Brand Led Performance is the New Black

Riikka Soderlund

With CMOs tasked to generate growth and incremental revenue, how can marketers keep showing results in a world where the ability to track consumers’ every move is disappearing fast? To be able to deliver - not just in the future but right now - CMOs need to re-think performance marketing and re-organise their marketing teams.

How to prove marketing value now

Are you able to present the same ROI metrics for marketing this fall as you were three years ago? I think not. With new privacy regulations quickly changing the landscape of digital advertising and attribution, it is time for marketers to not only look outward, but inward into their own operation, strategy and the philosophy of marketing, which was re-defined a decade ago by the rise of performance marketing. 

As Apple rolled out iOS14 in 2021, the tectonic plates started to shift under all marketers. Google is following suit with the deprecation of cookies and while the immediate effect is most prominent in advertising we have learned to know as direct response, a blurring understanding of consumer behavior will follow and start a domino effect which will irrevocably change the way we plan, execute and measure all campaigns. 

It is not a question of simply following the tech platforms’ lead. Being compliant and carrying on will not be sufficient to win over new consumers. They value their privacy and studies show they are more vigilant than ever about how brands use their personal data and how advertising is being personalised*. The road forward will combine excellent and personalised consumer experience, delivered in a privacy-first way. This forces marketers to change not just the way they measure campaigns, but also what they actually want to measure.

How has it worked before

For the past decade, CMOs have been focusing on building performance teams, adopting growth hacking methods and building impressive automation sequences. Branding has taken a back seat if not left out of the ride altogether. Focus has been on delivering incremental quarterly revenue. 

At the moment, most brands - big and small - organise their teams by separating performance and brand, creative and media. After all, these functions have had distinctly different objectives: one is building awareness and long-term value, the other generating quick and measurable revenue. Or harnessing the company message into a story format and then distributing it to an audience defined by sales.

As creative and media have been inching closer and closer with increased investment to digital channels and visibility to creative performance throughout the spectrum of channels, branding and performance have stayed in their respective corners. 

How will it work in the future?

Going forward, the interdependence of those two teams will grow exponentially, as performance teams are no longer able to rely on algorithms to deliver their results and brand teams no longer have viable mass media to leverage to generate sufficient impact. Still CMOs will need to be able to show growth, so they need to break the silo and integrate these two teams. 

Enter: brand led performance.

The performance team will find new tools and paths to successful quarters by closely integrating their programs to brand activations. And brand teams will be able to start leveraging the mass reach of digital in a productive way by adopting a page out of the performance marketers play book. 

Performance marketing campaigns will benefit from the halo effect of brand campaigns in terms of timing but closer integration into the creative concepts early on will even enable incremental increase in performance metrics. Improved click through rates, visitor numbers and ability to use wider targeting options are just a few of the benefits performance teams experience when their campaigns are genuinely brand led. 

In the not-so-distant-future, marketing performance for both short and long term will be generated by an integrated brand performance team, rather than two separate entities. And some of the savviest CMOs have already started to lead this change within their organisations**. 

How to get started

The transformation should start with the consumer. While the fundamentals of performance marketing are changing with tracking and attribution thrown into chaos, the consumer is not a part of this turmoil - or even aware of it. Social media usage is at its highest ever and consumption of digital content and services keeps growing exponentially. Reaching consumers in digital is easier than ever.

But reach alone is not a valid metric for either brand or performance team. It is not going to work if you only replace your TV ads with CTV, transfer your radio spots to podcasts or run your fall hero spot in programmatic display shorts. Nor is the answer simply to re-create these assets to the digital format (although that is a viable first step in the road to a digital-first brand). Instead of trying to pivot existing brand campaigns into digital or performance campaigns to an environment void of meaningful targeting, it is time to stop, reboot and start over. To show business impact and viable marketing ROI brand and performance need each other.

The big mindset shift that needs to happen is internal, not external. Instead of trying to fix the performance team, CMOs will need to redefine how they want to engage with their customers with the new rules in place. In addition to reach, what other formats of engagement are meaningful for the overall brand experience? While there are many quick fixes to the existing performance model, driving holistic and long term growth will not be possible without an integration of brand methods into the performance mix.

Oddly enough, the change starts with the brand team. It is time to task them with creating campaigns for the performance team that right now is desperately seeking ways to connect with consumers mid and up funnel in order to maintain their purpose in the overall marketing mix after the new privacy regulations have started to chip away at their results. 

Along the way, CMOs will discover new KPIs to re-define brand performance too. I will be expecting to see how performance campaigns’ click through rates impact organic visits to the site which in turn lead to offline sales. Finding new ways to connect the dots should be on every marketing leader's agenda this fall. And once those dots are defined, it will be a whole lot easier to also define what and how to measure in order to show performance and be able to allocate marketing budget accordingly.

At the end of the day, the CMOs job is to drive commercial transactions. By breaking the status quo of the current marketing team, daring to question the KPIs and allowing branding to lead your next phase of growth, you will be ahead of the game. 




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