The vast majority of marketing efforts are either branding- or performance-oriented. Let’s quickly provide a common description of both so we’re all on the same page:
- Branding Marketing: Marketing that influences the audience’s overall perception of your brand. Classic examples are: Red Bull who is the extreme sports drink & Nike with athletes.
- Performance Marketing: Marketing that is held directly accountable for results in leads or sales or measurably influences the audience’s desire to purchase. Classic examples are: Booking.com, Coolblue and Zalando. They grew big solely through performance marketing (yes, now that they have capital they’ve also invested in branding)
Even though we did it here, splitting up these two might be an old approach. If we want to future-proof our marketing, we’ll have to do things differently. However, before we take such a bold step, let us first examine the root cause of this distinction. What led to this differentiation between the two?
Mad Men vs. Math Men
Historically, companies used to promote their goods or services solely through campaigns that we now categorise as ‘branding’. We’re talking about TV & radio commercials, billboards, ads in newspapers and magazines, etc. They are essentially one-way communication channels whose success could only be estimated by an increase or decline in sales. (Or, you had to rely on survey-based methods like Nielsen for TV ads, for example.) And all was well in the wonderful marketing fairytale world.
But things were about to change dramatically.
Powerhouses such as Google and Facebook were lurking around the corner. And when they arose, the term “performance marketing” sprung to life. These new, digital channels harnessed the power of the internet and all its tracking capabilities. It allowed for campaigns that could output a range of usable metrics like CTR, bounce rate, and hard conversions like leads and revenue. Gone are the days when marketers could only do TV & radio ads, clench their buttcheeks, and hope for the best in the next quarterly results meeting.
Facebook & Google suddenly offered marketers clear-cut attributable data that could be used to represent a campaign’s performance accurately. For the first time ever, marketers were able to say “This campaign was directly responsible for an increase of X % on this KPI.” They could showcase the performance of a campaign. The art of performance marketing was born.
The biggest culprit: Channel Bias
It seems obvious that marketing managers throughout the years have a weak spot for audiovisual content (image ads, video ads, etc.) to strengthen a brand name. It makes sense to regard this as the preferred weapon of choice. A 30-second video delivers more information, emotion and activation than a piece of text that is either too short to leave a mark or too long to concentrate on.
But if the goal is to grow a brand name, are you sure a Google Search Ad campaign can’t deliver the same or even better results as a 30-second video?
After all, advertising is all about reaching the right people with the right message at the right moment. No rule dictates the explicit use of images or video, nor the type of channel.
When you think of reaching ‘low intent’ audiences you immediately think of visual ads & branding channels like YouTube, Facebook, radio, TV, etc. Whether they like it or not, channel bias almost always kicks in.
Uniting brand and performance marketing
But reaching people who are higher up in the decision journey, is perfectly possible through channels that are traditionally looked at as performance marketing campaigns. For example, with Google Search Ads you could
- target “best cycle routes in Amsterdam” and direct traffic
- “child-friendly cycling tours” and rephrase the copy of your ads in a way that puts X-branded bicycles forward as the preferred choice.
- Put up a landing page with the “top ten best cycling routes”
- Post a blog with a checklist for safe and enjoyable bike rides.
People may not instantly buy a bicycle, but if your content is adequate, they will visit your website, consume relevant information and remember your brand name for a potential future purchase. It sounds a lot like a ‘performance channel’ that fulfills a branding campaign’s objectives (plant the seed), doesn’t it?
The moral of the story is: If a channel can serve a purpose, it should be taken into consideration no matter what the internet’s proclaimed “best practices” or “proven methods” are. It’s easy to become accustomed to a certain channel and its supposed purpose. Before you know it, you’ll catch a strong case of Channel bias: blindly using the same channels over and over again.
Marketers are trained to reach different people throughout the buyer journey. When they create their ideal marketing mix, they have been conditioned to be active on many different channels. Doing so, they mistake their channel bias for a need to be active on all marketing channels (e.g. SEA for performance and YouTube & display advertising for branding). While in fact SEA can be used for branding objectives, and YouTube and display can be used for classical performance objectives (sales & revenue) too. The idea that you need to maintain a total marketing mix at all times lets the channel bias kick in and in turn, this keeps the branding and performance division wheel spinning.
Stop focusing on all channels
The need for a total marketing mix doesn’t make sense at all. Do we really need to be active on all channels? If we’re totally honest, we know that …
- … we probably don’t have the budget (and manpower) to sustain this.
- … we have to prioritize targeting people with a certain minimum frequency. Otherwise, we won’t yield proper results.
It makes a lot more sense to focus and allocate the budget to maybe two or three channels, rather than to spray and pray (and pay) across ten different channels. Thinning out your budget and trying to cover +10 channels also means thinning out ad frequency. Since advertising is about helping reach the right people with the right message at just the right time, it is important that we maximize the chances of hitting a bullseye moment.
Stop your need for a total marketing mix.
You’re in luck. We wrote a follow-up article on this article.
After reading this, you know you should be aware of your channel bias when setting up your ideal marketing mix. To make it even easier for you, we created a decision tree. Through using this decision tree, you’ll be able to create a more efficient marketing mix. Focus on channels that have the biggest effect on your KPI’s first. Only when you optimize those, you can move on to the next. When done correctly, you’ll be able to optimize your budget allocation and get max results.