Posted: Thursday 17th June 2021 in Events & Webinars.

At our webinar today, “Brand vs Performance Marketing: Frenemies Forever“, we welcomed an amazing panel including Dan Elton from Google, Hayley-Jane Doyle from Seedlip, Nick Gray from Live and Breathe and Carl Hutchinson from Summit to discuss the changing relationship between performance and brand marketing, how we should be utilising a performance mindset with brand led creativity, and how collaboration between performance and brand agencies and a focus on audience impact marketing is essential to survive.

If you missed the webinar, you can rewatch the session below…

Here are links to some of the case studies and brands mentioned today:

Desmond and Dempsey and Elizabeth Scarlett as mentioned by Hayley-Jane.
Google’s ASOS case study as mentioned by Dan Elton

So, what is a “Frenemy”?

The dictionary says it is “someone we like or love but also have a fierce rivalry or dislike of” and that perfectly describes how brand and performance marketing has worked historically. They are in deep competition for:

  • Budgets
  • Customers
  • Competing in the same channels
  • Competing for recognition

Both brand teams and performance teams are out there, and they want their fair share of the credit and recognition of sales.

And as with any balance in any relationship, sometimes it can spill over and be a little bit unhealthy. Actually, the relationship between brand and performance teams is so finely balanced that it’s worth exploring and thinking about its evolution.

The world of marketing only 5 years ago…

The marketing funnel is as relevant now as it always has been, however how we deliver marketing between brand and performance has changed. We are still working through the funnel, trying to increase brand visibility, create memorable stories and getting into that consideration set of our customers is still paramount, and we’re still driving that through to engagement, purchase and loyalty. That part of marketing certainly hasn’t changed.

However if we look into recent history, there were very distinct roles for both a brand team and a performance team.

The brand team were there to drive visibility, create memorable stories and brand positioning leading to customers putting that brand into the consideration set when they were ready to purchase. They would have a strong focus on high reach media channels, such as print, out of home, TV/Radio, Display/Social etc., to drive brand visibility.

Performance however had a much more immediate, data driven approach. They had to turn consideration into sales using channels such as Search, Affiliates and E-mail.

That was marketing and the relationship between brand and performance 5 years ago, both with very distinct roles; brand driving visibility and performance driving immediate sales with direct response.

Over the course of the past 5-10 years, that has changed quite dramatically to the position we are in now – brand and performance are converging.

We still focus on the marketing funnel, but certain channels have re-invented themselves in recent years, with the likes of TV / Radio and Display / Social having more data, allowing programmatic optimisation, delivery of more creative formats and better measurability against objectives. This has resulted in such channels having solutions which cover more of the marketing funnel, such as Facebook and TikTok for Social.

For Summit, we have taken an audience-led approach. We park the disparity between Brand and Performance roles, and focus more on reaching and impacting the audience.

Audience First Planning

Understand your customer, their behaviours, their buying triggers, their relationships with channels, and combine that with key advertising levers; targeting and optimisation, creative stories and memorable stories, reaching the right amount of customers, incorporating their recency and frequency, understanding the context through which we market and then mixing that with real brand positioning and purpose. That is how Summit tackle the question.

So, is there are a difference between brand and performance marketing?

Carl Hutchinson –

Brand marketing is different to performance marketing. Typically, you wouldn’t go to a performance marketing agency to come up with your overarching strategy for your business – setting KPIs, audience segmentation and understanding what it is that you want to grow in that period of time. They are two entirely different disciplines, but at the same time, one can’t live without the other.

“You get better results when all channels work together”

Nick –

The silos are still relatively distinct in that they are specialist disciplines when you go to both extremes. What we are noticing is that there is a far better and healthier overlap, coming together to do work which is more effective. The two should be interdependent, and when they are, you get the best results.

As far as rivalry goes, we have never witnessed any animosity between the two functions, just separation within the business.

Hayley-Jane –

I think it depends on what hat you’re wearing. From an agency perspective, I think agencies *from my experience* work best when they know their specialism and nail their specialism, so when wearing an agency hat, the disciplines are very distinct.

However, if you’re wearing an internal brand hat, similar to the points above, they are interdependent and get the best results when working together.

When wearing a customer hat, they don’t view brand and performance separately; they are simply experiencing your brand as a beautiful add-on to their everyday lives. Therefore, for a brand, it is most important to interact meaningfully with your audience at different points and in different ways, rather than being too distinct with labelling.

How has marketing changed in the past 5-10 years?

Dan –

It’s good to have a certain level of specialisation both internally and in the agencies that you work with. But I have always urged the teams I work with to focus on outcomes not outputs:  Outcomes are business objectives; profit, revenue, market share – what the business actually cares about – whilst outputs are media metrics; click-through-rate, view-through-rate etc.

At its worst, marketers have become too obsessed with outputs and not focused enough on outcomes, and as a result, we have seen this brand and performance split. At a boardroom level, this has driven a mistrust in marketing.

