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A road map to the right marketing combination

Brand and performance are more closely linked than many marketers care to admit. Dan Hojnik, head of strategy and planning at Involved Media, explains.. 

[Published by B&T Magazine]

I remember trying to explain the benefits of brand and performance marketing working together early on in my career only to have a strong-headed client cut me off and tell me “Everything’s brand, everything sells”. While I still do not believe this statement is quite right, I think it is closer to right than where we find ourselves today.

Brand and performance marketing have been segregated. Marketers and agencies have built specific teams for each, often giving them completely separate goal posts. The industry discentivised the idea of brand and performance working harmoniously.

But with the landscape more challenging than it has ever been for many companies, marketers and agencies are drastically reducing their chances of success – and, potentially, survival – if they don’t have their complete marketing efforts working towards a common goal.

Put simply, we must break down the walls between brand and performance marketing. We need to stop seeing them as separate things. They are, and always have been, inherently linked. Just like Yin and Yang, one cannot exist to its full potential without the other.

Balance and cohesion are essential for the survival of agencies and brands. They are certainly not easy things to achieve, but they should be the ambition of any marketer or planner.

Evolving to a more effective marketing structure means evolving the tools we use to demonstrate effectiveness. Take “the funnel” for example. I hate it. Just because it is easy to understand does not mean it should be used to structure agency or marketing departments.I am not saying the principles are not important, but we need to be better at connecting the dots between them.

Linear frameworks like the funnel have a defined beginning and end. It is a tool from a simpler time, a time when we had less choices, less products, less fulfilment options, and less channels competing for our attention. It is no longer fit to help people along today’s complex consumer journeys.

So, what can we do about it?

British academics Les Binet and Peter Field made famous the 60:40 rule about brand building versus performance marketing in their The Long and the Short of It paper, although their work is often oversimplified and misused. It can be a good guideline, but brands need help from their agencies and marketing departments to get more than just a 60:40 guideline. They need to set up a road map to optimal brand marketing while balancing the pressures of short-term performance. Here’s how to start creating that road map:

  1. Plan communications together across a consumer journey, not a funnel: Work to overcome any barriers people may have in engaging with your product or service. Doing this means that you can deliver tailored roles of communications and channels across the marketing ecosystem for the wider marketing/agency team to build together. Once you have planned across your consumer journey, it becomes easier to set clear KPIs for success.
  2. Ensure marketing and agency teams work towards a common goal: Brand and performance are not enemies, they are allies and will together create success. With your measurement framework built across your consumers’ journey, set clear KPIs for communications and manage expectations around timings for delivery of those KPIs. Where possible, look to include hard and fast indicators for historically longer-term metrics, such as “share of interest” or “share of search”.
  3. “Road map” your journey to the best combination: Use your understanding of your own business to deliver a practical roadmap to the optimal mix of brand and performance over time. Just because you aren’t spending 60% of your marketing on brand building tomorrow doesn’t mean you can’t trial doing slightly more, create a test case, test again, then adjust the spend in line with the results (or not). Make the theory practical and take the wider business stakeholders on the journey, so they understand why the shift in approach is essential for more effective marketing and better results.

Synergy between brand and performance should be the ambition for every marketer and agency. In a COVID-affected world, hopefully soon to be a post-COVID world, many brands need all the help they can get. We cannot afford to have marketing silos where performance marketers claim short-term success but ignore long-term growth ambition, or vice versa for brand marketers. We must have brand and performance working harmoniously to deliver returns greater than the sum of its parts.

Sometimes in life, to rebuild something you need to knock down the existing structure and start again. I truly believe that those who are not willing to break down their walls between brand and performance will ultimately be left behind.

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Dan Hojnik