The Power of Combining Brand and Performance Marketing


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Solving for B°
The Power of Combining Brand and Performance Marketing

Brand marketing and performance marketing are each crucial tools to drive results for your company. But how should you use each, and when should you use one over another?

In this podcast, Chris, Bo and Charity sit down to discuss the ways brand marketing and performance marketing each contribute to a successful marketing strategy. Learn how each marketing style has its unique purpose, and when they're the best tool for the job.

Table of Contents


This transcript has been edited for clarity and readability.

What is brand marketing?

Chris Wilks: I think brand marketing and performance marketing can cause some confusion to folks who aren't involved with it every day. So let's try to alleviate some of that confusion.

Let's start with brand marketing. Can either of you tell me what we mean when we say brand marketing? What is it? What are its goals? Why is it important?

Charity Ndisengei: So brand marketing is really the process of identifying and developing and promoting a brand's unique identity. That's the stuff that we do almost on a day-to-day basis at our agency.

It really involves a comprehensive strategy that encompasses a number of elements that start with your mission, vision and values. And that includes stuff like your brand personality, key messaging and how you express these elements across all of our marketing channels that we use.

Bo Bothe: I think that the key part is that while there is intent to create value for the brand, the goal of brand marketing isn't to drive leads and opportunities. It's really more about presence, to define the personality of the brand, to help people be familiar with it.

One of the biggest things I come back to is from my business law professor. He said, "Companies sue other companies like they're people. They can sue other companies based on their behavior." And the personification of a company is really what you're trying to do in branding.

You're trying to personify the ethos of that company, the way they behave and what they think so that you can make a deeper connection than just the transactional connection that could come from more of a marketing or advertising-driven program.

To support what Charity is saying, we're trying to create an emotional action with the brand marketing to get somebody to start to think about that brand in a certain way. That eventually transitions into guiding them to behave in a certain way, which is more of a performance marketing program. That's where you can talk about "man, how do we get this to drive value," not just perceived value but actually doing something.

Charity: Another way that you can look at it is, ultimately what we try and do is build brand over time. So it's really a long-term engagement. And then sales are overnight. And that's the distinction between the two.

So brand marketing is that brand over time piece that speaks in emotional connections and brand identity development. And then your performance marketing is about building direct sales. So it's really emphasizing the immediate things, your measurable trackable marketing tactics such as pay-per-click for instance with PPC, conversions, your return on investments specifically.

Chris: Yeah. I like to think of brand marketing as the demand generation piece. We're trying to build brand awareness, we're trying to let folks know who we are, what we do. So that way whenever we do get into the performance marketing side of things, some of the barriers to buy from us are removed, right?

You've got the basics covered: "Hey, I know this brand, I trust this brand, I believe in this brand." So it's that demand gen versus lead gen, which performance marketing tends toward more to that lead gen side.

What is performance marketing?

Chris: Can you guys tell me what your thoughts are on performance marketing? Same deal, what is it, why is it important? What are its goals and what are the outcomes? 

Charity: Performance marketing is really for those organizations that are looking for immediate results. It emphasizes measurable, trackable marketing metrics.

So tactics that you'd use are your PPC advertising, social media ads for instance, work really well there, and even affiliate marketing. But like you said, you can't speak about one without the other. They work hand in glove.

There's a nice example that you always talk about, Chris, when you are talking about PPC versus brand and how they work together. I was listening to a video on our YouTube channel about, if you've got a cold for instance, or you've got the flu, and you want to go and find facial tissue, you don't go and google facial tissue, which is the immediate thing that you want to buy. You go into Google brands. So Kleenex would be what you Google.

But that came from long-term brand building, so you understand the brand itself. But the immediate thing that you buy and you click on your PPC ad or whatever it is that comes up, that's your performance marketing that drives that immediate sale. So they work really hand in hand.

