise is that you, the advertiser, pay the publisher based on the number of events they drive for you. It’s very easy to be swindled if you don’t know what events you need most and what tools there are to measure them.
Pro tip: Look into closed-loop marketing. This strategy brings your sales team into the mix with performance and brand marketers, creating a team that tracks customers through the entire “loop” of their engagement with your brand — generating data and insight at every step.
So, once you’ve got a firm understanding of your brand, set up watertight analytics systems and tracking tools to inform your next steps. Then you can begin sleuthing around for publishers that have the expertise and tools to integrate performance marketing into your overarching marketing strategy.
Take control of your growth with performance branding
One thing is absolutely clear: digital marketing isn’t going anywhere. That means previously elusive concepts like branding are only going to get more measurable. That also means that performance marketing is increasingly important to scaling your brand.
Remember, if A=B and B=C, then A=C.
At Air, we want to make creative operations a breeze so companies can focus on unlocking the growth potential of brand-powered performance marketing. If you haven’t already noticed, we're very brand happy here. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Branding and equip yourself for sustainable growth. You know, “teach a marketer to brand” and all that.