The role of brand in a performance orientated world

The growth of digital and performance media in particular is attributable to data collection, precision targeting, sophisticated algorithms and attribution modelling. Performance media has enabled brands to grow their online presence, increase sales and maximise their return on investment but a lot of this growth comes at the expense of brand and a longer term outlook on objectives and media performance.

The shift to lower funnel channels and tactics was accelerated by the pandemic as brands were adapting to the market, new challenges and many were in straight up survival mode. Marketing budgets are typically one of the first to be cut in tough and uncertain times and this was no different. Any budget leftover was funnelled into performance with every dollar and channel monitored on a daily basis, fighting for its existence on the rolling media strategy so it came as no surprise that brand activity got hit the hardest.

The pandemic rolled on and as lockdowns became our ‘new normal’, markets started to recover in-line with consumer and business confidence but marketing strategies remained short-term, with many brands looking to build on the success of their switch to lower funnel marketing but ignoring brand for too long can come at a cost. Yes, brand might not have an immediate impact on sales - but in the long-term, brand will drive results, consistency and a solid baseline.

Brand marketing is a long-term, strategic approach to drive recognition and integrity amongst a core target market; creating an ever-growing base of loyal followers and customers in the process.

Brands traditionally drive awareness and consideration through high reaching and engaging platforms like television, radio and outdoor, but while the role of brand is to support the lower funnel conversion based activity, it is often scrutinised and unfairly measured against hard performance metrics and digital-only attribution modelling, making brand a far less viable option for marketers living in a short-term world.

Brands' reliance upon lower funnel channels to do all the heavy lifting can also make them incredibly vulnerable to change. Take the Facebook iOS14 tracking debacle that has unfolded this year and the negative impact it has had on performance through reduced measurement, targeting and tracking capabilities. Brands who over invested in this area are now faced with the reality of skyrocketing CPA’s and limited channel insights while brands with a considered, multi-channel approach were able to pivot quickly to market conditions and are far less susceptible to ongoing digital measurement, tracking and privacy challenges as a result.

Performance and e-commerce in particular are traditionally associated with lower funnel tactics, but having a brand presence helps to increase top of mind awareness, increase conversion rates and reduce path length all coming together to increase the overall effectiveness and efficiency of media over time.

So what’s the solution? Brand is essential to a longer-term marketing strategy but needs to be measured against brand KPI’s. Brands need to find a balance in their marketing strategy to suit both the short and long term and start to measure everything, but nothing in isolation.

Lee Davis is the head of Media Precinct’s Performance Media division.