Chris: Absolutely. Yeah. It's funny, I was watching TV the other day and I noticed an ad for a Jacuzzi tub and I always thought a Jacuzzi tub was the generic term for it. Now Jacuzzi is a brand. And so that is the result of successful brand marketing. You've become synonymous with the thing that you offer.

That's probably the ultimate goal, but there's many different variations I think of brand marketing versus performance marketing. Charity, you talked about performance marketing. I like to think of it as the thing that is more of a bottom-of-the-funnel tactic. The thing we're trying to do to drive a specific action, not necessarily learning more about us or learning more about the offer or getting us into that consideration phase.

But with performance marketing, a lot of times there's an offer, there's a buy now, there's a, "Hey, 20% off and come see what we have in store," and whatever it might be.

Do I invest in brand or performance marketing?

Chris: I'm curious if you guys have an opinion, and I don't think there's a right or wrong answer to this, but do you have an opinion about which one is more important and why maybe?

Charity: I have an "it depends" response. And really it depends on what the goal of the organization is. If they're a new brand then you want to drive awareness, but you also want to drive sales. So it might be an 80-20 split, where you're building brand awareness and then you're selling as well or driving to a sale conversion at some point.

But if you're a more established brand, Kleenex for instance, your immediate goal might just be to increase sales and market penetration. So it's more about driving the sale and driving that conversion, and in that case it's an 80-20 split the other way. So it really depends on where you are in your organizational strategy.

Bo: And I think building on that, I would lean toward the brand marketing side of things only because, and I'm not saying that any one method is more valuable than the other, but you can't specifically market a product's value to me and drive me to action if I have no idea what that brand is.

So if you're a new brand in the market or you're a brand that's new to a certain market, I have to have some awareness. 

Now I will say that social media is changing that. There's a wallet company that I've tried a couple times and I will say their product is not to the level of quality that I'd like it to be for the cost of what it is. But I did not know them and they promoted and I bought without any experiencing of their actual product. Because it's a wallet.

So I have in my head what a wallet is. I've been branded and have decided what I want my wallet to be. I want it to be a front pocket, I want it to be whatever. And it had this cool thing where I could add my little apple air tag because of the five times a year I forget my wallet in the house.

So there's some benefit to me about a certain type of wallet, but I don't have to know the brand if I want to try it out. But in their advertising towards someone that has experience, they need to introduce the brand and the qualities of the product more than, to your point, Kleenex.

I know what Kleenex does. I know I'm going to blow my nose into it, and that is going to be it. Or I know what a Coke does and I know I'm going to drink it and it's going to make me feel good and bad about myself at the same time. But they are to Charity's point, they're performance marketing to us all day.

But they're also at some point brand marketing to us because they want to keep relevant. And so unlike the wallet company that wants me to transact with them, they're having to inject brand marketing into their performance marketing. But to learn from you Chris and what you've brought to our organization, they don't want that to get in the way of the transaction.

Essentially, I think that there's always an essence of brand marketing in it, but it gets smaller and smaller and smaller based on the transactional need of the product. And I think that's something that we had never really had until the last 3, 4, 5 years in COVID and the way it's changed people's ability to transact and your team's ability to get data, that was really squishy and it's becoming more measurable to the point where you can be purposeful. 

I think more than what's important or not, it's that purposefulness of "what are we trying to get out of this campaign?" And now we can really be true to that with a balance of some branding and a lot of transaction or vice versa. 

Charity: You actually introduced something that's an interesting dynamic as well: how risky is the purchase for the person who's buying it? You're willing to shell out a couple of dollars to pay for a wallet. Whereas a lot of our clients, our B2B clients, it's multimillion dollars or hundreds of thousands of dollars that they're wanting to shell out for your product or your service.

So that tends to be a bigger brand-building exercise, the transactional smaller risk product. Unless of course it's something that's got high elasticity demand like cigarettes, then people will shell money. I guess that's another thing to look at: how much and how much of a risk is your product to the end consumer? That question will help you balance out how much brand versus performance marketing you should be doing.

