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November 02, 2023

5 Mins

How Improv can Improve the synergy of Brand Building PLUS Performance Marketing

Ask any seasoned marketer, and they will tell you it’s very rare when brand and sales work in lockstep. For business, it’s the sales and revenue that matters. Brand building is seen as soft, subjective “image building” whose ROI can’t be measured, while performance marketing is the blue-eyed kid of the CFO & business.

So few marketers do the hard work of building a data-driven synergy between branding & performance marketing.

Maybe marketers need to look at how actors use Improv’s famous “Yes, And” principle when they approach the subject instead of “Yes, But” or even worse, “No, But.”

The reason why brand building is seen as nice to have, while performance marketing is at the top of CMO’s must-have list, is clearly hard ROI. The CFO loves the numbers, so does the board, and so do the investors.

Meanwhile, brand building still suffers the century-old problem defined by a New York departmental store owner: “Half my advertising is a waste, but I don’t know which half.”

A recent paper and case study in Harvard Business Review outlines an approach where the authors demonstrate how investment in brand building AND performance marketing actually improves conversion and ROI.

In fact, when the authors surveyed senior marketing executives at the 2022 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity about their burning issues, twice as many voted for “managing the tension between brand and performance marketing” as any other issue.

They went on to add, “Pitting brand building and performance marketing against each other in a competition for budget unnecessarily damages the effectiveness of both.”

So, what does it take for a marketing organization to move away from this binary approach?

Change in mindset

Brand building continues to be seen as a soft subjective discipline, while the proliferation of digital channels and analytics has given rise to a new wave of marketers schooled in hard numbers: leads, sales, and ROI. That’s a language CFOs and business heads find it easier to understand than brand metrics, which are harder to tie to the bottom line. There needs to be a holistic view that blends short-term performance and long-term brand building.

Finding a middle ground

Brand marketers see performance marketing as short-term and often not aligned with the brand.

Performance marketers are incentivized for results and see brand guidelines as limiting and brand building, not a priority.

The two need to find a middle ground with aligned metrics and incentives. Brand activation helps address prospects on top of the funnel, creates brand affinity, and broadens the target market for the performance team. Similarly, performance marketing helps the brand team convert their results to real dollars added to the bottom line. Both need each other to make marketing work.

An actionable framework

Let’s look at best practices for a synergistic approach

Create and connect brand-positioning and activation metrics.

Sales by Product

Grace Kite and Tom Roach recommend that whenever performance plateaus, marketers use brand building to create a fresh peak.

Experts also advise that markers create a composite metric of brand equity. And make brand equity a KPI for performance marketers. And lastly, establish your brand’s link to revenue and shareholder value.

The HBR case study details how this can be done across several sectors

Financial Impact

The current paradigm shift in digital from third-party data to first-party creates an opportunity for the CMO to reset the digital marketing approach and ensure both brand and performance have an equal seat at the table. The days of easy acquisition campaigns are gone. Marketers need to start with their first-party customer analytics and understanding. Retention, growth, and an omnichannel customer experience are key.

It’s time to say “Yes, And” to Brand + Performance.

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