“Define that creative goal into something you can measure”: how the worlds of brand and performance marketing are merging

Brand versus performance - diametrically opposed or capable of working together? PMW was on the ground at Paradigms 2023 in Lisbon to find out if the idea of ‘brandformance’ is more than just another industry buzzword.

Pictured: Richard Swain, Principal at DesignStudio Americas, Monica Dinsmore, Senior director, Esports brand at Electronic Arts (EA)

The world of marketing often gets split in two - brand and performance. Brand-building is something traditionally steeped in creativity for the purpose of fostering longevity, while performance is viewed as relating more to the here and now; generating leads, clicks and sales. 

These differences have made it difficult to merge the two worlds together and organisations often find themselves partitioning off one from the other within their workflows, but does this need to be the case? Can the gap between brand and performance be bridged? 

On the ground at Frontify’s Paradigms 2023 in Lisbon, a two-day summit all about brand building and celebrating creativity, PMW spoke to both brand and agency side creatives to gauge whether or not they think brand is beginning to intersect with performance, fostering in an age of ‘brandformance’. 

Although the two are somewhat opposed in terms of ethos - brand building takes time and indicators for success are often opaque, while performance strategies usually take shape in the short-term and produce tangible results - one element of performance has begun entrenching itself in creativity: measurement. 

Pictured: Burkhard Müller   Chief Digital Officer Mutabor   Morten Legarth Creative Director VCCP   Amélie Ebongué Global Brand Leader, Bestselling Author & web3 Educator

Pictured: Burkhard Müller, Chief Digital Officer, Mutabor. Morten Legarth, Creative Director, VCCP. Amélie Ebongué, Global Brand, Leader, Bestselling Author & web3 Educator

“Creativity and performance are ultimately based on achieving the same thing, mutual value”

Tom Beckman, Global Chief Creative Officer at PR firm Weber Shandwick, spoke at Paradigms about the impact economic turmoil has on consumers and in turn, brands. Beckman discussed how it has become a necessity for brands to have a purpose, citing it as “the most transformative thing to happen to marketing in the past 50 years”. 

Speaking to PMW, he said the need to identify an organisational purpose has helped align brand and performance marketing strategies. 

“Creativity and performance are ultimately based on achieving the same thing, mutual value - something that’s good for your audience and something that's good for you. But when you shift the balance too much, you won’t be sustainable overtime,” he said.

“One of the biggest takeaways from Cannes Lions this year was this exact topic, how it’s not about brand versus performance, it’s about brand-performance. 

“This was built on the data point that about 40% of CMOs across industries don’t think that their brand will exist in ten years. That is quite a crazy stat. If pretty much half of brands or companies won't exist in ten years - how do you future-proof your business? Well, a start is making sure all your marketing functions work together.”

Metrics and measurement

Balancing brand with performance has always been a tightrope for marketers, but creatives appear to have woken up to exactly how the two go together. In today’s climate, marketers are finding themselves under increasing pressure to justify their campaigns - meaning it’s not only performance strategies that need to be measured. 

Beckman added: “A common mistake among creatives is launching a programme or campaign and then trying to figure out how to measure success.

“Really, for both branding and performance, most of the work you have to do before launching a campaign is not only establishing a goal, but defining that goal into something you can measure. 

“It’s lazy to only identify what you want to accomplish without defining some metrics too. If you let them go by the wayside, you’re in trouble as a marketer and you’ll spend a lot of time, money and resources trying to come up with metrics after the fact to justify a campaign.”

The executive angle 

Rebecca Rosborough is the Chief Commercial Officer and former CMO of brand management software Frontify - host of Paradigms. 

With over a decade of experience as a marketer and now overseeing her company’s entire commercial team, Rosbourough said the question of whether or not brand collides with performance has been on peoples’ lips since the beginning of her career. 

“It’s a popular question; ‘can you create a brand while also delivering results on campaigns?’ and I think yes, for sure you can,” she told PMW. 

“It’s never been a matter of one or the other. You can’t build a sustainable business without a strong brand, but equally, you need to combine that with ‘here and now’ performance execution. They shouldn’t be kept separate from one another either, often branding and performance can gel with one another - Paradigms is a bit of an example of this. 

“This event isn’t about specifically delivering anything, but we have a great internal team who off the back of this will start thinking about using the brand-building momentum to deliver on performance metrics. 

“That’s also not to say we didn’t have a goal in mind for this event. I think where a lot of executives come unstuck is when they don’t really know what they’re trying to achieve out of something. An event like this, it isn’t the place to sell but we will still look at things like attendance next year and recurring attendees as tangible metrics for success. Some of it is intangible too, that’s inherently part of creativity, but we also concern ourselves with some softer metrics, like how many people are searching for the brand on Google following the event.

“Ultimately, it's about fusing the halo effect of the brand building with some of the more direct campaigns we might be doing and really understanding the specific purpose behind each.”

The risk of imbalance

Bang & Olufsen is a Danish high-end consumer electronics company that’s over a century old. It’s currently correcting an imbalance identified between its brand and performance marketing and recently launched its first brand awareness campaign. 

B&O’s Global Creative Director, Brand and Creative, Paul Collins, told PMW that per its most recent review, B&O’s brand awareness rate was by-and-large 1%, differing slightly among countries, but too low across the board. 

Reflecting on why, Collins said an overreliance on performance marketing and product communications over the past decade had caused the organisation’s branding to be somewhat neglected. 

He said: “I think with that approach you can maintain the audience you’ve got but you’re going to struggle to acquire a new audience because you’re not breaking out of that bubble. 

“We needed to harness the brand side and put that in the heart of things. Yes, we are still going to be doing performance and lower funnel product communications, but better aligning it with branding will allow us to do them in a way that feels much more authentic and aspirational and ideally, will help us reach a new audience.” 

And so Bang and Olufsen (B&O) launched its first brand awareness campaign and interestingly, utilised several performance elements within it. 

The campaign was a co-branding initiative with Spotify, and used peoples’ listening history to create an abstract avatar intended to visually represent spotify-users’ tastes. 

With some upfront activations using influencer, digital and out of home marketing to get the campaign off the ground, the real heart of the initiative came from user-generated content - users sharing their avatars with one another and encouraging friends to create their own, all while spreading the B&O brand. 

Collins said: “Syndication was key to this campaign. We needed a vehicle earning its media and something that was a lot more organic and was going to spread itself.”

Measurement and growth

Now, you might ask, what about the results? Well, to ensure the creative campaign achieved its goal to put B&O back on the map, the company has undertaken a brand equity study to tangibly identify just how much of an influence this campaign, among several others from the past 12 months have had on brand awareness. 

“We’ve got our Director of Data Analytics looking at the data internally to showcase that it’s working but we’ve already seen that the campaign has stimulated traffic to our website, been shared around and talked about a lot and is overall creating a massive amount of impressions that is even contributing to footfall in our brick and mortar stores,” Collins said. 

“Ahead of the campaign it was all about reach, with some specific metrics defined internally, but broadly speaking we just wanted to get our refreshed brand message out there. 

“For us going forward, it’s really about finding the perfect balance between brand and performance and I think we’ve struck that well in the past 12 months.”

Pictured: Roger Dudler, Founder and CEO, Frontify

Reflecting on the learnings and discussions from Paradigms, it’s clear that there is a growing intersection between brand and performance. Much of this is driven by measurement and the need to justify creative campaigns with results, but the importance of aligning the two strategies and striking the right balance can’t be understated too. 

For CMOs, nailing this alignment could be the difference betweening winning over the c-suite and fostering brand longevity, or falling by the wayside and becoming just another business that was.