Chris: Yeah, and I think to your point, it's related. I think the sales cycle will have an impact on that and then the industries in which you operate. And by proxy it is that cost, right? Where we're dealing with a big purchase, you probably can't offer 20% discount on all your wellheads. On a 12 pack of Coke, you totally can.

To your point, it depends, right? It depends on a number of different factors. But I think we can all agree that both of them are important. My thought is that a reason why they're important goes back to something you say a lot, Bo: branding exists to sell more over longer periods of time, shortened sales cycles, at higher prices.

I think brand marketing is a critical component of that. Because again, going back to the transactional piece, with performance marketing, with paid search, with specific targeted ads, social media ads, if we're really trying to drive a specific action, you don't want anything to get in the way of that. With brand marketing it's a little bit of a slower burn you're trying to get a message across.

So I think each has a critical role to play and I'd be curious to know if you guys agree with that or disagree or see it in a different way.

Charity: I would definitely agree with that. They both are absolutely critical. I think from a brand perspective, we've spoken about how when things are in a downturn, the organizations, the products that bounce back the fastest are the ones with a strong brand presence.

So it's absolutely imperative that you build that brand presence. But also over the years marketing has changed significantly. The need for us to prove the efficacy of our investment in marketing is absolutely key.

So more and more we're looking at that ROI. What are we getting for the return of our investment? Driving sales, driving performance is absolutely critical to what we do, and the growth of our industry. Never mind the growth of the organization and meeting organizational goals.

It's the growth of our industry too. If we want to remain sustainable, we need to prove the efficacy of the work that we do. So it's critical to work together.

How to measure success in brand marketing

Chris: I'm glad you mentioned the ROI of all of this, right? Because I think performance marketing, it's a lot easier to show ROI and to get buy-in. But with brand marketing, it's harder to tie ROI to those sorts of ads. 

So I think it's important for anybody who's considering performance marketing and brand marketing to understand that if you're going to be investing in brand marketing, the KPIs should match the type of marketing you're doing, right? You don't want to judge a brand marketing campaign on sales generated.

I have some ideas, but I want to get your guys' thoughts. How might you judge the success of a brand marketing campaign?

Bo: Well, I think you can. I think it's hard to go backwards. It's hard to go from a performance marketing and bubble up into brand value. You start to get into those conversations to say, are we seen as the premium? A number of our clients are seen in their B2B space as the premium partner, and that's determined by market share and perceivable market, right?

That's determined by their price point compared to their peers. That's determined by the margin that they have. That's determined by length of relationship. There are those kinds of things to where you can measure them in a more linear mind. That would be an esoteric measurement as opposed to how many leads do we drive, how many transactions they had and how quickly did they buy? What was the volume and what was the margin? All those things start to work in tandem.

According to the Marty Neumeier brand gap definition, the purpose of a brand is to drive more people to buy more things at higher prices for longer periods of time. In the MBA classes and the classes that I teach and work on, the question more than ever has become to what purpose, right?

There is more of a sentiment of belonging that people have. There's more of a desire for people to work with brands that have an emotional tie, or they're good for the environment, or they're doing something good in the community. That is squishier than that initial piece that starts to make brand promise and presence an even more important part of the transactional performance branding.

Where I think usability five, or seven years ago would've been product, button, get everything else out of the way. General positive sentiment about the brand is becoming more and more important in the actual transaction, as if everything's a commodity.

And to your point, Charity, part of the risk is less than before the emotional part of the purchase. I think that that's changing for people. I think that while almost everything seems to be 50 or a hundred dollars now, that would've been a risky purchase for me five years ago. It's not nearly as risky if there's some trust that I have in that brand on top of my expectation of quality or those kinds of things.

So I think there's something changing in the consumer that's beyond just price and performance, that pulls that brand marketing more into the overall transaction than it had been before.

