Performance Branding - The Key to Maximising Success

10 May, 2023


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Vervaunt is a London-based ecommerce consultancy and paid media agency, working alongside ambitious ecommerce brands and retailers to improve key areas of their business and drive growth.

Businesses will be familiar with brand marketing and performance marketing, and will most likely see these as completely separate entities managed by different teams in their organisation. But what’s ‘performance branding’? How has branding activity evolved and why should brands now really consider performance branding to further drive success?

What is ‘performance branding’?

Put simply, performance branding is brand marketing plus performance marketing. Although businesses will be familiar with brand marketing and performance marketing, these disciplines have typically sat with completely separate teams and their priorities are considerably different.

Brand marketing has traditionally been about storytelling, building brand awareness and forming emotional connections with audiences for long-term brand recall and growth over time. Brand marketers are focused on the brand’s mission, values, personality, voice and design, to connect with customers and strengthen loyalty.

Performance marketing on the other hand has tended to focus more on immediate goals by leveraging concrete data to drive conversions quickly in the short-term. It’s usually more concerned with bottom-of-funnel metrics and focus on shoppers in the consideration and ready-to-purchase phases. Performance-based campaigns are usually related to ecommerce projects, and paid search and social activations.

Performance branding takes both brand marketing and performance marketing and merges them so that one brings out the best in the other and vice versa. The result is that the creativity of the branding side becomes more rooted in data and measurable KPIs and the performance marketing side is charged by brand narratives and brand awareness. Brand marketing becomes more data-focused and performance marketing becomes more values-oriented.

This allows businesses to get the best of both worlds through a more cohesive blended strategy that opens up the potential for growth opportunities, greater long-term brand recall, enhanced LTV and increased conversions and revenue in both the short and long term.

Why is it important to adopt this strategy now?

Performance branding emerged as a strategy in the last few years and is now gaining prominence as a result of several key factors:

The growth of digital and marketing analytics

Historically, brand marketing was viewed as being harder to track and was therefore less tied to concrete data and analytics. However, the growth of technology and digital marketing has unlocked measurement capabilities related to brand strength.

Advanced technology allows businesses to use data to better understand the impact of their branding: this data can be traffic to the website, brand search demand through keyword tracking, growth and engagement metrics across social media platforms, or information from digital surveys. These insights mean that brand marketing can also be data-driven, moving from brand marketing into performance branding.

A McKinsey report explained that “With a clearer understanding of consumer preferences and behaviour at the early stages of their buying journey, companies report marketing efficiency gains of up to 30% and incremental top-line growth of up to 10% without increasing the marketing budget.” Beyond this, recent restrictions around the use of third-party tracking makes this first-party data even more valuable and presents the need for brand marketing to become more data-driven to benefit the business as a whole.

Consumers are craving authenticity

The marketing landscape has changed significantly over time and the greater number of brand touchpoints has increased the likelihood of inconsistency of messaging across channels. Consumers are choosing brands that feel authentic, and the rise in popularity of user-generated-content (UGC) is testament to this.

Consumers are buying into the values and benefits offered by brands and marketers therefore need to be focusing their messaging on how their products bring value to a consumer. In order to deliver true authenticity, branding and performance marketing disciplines need to work together to create cohesion in messaging and communicate the right values to consumers. This authenticity feeds into a stronger relationship being built with audiences, which in turn activates growth loops and means that people who believe in the brand’s story and values keep returning - increasing a LTV.

Beyond this, continuous growth comes from these consumers recommending the brand to others and feeding further into the growth loop. The importance of authenticity and cohesion between branding and performance marketing messaging can therefore not be ignored.

Shoppers aren’t as quick to buy as they once were

Consumers are scrutinising brands before they buy, with consumer reviews, according to Bazaar Voice’s 2022 Shopper Experience Index, sitting at number three in the list of factors influencing buying decisions.

Consumers in the discovery phase are picky and brands need to stand out in an oversaturated market. This means that optimising marketing efforts in the discovery phase is crucial for influencing future buyers and resultantly unlocking true revenue potential and long-term growth. Harnessing a data-driven approach allows for this optimisation and avoids a waste of creative resources and branding strategy being reliant solely on instinct.

Branding decisions backed up by concrete data increase the chances of communicating with customers in the right way, so that when they are in-market, your brand is the one they consider choosing.

