Performance Branding: A Paradigm Shift in Marketing Strategies

Performance Branding: A Paradigm Shift in Marketing Strategies

The worlds of brand and performance marketing, once considered completely separate, are now merging.  Traditionally, brand marketing defines a company’s values, reputation, quality, and trustworthiness. Everything is aimed at building...

The worlds of brand and performance marketing, once considered completely separate, are now merging. 

Traditionally, brand marketing defines a company’s values, reputation, quality, and trustworthiness. Everything is aimed at building credibility with customers, which leads to emotional responses, positive perception and customer loyalty. Performance marketing, on the other hand, is focused on concrete data measurements that most effectively lead to purchases at efficient cost. One is people-focused and value-oriented, while the other is data-focused and profit-oriented. And while both of these marketing approaches have obvious strengths, they both also fall short in different ways by ignoring major cornerstones of big-picture business strategy because it is not an aspect of their department’s focus.

No doubt, there is value in branding and performance individually. However, as overall acquisition costs continue to increase for businesses, the individual goals for branding and performance individually impede and tend to rely on each other due to siloed focuses. As a result, consistency has become key to driving conversion results and brand recall. 

Digital first ad world with unprecedented measurement capabilities has gradually pushed the two worlds of brand marketing and performance marketing to become more collaborative and codependent with time. An organization can’t focus or spend too much on branding because it will reflect on the ability to scale the business efficiently. Conversely, only trying to drive short-term conversions without fueling the funnel at the top will impact the ability to grow the business over time. 

As the gap between the two marketing approaches diminishes, a new approach has emerged that will define how brand and performance marketing will symbiotically drive growth for organizations. The new concept is known as performance branding.

What is performance branding? 

Performance branding is a cross team strategy that incorporates brand thinking where it can deliver the best return. The framework applies creative brand rules and fundamentals throughout a measurable performance funnel to maximize revenue potential and increase brand lifetime value (LTV). The simplest way to put it is that you are building brand equity in the back of your media dollar. 

Working on both performance and branding can create a smooth transition from initiation to deployment and reporting. This is done by creating content and creative with KPIs and audience data in mind, in order to get post-serving feedback from the performance team. The smart growth approach is to incorporate brand awareness and engagement along with direct acquisition or retention fueled by performance marketing.

As of 2017, digital has been the leading channel by spend. Brand marketers have been forced to look at their brand campaigns differently. Digital offers more data and, more importantly, the unprecedented ability to tie the brand campaigns back to MROI in ways that weren’t possible in the TV and radio worlds. In addition, the advancements in TV and offline ad tracking have pushed this trend even further. This leads to the need for brand consistency across platforms in a way that was not as necessary in the past as they all are more directly influential on each other.

On the performance marketing side, running only middle- or bottom-funnel campaigns is not an efficient way to run performance marketing. You need to constantly fill the top of your funnel with engaged audiences that are intrigued by your brand then leverage digital to move them along your buying journey. Without filling the top, you are limited in terms of reach and, subsequently, overall performance.

However, you may need more clarity into how previous marketing approaches are lacking and the ins-and-outs of Performance Branding. Let’s dive deeper into the following:

  1. Standard cross-channel marketing return on investment (MROI) approaches
  2. Understanding the value of Performance Branding
  3. Putting Performance Branding practices into action

Step 1: Standard Cross-Channel MROI Approaches 

The last several years have brought new marketing trends, cross-channel needs, and evidence of marketing budget results to light that contribute to this new methodology. Below we’ll focus on four good reasons to make this switch into performance branding methods.

To this end, standard cross-channel MROI approaches such as marketing-mix modeling (MMM) and multi-touch attribution modeling (MTA) used to track the effectiveness of spend are often limited by the following:

  1. Overly focused on late funnel stages
  2. Focused on the past (historical data)
  3. Existing data sets are not sufficiently granular
  4. Struggle to account for the impact of message and creation
  5. Gap between MROI measurement and marketing execution
  6. Do not support real-time optimization

Step 2: Understanding the Value of Performance Branding

Why is right now the best time for performance branding? The answer can be traced back to the rise of digital marketing. 