Price still matters, right? It's still a big one of the big Ps, right? So you've got to get that right, but if it's right-ish, and I feel better about the brand or the company that I'm transacting with, and especially if there's some promise of quality, then I'll buy. Because I can't tell you how many times I've bought from a company, the quality was outstanding, but over time the quality diminishes, but the price point doesn't. That's starting to happen more and more too.

And I think those are all affecting brands. I think there's just a muddled way that all this stuff is working together now that's a little different. When you get to the measurement of brand and measurement of product, I think those are, because you have so much access to data, we're starting to be able to see the overlap of those things more and more that make everything a little bit more quantifiable.

Charity: Yeah. Another thing with brand marketing is you might not be able to measure return on investment, but you can measure return on marketing investment. Which is really looking at, "what's the overall revenue from these products versus our overall marketing investment?"What did it cost to actually put these activities together, and then look at it that way.

But there are other things that we do. We always encourage clients to look at brand equity studies. That's a nice scientific way of doing it. So looking at brand equity studies allows you to see the value of your brand based on the activities that you put together. 

Then of course there are things like brand saliency or brand awareness that Bo touched on. They do other things like customer perception or attitudinal studies as well which allows you to look at that. And then brand loyalty.

One thing that we don't tend to talk about is also measuring how people engage with your brand. And you can do that quite easily when you look at digital engagement. People don't engage with sales topics, they engage with brands. So brands that are really clear on what their brand pillars are and stick to their brand pillars, and take advantage of conversations where they can either set the tone around what those pillars are.

That's why it's important to have brands with purpose that actually stand for something beyond just the product. That digital engagement is a real measure of how customers see and perceive your brand and what your brand stands for.

Chris: One of the things that I always look for, and for the folks among us that have shorter attention spans like myself, you want to see that ROI. And if you're in digital marketing, I think it's a common thing where you want to see those immediate results. You want to see, "Hey, I've been running this for 30 days, what have I gotten?"

If you're running a brand marketing campaign, it's important to have a little bit of patience. But one of the things that I think I do look to is cost per acquisition of client, right? Over the course of time in theory. Of course you can't do that in thirty days.

But over the course of a year, over the course of a couple years, if you look at it and you've really been investing in your brand, you've been investing in brand marketing as well as performance marketing side by side, and you're noticing that your sales cycles are shorter or you're noticing that your cost per acquisition has gone down, that's a very good indicator that your brand marketing is working. And it allows you to quantify something that might be a little less quantifiable than, "Hey, we drove X amount of sales from this particular ad." So it requires patience, I guess is what I'm trying to say.

Bo: Yeah, and especially if a brand is not known in a significant way. You may be known to your customer base, you may be known to a certain set, but if you're a commoditized brand that's trying to sell to a larger audience, there is a little bit of introduction that has to happen.

And we're at that point with one of our clients at the six-month point, and we told them very clearly at the beginning, "Once you get in the market, it's going to take at least six months for us to see what is happening because you've never been in the market this way before." There is that realistic component to this that you're learning and testing and learning and testing.

But when we talk about this, when we're talking about branding startups, it's hard for you to brand a startup effectively because you don't know what the customer's response to the product is. No matter how many times you've done a focus group or you've walked through something, until they have to actually pay money and choose to purchase, you really don't know.

So you have your ideas, you have your hypothesis, but you have to be really clear about the results they can expect to see. Or if the brand is widely known in the market and they have data, they just want to improve on it, that's a different story than a brand that isn't known.

And I think that again, back to that component of risk, price is a risk, and the unknown is a risk. How do you mitigate those in the mind of the consumer on top of the other 5,000, "Should I buy this or this? They both look the same, why should I do that?" Any of that stuff. Or we see Charity, like you're talking about the size of some of the purchases.

In some cases, we're providing alternatives like oil field waste removal. It's a small percentage of the overall, it's almost a riskless small percentage, but the client doesn't want to upset the apple cart by doing something different even though it's not financially that big.

