Branding and branded creative is everywhere. From the tops of our hats, the bottoms of our water bottles, and more likely than not, on the reverse side of the screen that we’re all reading this on (our’s has a fruit on it), logos, labels, and brands are all around us and they’re vying for attention.
Marketing today is more competitive than ever before and thus, branding; more specifically, performance branding and performance creative, has become a significant and essential tool for achieving growth and success for businesses.
What is Performance Creative?
Performance branding is the true hybridization of two schools of thought. Performance branding leverages a data-first lens and layers it atop traditional brand thinking.
Unlike traditional branding, which focuses on building brand awareness and perception, performance branding uses data-driven metrics to measure the impact of branding efforts on key business metrics such as sales, and customer acquisition. Performance creative is the offspring of that. The creative produced as a result balances both long-term brand building and immediate marketing goals by applying metrics like ad recall and engagement rates to drive creativity that produces conversations and maximize revenue potential.
Why is Performance Branding relevant to marketing today?
It’s widely known that first impressions are everything, which could not be more true of today’s digital landscape. Research shows that average attention spans have dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to just 8 seconds in 2022 so whether it’s scrolling or swiping, brands have a narrow window to hit when aiming to capitalize on audience attention.
That’s where data comes in. By using performance, analytics, and past learnings, businesses are able to be more strategic and methodical when producing creatives to need to hit ever-growing narrow targets. Performance creative allows brands to evaluate and make informed decisions, limiting or outright mitigating the guesswork involved with the effectiveness of creatives and brand campaigns. Revolutionizing brand creative as something now quantifiable. Creative is thereby, not only able to hit branding and marketing goals with precision but able to hit them repeatedly.
Performance Creative: As Seen Through The Funnel
A great way to understand and employ brand creative in a performance capacity is through connecting stages of the funnel with that of audience intent.
Prospecting & Cold Audiences
Audiences here are in the discovery phase of a given brand, They’re window-shopping however, their intentions are low in terms of them purchasing.
Creatives produced for this stage should prioritize a wow-factor. Brands should pull out all the visual stops here. Vibrant eye-catching use of brand colors, along with clear and visible logos paired with succinct headlines (and even quip!)
Creative should aim to generate brand awareness. Content that is authentic in storytelling, brand or product education, and/or appeals to communities within or adjacent to the brand’s desired audiences work best here.
- (E.g. Telling the brand’s origin story, why the brand’s product or version of a product is needed, and/or why specific group(s) are important and meaningful to the brand.)
Content-wise, video that incorporates or features people and/or dynamic motion graphics has proven to be the most effective here as of late. Video is able to grab our attention as it possesses the richest visual engagement, easily breaking our subconscious flow and monotony of scrolling. (After all, evolution dictates that our eyes are programmed and attracted to motion thanks to the survival needs we picked up in our primordial days!)
Consideration & Warm Audiences
Here, audiences know and recognize their brands of interest. They’re jotting out their pros and cons lists with their purchase intent contingent upon which brand makes the most sense for them.
At this stage, the creative here should rely on more than just visual sauce as brands should lean into substance. Headlines here are in lock-step with sub-lines as the priority shifts to communicating feature statements. Compositionally, vibrancy takes a backseat to clarity as optimizing enough clear space for copy is key. Although the visual pop and clear space are not mutually exclusive, airing on a safer design side is recommended as overall readability is essential.
Creative should double-down on brand education and engagement. Content that speaks to the product’s unique experience and benefits is a key player here.
- (E.g. Showcasing before/after results side-by-side, contrasting against the top competitor, and/or presenting a well-known problem while positioning the brand’s product as the best solution.)
Content-wise, all creative formats are effective. Static and/or traditional gifs have the ability to highlight stark product comparisons and benefits with a sense of confidence as they present as forthright and without fluff. When it comes to video, UCG is both king and queen. The power of UCG here goes beyond a person speaking directly to the product benefits. UCG enables other audience members at this stage of the funnel to visualize and project themselves into the esoteric experience of what it would be like to have the brand’s product, as well as, see the members of a community they may align or aspire to be with. Thus, tying them closer to conversion. (When things are as good as they seem we have to see for ourselves!)
Activation & Hot Audiences
Audiences here are high in purchase intent and are prepared to spend. They just need the final push.
Nearing the finish line, the creative here needs to spur action. Brands should be directive in their approach to both visual components and in copy. Explicit Call-to-Actions (CTAs) are crucial and take center-stage. Buttons, arrows, and/or links here should be made obvious by design through compelling accent colors, size and scale of copy, and when possible, aided by motion. Copy-wise, the fewer the words here the better.
Creative needs to target conversion as its singular focus. Nothing more but certainly, nothing less. Content that appeals to a range of potential audience emotions stands out here.
- (E.g. Centering the purchase around the fear of missing out on a limited time promotion (FOMO), or through appeasing fears through authentic reviews, testimonials, and other forms of social proof.) (We are social creatures!)
Content-wise, video and motion make a return here primarily for its ability to stop the scroll. Only this time, moving elements should be subdued when compared to the prospecting stage. Creatives produced here need to leverage visual engagement without being overly superfluous, and drive that attention to its CTA.
Retention & Existing Audiences
Arriving at the bottom, audiences at this stage have already converted and are bought in. That said, performance creative matters more here to ensure they don’t spill out of the funnel.
Creative at the Retention stage should be informed by past creative learnings through the funnel from the content format through to the subject. Content should continue to explore ways to connect the brand closer to its community within the avenues of proven creative success. If the creative ain’t broke
don’t fix it just iterate!
- (E.g. If storytelling is winning audiences, explore new hooks to grab attention. If exceptional product presentations have delivered results, explore ways to add to and refine the existing art direction.)
As such, all creative formats are effective here content-wise. The most important nuance here is delivering creative that reinforces the community and expands upon the brand story and beloved values.
Things to remember!
Performance Creative Doesn’t Make The Creative Any Less Creative
Effective design has always been a delicate balance between form and function. Performance creative and audience intent only serve to inform the edges of the canvas. The goal posts albeit, awareness, engagement, and/or conversion at any stage of the funnel only informs the function not the form.
Performance Is Your Creative Director
The ability to ascribe quantifiable metrics and track the performance of creative content types and/or campaigns provides visibility into what can be scaled, taken to the next level, and where those opportunities lie within the creative itself. Conversely, with metrics that trend downward, insights on areas of creative pivots can be gleaned saving time and resources. Up or down, clear direction is always readily available.
It’s Ok To Deviate
The digital landscape is in constant flux therefore, best practices are only as relevant as they are today. Allow data to set the scene for new tests that push creative boundaries as performance creative is by nature experimental and iterative. After all, new trends are set by new breakthroughs.
Performance branding and creative have become powerful tools within growth marketing as it’s given businesses greater agency and control over impactful brand creative, having previously been rooted in more abstract and less quantifiable insights. Empowering creative with performance metrics, brands are able to take a more dissective and distilled approach throughout all stages of brand campaigns ensuring the work lands and resonates with the right folks at the right time. This targeted approach to brand creative also allows brands scale and drive conversion repeatedly as growth is supported by creative consistency and compounded learnings.
So if hat, water bottle, and device brands alike are all taking their best brand marketing shots in the dark, then operating under the guise of performance creative is doing so with the 20x, night vision scope with digital display. If we had to pick, we’d choose the latter.