How Brand and Performance Marketing Can Thrive Together

Brand-based and performance-based marketing often compete for budget, but they can work together with the right approach. Here’s how.

Written by Jordan Buning
Published on Jun. 24, 2024
How Brand and Performance Marketing Can Thrive Together
Image: Shutterstock / Built In
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There is a nugget of truth underlying the debate around whether to invest in brand-based or performance-based marketing. In every organization, human and financial resources are scarce. Time and money are finite quantities. There’s competition for all of a marketing department’s resources, and both buckets can’t get their fill.

6 Shared Strategies for Brand and Performance Marketing

  1. Social media marketing
  2. Search engine marketing
  3. Affiliate marketing
  4. Native advertising
  5. Sponsored content
  6. Search engine optimization

In reality, the buckets aren’t totally separate. Brand and performance can thrive in conjunction; investment in one area can benefit the other if executed correctly. 

Performance marketing might hold the most appeal to a numbers-obsessed, results-driven executive. Most companies leverage such efforts to optimize ROI and produce highly measurable results, satiating the human desire for control and measurement. And yet, brand is what sparks a feeling, creates an emotion and produces the potential for long-term actions. Each element is capable of driving growth on its own, but when unified they complement each other and unlock tremendous potential for growth.


Brand Marketing vs. Performance Marketing

The goal in brand engagement is to create an emotional experience that’s “sticky” or lasting. Branding creates a shortcut in peoples’ minds that ties back to what a company can do for them. A potential customer is more likely to activate if the brand is familiar and clear.

All organizations need brand building because their landscape is ever-changing, with competition and peers actively positioning and repositioning their own brands. If you’re not adapting your story to your audience, another organization gladly will. It’s challenging to evolve your position from long-held market perceptions by infusing your present reality or future trajectory into the conversation without it.

Brand is critical in creating or enhancing customer awareness, shaping attitudes, fostering affinity and driving greater purchase intent. These are also the elements that build a strong foundation for a healthy organization and produce longer-term growth. The impact of an effective brand presence can significantly influence purchase decisions as well as overall brand equity. As a result, marketers strive to create it by focusing on key brand attributes and consistently deliver excellence in those areas to enhance overall brand perception.

Performance marketing refers to a form of digital marketing in which specific actions have been taken — a click, sale or a lead. Instead of paying for an advertisement in the traditional way, these advertisers pay based on how well their ad performs, such as by measuring clicks, impressions, shares or sales.

Revenue can be linked directly to any online ad spend, proving the success of the campaign and the value of your marketing team. In this way, performance marketing creates an efficient, fast approach to business growth that can produce immediate results and allows for sudden shifts. Performance marketing provides useful indications of what's working and what's not, so that you can shift priorities according to the data. 

Performance activities focus on activation opportunities that lead to sales, create visits, schedule appointments, etc. Paid activity is used to generate leads, activations or conversions via clicks, cookies, even door swings (site/store visits). To realize these outcomes, organizations invest in tactics like SEO/SEM, CRM campaigns, content syndication, programmatics, social, social influencers as well as account-based marketing (ABM) partnerships. Hyper-targeted campaigns can maximize ROI and produce results that sales and marketing leaders are expecting.

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How to Balance Brand and Performance Marketing Initiatives

In a 2023 interview with Marketing Week, author and marketing expert Les Binet offered a practical example of how both can work in conjunction to support simultaneous increases in prices and volume: “Crucially, brand building not only generates volume but it also supports price, by reducing price elasticity. Long-term brand building is the key to firmer pricing,” Binet said.

A content marketing campaign that focuses exclusively on social media announcements around new products will generate short-term interest, but die off as the novelty of the products fade. However, an SEO-focused content campaign that allows your website to build authority around a few keywords essential to your long-term goals, with embedded links in the new product announcements on social media that redirect traffic to your site, requires more short-term work upfront but, when executed well, achieves a greater long-term payoff.

In each of these examples, strong leadership is needed. Someone will need to take the initiative to encourage cross-collaboration among multiple teams where needed. CMOs and CEOs who are invested in an organization for the long term, who can both oversee and help execute a flexible long-term strategy, can keep teams focused on the organization’s broader goals.

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Brand and Performance Marketing Tools 

Performance marketing and brand building impact current revenue and long-term value. Brand building and conversion marketing also leverage many of the same formats, albeit with different goals:

1. Social Media Marketing 

Use social media networks (i.e., digital content showcased on Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram) to gain traffic and brand awareness. Social media is popular for B2B and B2C advertising and offers some of the best targeting and tracking capabilities.

2. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) 

This includes both organic and inorganic means of ranking on the search results. Performance marketing focuses on paid search using pay-per-click (PPC) marketing, which helps place your ad to increase visibility.

3. Affiliate Marketing 

This works in a very simple way: merchants pay commission to the affiliate for every referral or transaction, a popular method for businesses because revenue is gained before the money is spent.

4. Native Advertising 

This is a form of paid media that, unlike display ads or banner ads, don't truly look like ads. Native ads tend to follow the natural form and function of the site they're placed on, such as news or social sites. 

5. Sponsored Content 

A form of native advertising and content marketing, sponsored content involves including a dedicated post or video on a website that publishes similar content. 

6. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) 

The opposite of paid search marketing, organic search uses unpaid methods such as search engine optimization (SEO) and relies on the search engine's algorithm to rank in the top.

Although the two are often presented in conflict, brand- and performance-focused initiatives should go hand-in-hand in any marketing budget.

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