And so while it might not be a $50 wallet in the overall scheme of my $200 dollar clothing ensemble, it's still a tiny part of that overall thing.

Taking all that into consideration, Chris, as you're looking at data and value and all those kinds of things, it's just understanding the customer's desire, understanding the impact and understanding the risk or perceived risk is another big part of that as you're considering your mix over time and what you're trying to do with that. Which is either building awareness and then building awareness for what, and then driving to action at some point.

Chris: I think it's also important to consider where your brand currently is or is not. Especially in relation to your industry, right? I think a brand, it's a consumer brand, but I think they've done a fairly good job in a short amount of time is Starry. I don't know if you guys have heard of Starry, which is the competitor to Sprite and Seven Up, and I'm starting to see some others in the soda space.

For me it stood out because you talked about Coke earlier, Bo, some of these brands that have a really strong foothold in a market. I think this Starry brand probably understood, "Hey look, because we are dealing with these 8,000 pound gorilla incumbents, we're going to have to invest in brand to compete and ultimately drive the business that we want to drive."

It's not going to be, "Let's just go out there and invest a ton in performance marketing." Yes, let's invest in performance marketing, but let's also invest in brand marketing so that way we at minimum look like we belong next to the Sprites and the Seven Ups.

So I think considering where you are and who you're playing against is also a factor in determining what the right mix is for you.

For sure. Starry used to be Sierra Mist, Pepsi's alternative. It's obvious that they're putting in money behind this brand, especially when you look at the NBA All-Star basketball game. I was like, wow, Starry is really leaning into this. PepsiCo's really leaning into this brand.

Building a successful marketing strategy

Chris: So let's say someone out there is listening to this episode and they're trying to figure out what makes sense for their brand, how much to invest. "Should I invest in brand marketing? Should I invest in performance marketing? If so, how do I determine what's right for me?"

What do you guys think in terms of if someone's out there trying to figure this out? What are just some considerations, think questions maybe to ask or ask themselves on whether or not they should be investing in performance marketing, brand marketing, both, how much of both? What are maybe some tips or steps you might take?

Bo: Yeah, I think in my mind, there are two things to be considering:

One, how well-known is my brand to whatever market or area or industry? If I am super well known, my performance marketing is probably turning up more than my brand marketing. I wouldn't give it a percentage because it depends on what you're doing.

And then the second tip I think would be, don't get too enamored with either, because all brand marketing will not lead to opportunity. It can happen into opportunity, but it's not going to lead. And so I think in today's world, the ability to tie those two together and then watch data and information and be able to make the flip.

Maybe a third tip is be data-driven. Tie your Salesforce to your HubSpot, put your stuff together, look at how it's working, get the right list of people in there, see what their activity is. Not just hits, clicks and leads, because eyeballs is a part of this. Impressions is a part of it. But really work to tie those things together.

Chris: Yeah. And to that point, Bo, those metrics, hate to call them vanity metrics, but sometimes they can be very much vanity metrics and they can distract, right? We drove a thousand impressions or 10,000 impressions or millions of impressions. Okay, well to what quality and to what audience, right?

It's becoming a lot harder to understand who that audience actually is that's doing it because of privacy laws and that thing. So anyway, thank you Bo. Charity, do you have any tips or advice for the good folks out there?

Charity: I'm biased. I would definitely say you have to do both. Again, the measure is how do you balance it? So brand marketing really sets that stage by building that strong foundation and emotional connection, whereas performance marketing capitalizes on that foundation.

But at the end of the day, I think you need to really balance all of your marketing activities based on what your organizational goals are. That's what marketing exists to do. It exists to grow business and support organizational goals. So depending on what your organizational goals are for the year, that's where you need to focus.

If the focus is on driving and increasing sales, then performance marketing needs to outweigh your brand marketing, but still ensure that you have brand marketing,

Great stuff guys. I appreciate it. I think that does it for today. I appreciate the time and the insight and we'll catch up with you guys next time.