In regard to change, thankfully the chasm between brand and performance marketing is changing, with a stronger overall focus towards KPIs.

How are you helping your clients measure short-, medium-, and long-term success?

Nick –

There are multiple ways really. First of all, we are spending a lot more time understanding the consumer and the desired outcomes before we commence our work, to ensure we create work that will resonate with the consumer. We call this audience intelligence and we use our own tool to support that.

It moves a brand or traditional ATL agency away from purely producing the art, to balancing the art with the science. We are informing our creative development process before we jump to an intuitive idea. Once we have that better understanding, we are pre-testing it a lot, using the tool dragonfly AI, which enables us to test performance in a variety of ways before actually committing any spend.

We also ensure we are monitoring and course correcting work mid-flight. Just because we have now gone live doesn’t mean we instantly move onto the next thing, there’s a myriad of live jobs all at once which need to be constantly monitored and updated.

As a brand-new category, it must have been a difficult job due to the unknowns. How are you managing that, Hayley?

Hayley-Jane –

It has been difficult, particularly as the category has changed so much. When we started we were the only one, so there were no benchmarks. As the category has grown, more broadly we have seen that we were synonymous with the category – all the descriptors, the behaviours, the feel and vibe of the category was just synonymous with Seedlip. We had to separate from those rules and norms to ensure we were still distinct within the category.

For the short-term, we use a great platform called Automated Creative which allows us to create multiple versions of a creative that we put on social to see which performs best under different metrics, to scale the best performers and use them across different channels. 

For the brand, it is the more intangible stuff that’s harder to grasp, but it’s what makes people love your brand. Simple things like questionnaires to our community to understand their motivations and desires around the category, helps us understand the thought and feelings of our audience.

In a new category with a brand that was the first, there was a lot of gut instinct that has to be balanced with proven efforts. This is also combined with bravery as a lot of investment is needed with it being so new and unknown, and so much work is needed to be done, from education to awareness.

Tell us more about an Audience First approach…

Carl –

It’s an extension of what Hayley-Jane has just been talking about, speaking to communities, taking the time to understand what it is that your customers like about your brand and product, and what they feel towards it. When I talk about audience, it’s trying to get into the mindset of where they are within their own personal purchase cycle. We have to determine what stage they are in, to ensure they are mentally available to take the ad that we want to serve them, to drive that specific action.

I would also love to see more brands and retailers segment their full customer database, and set objectives, such as driving single-purchase customers to purchase again. Once you have the objective, you can focus on the tactics required to make that happen. Instead of looking at an excel spreadsheet, focus on the objective – “have we fundamentally changed the behaviour of x customers and moved them into a different pot” – okay, how do we continue driving those outcomes?

How has the creative mindset permeated and penetrated Summit?

Carl –

At Summit we don’t claim to be a creative agency in any way, shape or form. We are used to being able to give out a brief on what works and doesn’t work, and saying “this is what we should be incorporating from a performance perspective”. Unfortunately, historically, those assets have always been given to us.

How do you use your creatives to stand out?

Nick –

Much like Haley mentioned before, it’s important to use automation tools to test, learn and adapt as we go. We found that despite strong similarities within an audience, there are also strong differences. The result of that is multiple assets across multiple ‘tribes’ in multiple channels. It’s not like we are marketing to individuals, but we are marketing big brand stories to much smaller groups of people with creatives that will resonate with them.

We have also found a lot of success recently by using new routes to the consumer to overcome legacy marketing team objectives, for example, we are using micro-influencer strategies to drive footfall into Morrisons stores, or an AI app to infiltrate dark social.

Hayley-Jane –

Seedlip is design led. The founder Ben was a designer previously, so did the initial designs for the bottles and created the overall aesthetic for the brand. The beautiful simplicity of both the product and anything a consumer would see attached to it is extremely important to us.

But as the brand has grown, we’ve teased out that tension, not as far as a rivalry, but the tension between something being beautiful and something doing the job it needs to do from a marketing perspective. Leveraging our key brand assets such as our bottle and logo is super important, whilst keeping that tension between “it is beautiful, it is lifestyle led, it is aspirational” but it is also clear and communicates what you want it to.

We also test through Automated Creative as mentioned before, that’s one of the ways that we see the different nuances of either a slightly different message or slightly different positioning.

“The biggest influence on someone’s interaction with an ad is the creative.”

Which brands do you hold up as a great example of those successfully balancing brand and performance?

Dan –

ASOS is one business which instantly comes to mind, and we have written a case study on them recently, take a look here.

ASOS are a fascinating business because they have a very long-tenured performance marketing program. But as the maturity of that program has grown, and as they have tried to grow internationally, they’ve found that either they’re reaching the threshold of what they can spend efficiently in those programs, or they need to find others channels to grow. What ASOS have done so effectively, and it sounds so devastatingly simple, is they have an always-on testing program, and they triangulate a number of measurement techniques on everything they do. As you’d expect, they have a great attribution program as well, using a variety of attribution models to measure attributed revenue. But they also use always-on incrementality testing, either on a geographic basis where they’re holding out parts of their program in certain areas, or where they’re using Google’s full funnel lift measurement. What they’re able to do is measure the full funnel impact of everything that they do.