Process for implementing

When launching a performance branding strategy, we would recommend following the below steps:

#1 - Outline your core brand values

What promise do you want to make to potential customers and what is the audience need that you are delivering on? Once this has been established, make sure to share it with all marketing teams including agency partners. Performance marketing teams need to have an understanding of your brand’s core values and brand narrative in order to align communications with these in campaign activations.

#2 - Create the design system

Outline a design strategy - incorporating elements such as colour schemes, visuals, and typography. This should be led by audience insights and competitive analysis in order to build a design system that is most likely to resonate with your desired audience. Once established, share this design strategy with all marketing teams including agency partners to ensure cohesion across the funnel.

#3 - Set goals

Make sure these follow the SMART framework: they should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. You should also think about which metrics you want to focus on tracking, and work with the various marketing teams on this to make sure everyone is aligned.

#4 - Choose tools for measurement

Identify tools to help you to measure performance. These could be brand uplift surveys (via your website, email, phone, social media, or in person); website analytics (like Google Analytics to measure web traffic and interactions); SEO and keyword research tools (like Ahrefs and Google Trends to track brand search volume); social media analytic tools built into the platforms; or social media tools for monitoring brand mentions across social.

We also recommend brand lift and search lift studies. Brand lift studies are an excellent way to measure the uplift of brand awareness from upper funnel activity, whilst search lift measures the impact on branded search intent.

#5 - Launch experiments

This part is key. Set up micro and macro experimentations in order to draw learnings about your brand strategy, and use these to further refine it and boost performance in the long-term. Macro experiments focus on iterations in messaging, channels, and customer types, whereas micro experiments focus on changes to the design elements and copy.

#6 - Repeat

Take the data and learnings from phase five in order to create a system of continuous refinement for optimised branding and long-term growth.

Tips for success

In order to get the most out of a performance branding strategy,we would recommend the following:

Be agile

Remember, performance branding is all about testing and learning. Launch an experiment, analyse the data and then take action to create a system of rigorous testing to truly optimise your strategy.

Make data centralised and accessible

It’s crucial to create a single source of truth that everyone can trust. This will often exist in the form of a customer-data platform (CDP), which is built to pull data from internal sources, third parties, and external partners. The data then needs to be made available through dashboards that marketing teams and stakeholders can access easily.

Invest in performance branding content

As Bill Gates once said, content is king. Whether this is content on your website or social media assets, investing in content is crucial, and having a performance branding approach will drive performance growth.

Personalised content is the epitome of performance branding content, as it leverages audience data in order to tailor content to specific consumer needs and preferences. This could involve building tailored landing pages or targeted social media assets across the funnel, or using AI for product recommendation based on product page views for example.

Brand quizzes are another effective type of performance branding content. They allow you to be creative, informative and entertaining (branding) whilst gathering information about your customers and providing relevant product recommendations (data-driven performance).

Shoppable content is another great content opportunity, which allows businesses to showcase the brand’s voice and message whilst also unlocking the path to purchase. Visual UGC is a great way to execute this, as it presents consumers with a realistic view of the product in use and offers an endorsement from a real customer.

It’s crucial that a strong brand identity is built into all content. A Facebook study in 2021 showed that following campaign activations, 57% of the brands saw brand awareness uplifts not just for themselves but for their competitors as well. This was the result of a lack of branding, which created a halo effect and saw the entire product category lift. Make sure all content is built with the brand in mind.

Work with performance branding and digital marketing experts

At Vervaunt, our paid media and ecommerce teams work closely with clients to produce highly effective performance branding content, which harnesses the brand’s values, voice, and style whilst incorporating data-driven aspects (such as those mentioned above). This is all activated under a performance framework of rigorous testing. Working with a team of performance branding and digital marketing experts is a great way to get the most out of your performance branding strategy.

Final thoughts

Although brand marketing and performance marketing have historically operated under separate teams, it’s time to merge the two disciplines in order to drive the best performance possible. Businesses will benefit enormously from branding decisions becoming more rooted in data, and performance marketing approaches becoming more aligned with brand equity. Combining brand marketing and performance marketing and evolving these into a performance branding strategy is what will enable businesses to hit the sweet spot.

If you have any questions about Vervaunt’s performance branding services and want to discuss with our team, feel free to get in touch.