Brand Marketing vs Performance Marketing

Performance marketing is one of those coolio terms gaining growing momentum over the past five years. It sounds cooler than "digital marketing"; after all, who doesn't love themselves a wee bit of performance?

 I know I do. And it feels like something that you'd place budget into. And performance marketing is built on tight targeting, rational messaging and quick response. Almost instantly measurable, if you spend £1,000, you should expect to get XXX amount of good quality leads. Performance feels forward-thinking, proactive and quantifiable. Adrenaline filled marketing joy.

Then we get the other side of the coin, brand marketing. Brand marketing feels a little bit fuddy-duddy in comparison. Brand marketing is the long-term effort, looking at a broad reach, memorable messaging and ideally rooted in an emotional, human platform. It takes time to build awareness., takes time to generate results. 

However, the sands are shifting in the world of performance marketing. A significant weapon in the tool of the performance marketer was tight targeting. You could get someone to your site, see what they browsed on your site, and then, once they left, you could place a display ad on a third party site that they visited later as a reminder to that person that you exist, possibly hitting them with a discount or an offer code to hurry the sale or lead. 

For example, say that you visited this site and had a look at a couple of articles, viewed a case study or two then moved on. What we could do is then place an ad on a site that you visited with a message that we'd hope would remind you of us, possibly mentioning an article that we know you haven't read or a 30% discount on your subsequent rebrand. We'd keep those ads running until you decided that our 30% discount was too good to miss out on. 

When you see these kinds of ads, that kind of creepy feeling crawls over you that a website you visited is now following you around the Internet. You're being tracked; your behaviour used to promote ads to you. And that's the crux of a lot of digital marketing. Many ideas on the surface would seem to be beneficial to both the advertiser and the user turn out to be a little icky. The balance tends to favour the advertiser, and it ends up making the end user feel uncomfortable.

But Google is changing their ways. Google is moving from behavioural, interest-based targeting and is limiting the targeting options to aggregate user data. This shift to "audience cohorts" is a drastic shift from what is achievable now and, in turn, means that the performance of these ads will go down.

Tight targeting is one of the cornerstones of performance marketing. The future is that this targeting is going to lose its laser-like focus and become fuzzy. Audience strategies based on Google's audience cohorts will mean that you're going to be talking to more general groups of potential customers. In turn, the understanding that you'll have of those customers is going to be reduced. Performance marketing campaigns can't be turbocharged with creepy data any longer.

 With that targeting being fundamentally changed, how do you respond?

First, you need to learn more about your customer to fill in the gaps for those audience cohorts. Understanding where your customer goes during their research and evaluation of your product will be more vital and valuable than ever. 

On top of that, you need to get to grips with what messaging is appealing to those customers at specific points. One of the joys of behavioural tracking was that Google could do that heavy lifting for you. No more. It's time to roll up your sleeves and understand what content will help convert and promote that on channels that you know your customers will be.

Retargeting ads based on your interests and behaviour online is about to be phased out, and that ad spend needs to be reallocated. The trouble is you can't go as specific as some of the hyper retargeted ads were able to. You don't have the data to know if that offer or content you're now promoting in your ad is relevant to the person looking at it. 

One solution will be to move to more brand messaging. Basing the campaign on your customer journey insights, you can create compelling brand messaging that still puts your product or service front of mind but in a less creepy way. These ads' performance won't be as effective as the behavioural ad, but they also won't be as creepy. It could also be more beneficial to your potential customer as you provide more useful ads based on brand messaging rather than pushy sales messaging.

Your marketing will also benefit from being at a level that can attract those in the audience cohort that are "out of market" for your product or service. Your online campaigns can increase awareness for your brand in a general way that helps build the brand over the long term. 

Much has been said around the famed "long and the short" rule, the ideal budget split between brand and sales activation, which continually produces long term results.  We've talked a lot about it here on the site. I've always thought that it's fallen on deaf ears when it comes to the digital activation of this rule, that long and short was more suited for a mass media world. With the efficacy of performance marketing looking that it'll be less accurate and, in turn, less "performance", hopefully, we can look at how brand building operates and generates better results in digital channels.