One example that stands out is the ASOS video action campaign in Canada. On the back of this they saw a 45% increase in incremental conversion, however as they were measuring the full funnel impact using search and brand lift, they saw that they had a 200% brand lift in Canada, and a 300% incremental search lift.

Overall, ASOS simply ran a performance campaign, but because of the thoroughness of their measurement approach, they were able to measure the upper funnel and mid-funnel impact of that program – that is what integrated marketing is all about, and that is where I think brand and performance merge.

What are the key differences in recommendations in growing a smaller brand with less market share?

Hayley-Jane –

Linking back to what I was saying before, dive in, be brave and keep investing. Not just in terms of spend, but backing an idea, and the time you’re putting in, as you have less history and less consumers.

For us, social has been extremely important in terms of both organic and paid. For the first couple of years, everything was purely organic, and the scale we were able to drive through highly valuable and engaging content and partnerships, alongside constant interaction with the audience was great.

It is also super important to have the founder fully invested in the brand, and to be leveraged as an asset in a way to create a stronger relationship between brand and customer – the customer feels close to the brand, fully involved in the story, and it feels fully authentic, so that as an asset early on is very important.

Also, very broadly, having D2C at Seedlip has helped us hugely with building our audience, scaling and allowing us to leverage more authentic and unique experiences. Having our own website where we can sell our stock is something which the brand set-up really early on and has meant that particularly over the past year and a half, we haven’t been scrambling to sort that, but it meant that there was a home right from the beginning.

Carl –

Simply, it’s all about what you’re trying to achieve, no matter the size of the business. If it’s about growing a community, then there’s platforms for that. If it’s about capitalising on a surge in demand, then make sure you’re where that demand is. It is really that simple.

Where are our customers? Where do we find more of those customers? What does it take to activate those customers? How do we continue to delight them?

From a bigger brands perspective, how are we achieving success?

Nick –

We find that bigger brands have pivoted over the past couple of years into a way of thinking which is thinking big by acting small. They are learning a lot from a lot of the smaller retailers coming to market. That is why a lot of them are acquiring D2C. I think that change in mentality of the client is really good as it’s forcing their agencies to change the ways they operate. The thing that the big businesses have in their favour is that they have more money to spend that is more secure, enabling them to speak to their consumers across the majority of channels. What we are noticing is that there is more of an appetite to spread their risk across number driving methods, more nuance methods and with a crazy more innovative brand focus.

How are publishers and tech platforms making it easier for brands and retailers to be able to explore and use the full depth of that funnel to help achieve their outcomes and objectives?

Dan –

Strategically, Google’s value proposition is that we have 9 platforms that all have over 1 billion users, and that puts us is an immensely privileged position with regards to the data that’s available to us.  And actually, the best thing that we have is a strong understanding of customer intent, so where customers are in the journey.

Increasingly, advertisers are able to make use of those same signals in upper funnel media; they’re able to use the same audience data and keyword data in YouTube and display programs. Alongside that, Google is working on an increasing number of campaign and media types such as smart shopping and performance max which are objective based, not media based; they deploy both the data and AI machine learning to drive to the marketing objective, without having any prejudice about where your campaign shows up, so you provide the creative and state where you are happy to show up, and Google will drive to that objective.

Finally, there’s never been a better time for full funnel measurement, whether it’s cross-network reports in DDA models that you can now access in google ads, or those full funnel conversion search and brand lift measurement.

“The future of digital marketing is integrated and objective based, not output based”.

Who should set and own the meaningful outcomes and objectives?

Dan –

It has to be the brand! When the agencies start creating their own objectives, they risk detaching themselves from business reality. No doubt the agency will set media objectives and campaign objectives, but if you’re an agency and you are not getting a clear set of business objectives from your client, there’s something wrong in that relationship.

“Objectives not only have to be owned by the business, they have to be owned beyond the marketing department. They have to be board level objectives”.

Hayley-Jane –

I totally agree. The only people that can oversee everything are those that are sitting brand side. You have to be extremely clear on the difference between a business objective and a media/comms objective.

Will the loss of third-party cookies and changes to data privacy change marketing in the future?

The simple answer is, performance marketing is about measurability, so obviously increased regulatory focus and increased user expectations are quite a serious issue. With that said, platforms and publishers can deliver privacy innovations and protect privacy for users whilst also ensuring a very robust eco-system, but that will take deliberate action by advertisers.

So what can you do to preserve that measurability?

You can prepare by having a very robust first-party data program. Make sure you have the right site tags, the google global site tag and other partners. If you’re a google analytics customer, make sure you’re using GA4. Make sure you are using first-party data in all of your media if possible. Adapt and use machine learning techniques to model for conversion loss.

Keep an eye out for the next webinar in the series, but if you have any questions about your performance marketing before then, get in touch at [email protected].