As marketers, we all love the measurable results that digital and performance marketing has afforded us. We can be highly targeted, show measurable ROI, and deliver much needed short-term results. This is why performance marketing appears to be dominating.
But unfortunately, with limited resources and eroding margins, performance marketing often becomes an “either/or” decision at the expense of brand-building. What if I told you this singular focus on performance marketing is preventing you from reaching your long-term goals?
What if I told you too much emphasis on performance marketing is keeping your targeted campaigns from being as effective as they could be? What if I told you your results-focused acquisition campaigns may be inadvertently limiting — or even worse, damaging — your brand?
There’s a time and place for making decisions and prioritizing. But when it comes to brand-building and performance marketing, it’s not an either/or. You need both. Here’s why.
Not all Metrics Are Created Equal
There’s a common misperception that brand-building doesn’t deliver hard, meaningful metrics. And of course, there’s an investment in time before you can see desired results. This is so often the reason branding has been given the back seat to performance marketing within many organizations. But this misperception is dangerous to your revenue, growth and value. When you invest in your brand and long-term goals, you will see short-term lifts. You just have to know what success metrics to look for.
Les Binet and Peter Field demonstrate this in their research, “The Long and the Short of It.” They highlight that the accumulation of all your individual sales activation campaigns is not equal to the same long-term growth and equity of investing in your brand. Instead, the campaigns are disparate sales lifts with minimal impact on your long-term sales growth — flashes in the pan, if you will. Without a balance of both brand and activation, you’re not actually moving the needle on long-term, sustainable sales growth.
You Have to Connect to a Broad Base Before They’re Ready To Buy
Purchase cycles can be long and complex. And most of the time, your customers are not actively buying. The 95/5 rule in marketing reminds us that 95% of your customers are not actively in the market, in purchase mode. But should that mean we ignore them until they’re ready? Absolutely not! According to the Harvard Business Review, “90% of buyers choose a brand they already have in mind at the beginning of the sales process.” That’s a huge number.
To win, you have to get into the consideration set early on. It requires casting a wide net with a broad audience and building trust and a rapport with your customers over time so when they are ready, you’ve made the decision much easier for them.
Brand + Activation Are Greater than the Sum of Their Parts
While sales activations are great at driving short-term profits, brand campaigns are better at building market and mindshare both short-term and long-term. And coupling both brand and sales activation strategies gives you a multiplier effect that boosts both your long-term and short-term performance. This balance between brand and activation is how you grow your base and fill your pipeline so that you can run more successful targeted campaigns. I like to think of this balance as running on all cylinders.
Creating a Balanced Approach to Budgeting
We’ve talked about the balancing act between performance marketing and brand building, but what does that mean when it comes to budgeting? Spoiler: Branding should play a bigger role than you think. Binet and Field found that brand building should account for approximately 60% of your marketing budget, while activation and lead generation should account for the other 40%. This mix delivers both the maximum efficiency and effectiveness in reaching short- and long-term goals. Marketing Week confirms this and found that B2B brands that report outperforming their competition over the last two years were twice as likely to allocate 60% or more of their budget to achieving long-term marketing goals.
Why Brand-Building Is Effective: Emotion Drives Decision Making
So, why is brand-building so powerful? In short, it taps into our most basic human needs — our emotions. As marketers, we may be giving people too much credit for being rational, discerning decision makers. People are deeply emotional, and our emotional subconscious actually drives most of our behavior (Gerald Zaltman, Harvard). In fact, according to consumer behavior expert Phillip Adcock:
- Emotional reactions are 3,000 times quicker than rational thought
- Emotional parts of the brain process sensory input 5 times faster than rational thought
- The persuasiveness ratio of emotion to reason is 24:1
What does that mean for our marketing efforts? Our emotional subconscious is in fact driving most of our audience’s purchase decisions. And in those instances, people look for the emotional markers that branding provides them. There’s still a time and a place for the rational proof points, but they are far less important than we typically assume.
Binet and Field use an iceberg analogy to illustrate the different approaches people use for decision making. Most decisions — driven by emotion — are unseen below the water, while the small tip of the iceberg is driven by rational proof points. If you’re only focused on the top, you’re missing most of your opportunities to connect and convert.
Creating and Leveraging Emotional Priming and Mental Availability
By nature, sales activation campaigns are focused on the functional benefits and features of a product or service. As marketers, we like to present the rational “reasons to believe” to seal the deal. But for that to be successful, customers need to be emotionally primed to even consider the brand. Brand building offers that emotional priming, and it builds mental availability and consideration for the brand, inviting customers to process and consider the features when they’re ready to buy. Binet and Field so perfectly capture the symbiotic relationship between branding and sales activation below.
This shows why it’s so important to consider how well your customers recognize and think of your brand when launching a sales activation campaign. If you’re launching a campaign for a new product or service absent of any brand building, you’re essentially starting from scratch each and every time. You’d have to create mental availability and emotional appeal in addition to creating action and urgency — all within the same campaign. That’s a heavy lift.
Managing Your Brand Narrative and Equity
Your brand story, presence and reputation are critical in building trust, especially now. Amid inflation and rising costs, consumers are feeling that many brands are putting profits first, over their loyalty and trust. How can you overcome this challenge? Clearly articulate your unique brand and narrative and lead with empathy. This lets audiences know what to expect from your company at a personal and professional level — helping you build a positive reputation with them. And your reputation serves as your customers’ reference for product/service support, quality and value. It’s important to ask yourself, do we have a clear, consistent brand narrative?
When we focus on product or service campaigns solely, it’s easy for the brand narrative to suddenly get lost. It’s a good exercise to lay everything out once a quarter and audit your campaigns to see what they say about your brand. One campaign might tout innovation, the other tried and true technology, and another affordability. And suddenly, it’s unclear what your brand stands for and why to choose your brand. Even worse, perhaps you’ve inadvertently damaged your brand equity through performance marketing that’s misaligned with your brand. It’s critical to keep an eye on both short-term results and your long-term equity.
Implementing a Holistic Approach to Brand Building and Performance: Key Takeaways
Even in a challenging business environment, prioritizing both brand and sales activation will help you see the greatest success. Together, brand and performance marketing are greater than the sum of their parts and will give you a multiplier effect. As you look at your strategic priorities and marketing plans, remember these five things:
- Long-term growth and equity should not come at the expense of short-term wins. Balance is the key.
- Investing in brand and building strong brand recognition and memorability will help boost the success of your performance marketing and sales activation efforts.
- Emotions are the key driver of people’s behavior and decision-making. Make sure you understand your customer and are tapping into their deeper emotional needs.
- Brand building creates emotional priming and mental availability. It allows you to tap into the emotions of customers long before they’re ready to buy, helping to make their decision much easier when they are ready to buy.
- Having a clear and consistent brand narrative is critical to building your long-term equity and connection with consumers and will ultimately help deliver results when they’re ready to buy.
Are You Ready to Create Campaigns for Short- and Long-Term Success?
Core Health can help you find the balance you need to meet your goals. We’ll begin by looking at your brand narrative and auditing your marketing materials and messaging to determine what your marketing materials are communicating about your brand. Then together, we’ll explore additional opportunities to make your healthcare marketing initiatives as effective and impactful as they can possibly be. Let’s talk.
Les Binet and Peter Field: The Long and Short of It (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), 2013)