Can performance marketing take over the job of brand marketing?

Author: Steffen Meyer, Mobile Marketing Content Specialist

Look at his question:

“Can marketers drive brand recognition and customer loyalty with just performance marketing?”

Can you tell why this question, posed on a podium at the Mobile Growth Summit in Berlin, can be considered provocative, or some might even say: heretic? 

If you do, skip the coming explanation and dive right into the answers. 

For all others, we introduce you to one of the big debates in marketing: performance vs. brand marketing, and why this question cuts deep.

Explaining the question

First, it’s important to dissect the three marketing terms used in the question:

  • Brand recognition means that people recognise your logo, your visual identity or your slogan. 

So for example, you will recognise a Coca Cola bottle just by its shape, or maybe you’ll even associate big red trucks with the brand due to its christmas commercials.

  • Customer loyalty describes how loyal people are to products because they like its features. Don’t confuse it with brand loyalty which reflects emotional attachment to your brand. 

In the Coca Cola example, customer loyalty means people rather buy a Coke than a Pepsi because of its taste. Brand loyalty means people prefer one over the other because they associate it with the feeling of christmas or family. 

Performance marketing came up with digital marketing’s possibility to track user actions on a very granular level, allowing to measure campaign results. This comes in handy especially for short-term sales. Traditional brand marketing with its billboard campaigns and print advertisements doesn’t have this tracking option and is more orientated at building brand recognition.

So speaking of Coca Cola again, all these billboard ads, tv commercials and print advertisements over the last years most probably made you develop certain associations with the brand – so that’s brand marketing. Performance marketing in this case could be a social media campaign to promote the Coca Cola App and measure exactly what the Cost per download is.

So the question basically was: 

“Can short-term focused digitally tracked campaigns let people recognise your brand and make them loyal to what you have to sell?”

Since loyalty and recognition usually fall into the department of brand marketing, this can be translated as well in 

“Can performance marketing take over the job of brand marketing?”

Add to this the fact that the debate between these two marketing camps becomes heated quickly, you can now understand the provocative nature of the question.

Answering the question

Customlytics CEO Christian Eckhardt who sat on the podium didn’t just answer with a Yes or No but painted a bigger picture: “We are heading towards a future where the lines of traditional brand marketing and performance marketing are getting more blurry.” 

On the one hand, he referred to lately implemented and upcoming privacy rules by Apple and Google that make tracking more difficult, transforming the attribution world as we know it, and thus transforming performance marketing.

On the other hand, he said that digital marketing provides the tools to track brand campaigns to a certain extent and thus transforming this field as well. “It was accepted that branding needed no measurement because it was for long-term brand recognition”, says Christian. “But I would say, always try to measure what’s possible, track as much as you can for all the campaigns.” 

This underlined the experience of another participant of the discussion, Anthea Muller, Director of Business Development and Marketing at the news app Upday. At her company, brand and performance marketing aren’t separated but are placed in one department. 

The marketers measure brand campaigns for conversions and decide on these numbers where to increase the budget. So this lets you wonder: Is a brand campaign that is tracked for conversions still a brand campaign?

Christian admitted that tracking isn’t the only distinction. “The one is more focused on brand values and the other one on hard facts”, he said. “But I very much see them as complimentary”.

Again, this statement emphasises practical experience shared on the podium: Bruna Borges de Oliveira, Head of Performance Digital Marketing at the e-commerce company Mercado Libre, said that combining performance and brand marketing campaigns is more powerful than doing only one or the other. So as a marketer you should always go for both options.

Questioning the question

All in all, not only the lines between the two camps become blurry but both performance and brand marketing campaigns enrich each other and best shouldn’t be used singularly or thought about without thinking about the other. 

So instead of answering the question if performance marketing takes over the job of brand marketing, Christian’s just dropped a question of his own:  “What’s the difference these days?”

Watch the whole debate on Instagram. The question mentioned here is posed at 21:10.

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