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Brand or performance?

Brand or performance?

Why it doesn’t need to be a tradeoff

The advertising industry loves a good “brand v performance” debate.

It’s long been a game of pitting storytelling against data.

Of “warm fuzzies” against the cold reality of cost per acquisition.

For small- to medium-sized businesses, the problem of brand marketing has been that it’s expensive. Who’s got money to throw at a feel-good campaign that isn’t guaranteed to bring sales?

It’s a fair point, but with the right approach you can have it all, no tradeoff required. Here’s how …

Brand and performance marketing: how SMEs can have it all

First, a couple of definitions:

Brand could be likened to ‘who your business is’ but it’s also, and most importantly, ‘how your business makes people feel.’ 

Performance is the ‘push’ marketing where you’re making a direct offer to get a direct response. Often people think of performance marketing as being aggressive, brash, ugly, pushy. They think there’s an over-emphasis on the metrics at the expense of the emotional connection between the brand and its audience. They think storytelling and creativity is ground underfoot in the rush for returns on ad spend.

It’s easy to find examples from the big brands where the campaigns successfully combine effectiveness with storytelling. For instance, AirBnB created the excellent “Live There” campaign, showcasing stories of hosts and guests that created a 10% increase in long-term stays. Coca Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign worked so well that in Australia, consumption among teenagers grew 7%, with two out of five people in the country buying a Share a Coke pack. 

share a coke campaign worked well in australia

And it worked not just because it hit the mark with Australia’s egalitarian culture. “Another surprise was that people were buying Cokes to show people they cared for that they missed them… from soldiers overseas in Afghanistan, to loved ones in hospital, to long-lost friends. We hadn’t really anticipated the packs being used in this emotionally powerful way. It was an example of how the public took the idea and shaped it themselves,” said Lucie Austin, who was marketing director for Coca-Cola South Pacific at the time.

“Sure,” I hear you thinking. “These brands have the budget, which is exactly the problem for the little guys.”

Think about how you can bring story into every aspect of your performance marketing. Because as you do, you’ll be building your brand at the same time.

For instance, Grand Prix Yachting sells places on the Volvo 60 ‘Merit’ for events such as Hamilton Island Race Week. The biggest problems the brand faces is that people think yacht racing is inaccessible due to price, or that one needs to be a highly-skilled sailor to get a chance to race on a high-performance yacht.

To address this, we brought brand-building right into the copy for the performance marketing. The text made it clear at the outset: “You don’t have to be a rockstar” because in the sailing world, there’s often a derogatory reference made to sailors who think they’re so hot they can just step onboard and race, without having to muck in and help with the actual work of running a vessel.

Brand example Grand Prix Yacthing

The campaign resonated with people who had always wanted to have such an adventure, bringing a profitable 10.9 return on the ad spend while also building the brand message of accessible yacht racing.

Another example is The Asylum Seekers Centre who are known for their mission: “Practical support with a warm welcome”. Their campaigns revolve around the stories of those who are seeking asylum, and it’s those stories that stay in supporter’s hearts long after each email is sent. Every touchpoint reinforces the effect of that warm welcome, and how it impacts not only those seeking asylum and the support team, but our whole nation.

Brand example Asylum Seekers Centre

For our own agency campaigns, it’s the message of peace of mind that fuels our interactions with the marketplace, and that brings such a sense of relief to our clients.

Performance marketing doesn’t have to sacrifice storytelling + brand building

When “brand” is defined as the way a customer feels when they think of your product or service, it’s both a powerful aspirational acquisition strategy and a strong method for retention.

It’s less complicated than you might think to bring this into your own marketing. To help, we’ve created a quick checklist.

Use these 4 steps to blend brand and performance into your next campaign:

  1. Define the purpose of the campaign (as in, for the greater good), and how it ties into your business.
  1. Think about how you want your audience to feel. 
  1. Articulate the message that helps them feel that way. It can take various forms: ad copy, a tagline that’s repeated at every touchpoint, visual and auditory cues, even smell and texture if you have a physical activation in your campaign.
  1. Then, layer it with the principle of “clear is kind”. People like to know what their next step is supposed to be. It makes it easy for them to participate.

Get performance marketing for your business … with brand marketing woven throughout

Want help setting up your unbreakable marketing system that includes a healthy mix of brand + performance marketing?

It comes built-in to our Economy and Retail Therapy packages, because we recognise that the clear definition of a strong brand voice gives an extra boost to any performance campaign. Just like Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign, the brand aspect can be tailored to a particular season in your business’s lifecycle, or a consistent set of values that forms the basis of every single marketing push.

The key is tapping into the emotions of your customers, so that the value is a natural fit.