Event 13 min read

Performance vs. Brand: What’s the Difference and How is Measurement Driving Them Together?

By QueryClick 7 July, 2022

Performance and brand marketing are often understood as two distinct disciplines that focus upon short-term ROI and long-term gains respectively.

However, advances in digital marketing mean that the lines are increasingly becoming blurred between the two. So, is there any benefit to be had from breaking down these often siloed teams and disciplines? Or would integration be mutually disadvantageous?

Our CEO, Chris Liversidge, recently joined a panel discussion entitled ‘Performance Versus Brand, or Performance and Brand?’ at Performance Marketing UK to explore the topics above.

The full panel included:

Here’s what they had to say…

How do you define performance and brand marketing respectively?

Rumyana, opened the session by explaining that, in her view, performance marketing is a part of your digital investment that is measurable with a focus on being action-driven. So, for example, optimising for conversions or app installs to get direct return on investment.

Whereas brand is everything else, at least in very simple terms.

She also explained that the focus for brand activity is more towards brand awareness, driving consideration and building brand loyalty – which also requires a mix of brand channels including:

  • TV advertising
  • influencers
  • and partnerships (which includes activity offline and above the line)

Whereas performance marketing is very much the action-packed part of your marketing.

Chris then added, from his experience, the only thing that stands up as a definition is that brand is something where you’re doing a ‘hand wave’ – as opposed to having a need to drive some sort of short-term performance. He also pointed out that where you can ‘hand wave’ has changed a lot over the years and exponentially more recently.

Manfredi was in agreement with both of the above definitions. Agreeing that performance is mainly about channels that are measurable – while brand is everything else.

The lines between performance and brand are blurring due to measurement

Robin pointed out that we stopped using the phrase digital marketing around five years ago. And now it’s almost moved to performance marketing vs. branding. But asked how things are blurring as measurement advances.

Shortening timescales are driving a need for quicker, better measurement

For Rumyana, the lines between brand and performance marketing have always been blurred but are going to be increasingly blurrier in terms of understanding what is and isn’t working in your marketing mix.

She sees a need for embracing a more holistic approach of looking at them in combination and finding where the synergies are. She also feels there isn’t really a tool that answers that question of ‘is TV advertising helping your bottom line on conversions across performance channels?’ (we would respectfully beg to differ!).

Certainly, if you just suddenly switch TV advertising on you might notice conversion spiking but is it sustainable? And getting to the impact of the halo effect of some of the upper funnel activity is really hard.

Historically, Rumyana would have used the econometrics or MMM studies with quarterly or six- monthly refreshes. But now, with digital you cannot wait for six months to figure out if your TV ad is successful. Which means measurement is becoming more scientific, whether that’s to measure brand or performance marketing.

Chris summed up by stating, in his view, that it’s not a zero-sum game. You could run brand activity in a performance way and still have the focus on your brand. Investing in what that brand messaging is and positioning so you can achieve your brand aims as well. So. it’s not an ‘either’ ‘or’ situation.

How environmental changes are affecting measurement

Robin then posed a question around how the panellists saw recent environmental changes impacting the way that performance and brand activity was being measured.

The use of AI techniques improves measurement accuracy from 20% to 98%

Chris was first up on this one and referenced an earlier session at the event where a speaker had explained a very common situation where marketers take the position that, if ROI is at a certain level, then the scrutiny on brand is less. So, where you say to the business ‘Look, my overall ROI will be at this level. And as long as it’s there, you let me do what I would like to do at the top of the funnel.’ Largely because top of funnel is often the activity that is hardest to measure.

One of the challenges that marketers face is trying get to access to the type of data that is needed to make accurate decisions about both performance and brand marketing – with 2/3rds of marketers in a recent survey indicating that data to support cross-channel decision-making is broken.

Chris explained that, at the heart of the issue, was the fact that much measurement is still based on 20 year-old technology – effectively a cookie and a pixel trying to measure everything that’s happening digitally. The problem is that our research data shows cookies do a particularly poor job of this.

Chris went on to explain that QueryClick took on the challenge of establishing why attribution didn’t work effectively for clients including Tesco and Kingfisher Group around 8 years ago.

As part of that process, we were trying to join digital data to offline and store footfall data on behalf of these large companies. The problem was that we found that cookies really only give you data that’s accurate 20% of the time – and that is not only 3rd party cookies but also first party cookies that you set on your website and are reported back via solutions like Google Analytics or Adobe. So, the poor quality of this data meant that it fed through into poor quality attribution.

The attribution solution that QueryClick came up was to use AI and Machine Learning techniques to replace the cookie completely. So, there’s no need for cross device identity identification and this means that you are also able to go from 20% accuracy to ~98%. Which significantly improves the quality of your attribution effectiveness. As our example below shows.

In this example, QueryClick was able to use its Corvidae platform and take existing Google 360 data and effectively rebuild it to repair the broken sessions caused by the inefficiencies in 3rd party cookies. And adjust the level of attributable spend from £4.1m to £13.6m in the process.

Chris then went on to explain that one of the benefits of this type of approach is that it enables you to measure further up the funnel. So, despite the fact that brand activity often has a longer payoff – he cited 20 years in the car industry – this new approach enables you to quantify its impact.

Interestingly, the data suggests that when you do this measurement that it was only really about 48 days from purchase where you saw improvement from brand spend.

So, what the AI is telling us there is that brand activity should have a different purpose than performance activity. But all activity can be measured in terms of how it can deliver performance outcomes – and for brand that is about how it changed mindset but also about how it influences conversion.

Which is the radical change in measurement terms that’s occurred in the last couple of years.

Solving your attribution issues is challenging

Manfredi, having worked in multi-touch attribution previously, is of the view that you will never solve your analytics problem. It will just get harder.

He explained that, every time you reach a certain level, you understand that there are more complex sophisticated questions that still await to be answered. He also added that it was true that the cookie was becoming less accurate – but compared to the pre-digital era, where the BAU measured 0.2% of the population it was 100X more accurate.

The key was to become more and more advanced in your measurement journey.

Brand and performance marketers need to partner on this

Rumyana explained that measurement has always been challenging and there has always been information that is missing due to the inability to track touchpoints across devices or now because of the planned depletion of cookies.

She is a big believer in data and data-driven attribution as a means to track marketing mix changes further up the funnel rather than solely focusing on last-click driven assessment of changes, for example, to remarketing activity.

We are going through a phase where everything is volatile. There’s so much uncertainty and businesses are having to pivot from optimising one objective to the next very quickly. Flexibility is key and accurate data is essential and there is a trend to investing in data solutions – using data scientists to build internal models which will become more crucial for performance marketing channels. As we lose the visibility of who is actually converting via measurable clicks due to the impending death of 3rd party cookies.

It is clear that, as advances in digital technology and structural changes to the advertising landscape – like the deprecation of cookies – are taking hold view on how best to measure and assess performance and brand marketing are changing. What is important is to have a plan to help navigate the changes smoothly.

If you would like to explore the topic in more detail then, why not download a copy of our eBook – Is Cookie-free Attribution a Myth? – below.

Is Cookie-Free Attribution a Myth?

Identify wasted spend with our ROI calculator

Own your marketing data & simplify your tech stack.

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