Digital marketing has sped up the expectations and results of marketing overall. Outcomes have become more measurable, spend has become convenient and fast, and the potential for conversions is now all over the place. This shift to more data-driven and digital-heavy approaches in the industry has created a huge opportunity to get the attention of consumers across channels using tried-and-true methods. It has also encouraged experimentation in the process to identify and seize shifting opportunities. Along this process, it has become important to maintain consistency in building brand and performance, which can be achieved when they both collaboratively work to achieve common goals instead of unintentionally canceling each other out due to a lack of communication. 

  • There is no longer a need to choose one discipline over the other.

By mixing brand and performance activities, marketers make a stronger impact and improve measurability. They use brand marketing to establish their personality and point of view over time, then add performance marketing to take their offer directly to buyers, all backed by hard data. Brands now pay equal attention to how they tell their story and the ways they target and measure their audience response. It’s no longer a choice between brand or performance marketing — it’s brand + performance marketing, working in harmony.

  • Increased privacy regulations and the move to a privacy friendly ad world by platforms will impact the amount of data available 

GDPR was a good example of this. Now, Apple’s iOS 14 update is expected to limit data available from app developers as the old opt-out approach is now switching to an opt-in approach. This attention to consumer data acquisition will most likely lead consumers to avoid those tracking capabilities and diminish the information available to marketers. The need for thorough and multi-channel data compilations for individual consumers will be glaringly obvious as you will need to capture user information whenever possible. That very need will reflect the importance of performance branding to solve for the limitations on data and consumer behaviors, as separate teams targeting incomplete user profiles individually will only complicate the issue further.

  • Broader marketing trends have been changing for several years. 

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, two trends were converging in the broader marketing landscape. The first was a major shift to streaming and digital platforms that has made brands more accessible to consumers on a large scale. The second trend, originating in the digital marketing space, was data-driven decision-making at a scale where consumers are no longer basing their actions on intuition or observation, but informed hard data-backed choices. This has been evidenced by the real-time expectations consumers are having for companies. Instead of consumers seeing an ad and acting immediately on the desire to buy the product, they are digging into the company. Newsletter signups, monitoring reviews, customer service outreach… consumers are not as quick to act on impulse as before, which is clear just by evaluating user re-visits to sites. These trends, added to the new limitations on data and consumer behaviors, reflect the shift happening in marketing that is solved by blending performance and brand methods.

Step 3: Putting Performance Branding practices in action

Recognizing the need for a change in marketing strategies does not mean there is a simple way to approach that shift. This is just the beginning of the turn, so there is no doubt that the next several years will reflect both the valuable and faulty strategies for doing so. However, there are important focuses that can help guide any brand into this new approach, all based on those who have already taken advantage of this powerful strategy and the core values of brand and performance today.

If we have learned anything from this last year, let it be the strength and value of adaptability. We have the power to respond to the changes happening around us, even if we don’t have the power to prevent them. And yes, that applies to marketing just as much as it does to our day-to-day.

Marketers are extremely valuable when they are able to adapt to changing attitudes and behaviors. The major changes happening in the realm of marketing are proving just that, so make sure that you are intentionally seeking out the most informed approach to the new normal. Trends are not going to slow down or fit themselves into your current strategies, so do not pretend that they will. Take advantage of this powerful approach to the digital take-over of marketing and start implementing performance branding into your growth strategies today.

Download the full PDF here!




Catherine Napoli
Catherine has experience working with a wide variety of clients in paid media and influencer marketing. She has developed custom advertising and marketing strategies, building and restoring brands, and launching corporate campaigns that led to high conversion success rates. Some of her past clients are Pfizer, AIPAC, GE Appliances, Proximo Spirits, and Mondelez. A native New Yorker and a Florida transplant, Catherine earned her Bachelor's degree from the University of Miami in Florida, with a double major in Political Science, Pre-Law, and Public Relations. She speaks English and Mandarin fluently and is versed in conversational Spanish.


1 Comment

I have been thinking about this concept but haven’t seen anything that put it together the way you guys did. Performance marketing without brand is mind is like burning cash for short term gains. Great read.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Check our other articles