Brand lift refers to the measurable rise in consumer perception of a brand after a marketing campaign. While the immediate effect of brand lift is a boost in consumer interactions with the brand, as well as increased awareness and consideration, the ultimate goal is to generate greater sales and revenue.
What Is Brand Lift?
Brand lift refers to a positive shift in consumer perception of a brand and is typically measured via survey, using a variety of metrics.
Companies employ a range of metrics for measuring brand lift, quantifying areas like brand awareness, brand perception and intent to buy. Once calculated, these insights can be leveraged by companies looking to understand what’s working well, make adjustments and improve their marketing strategy moving forward.
Why Are Brand Lift Metrics Important?
Although brand lift might not lead to immediate jumps in company profits, it can expand a company’s customer base and brand recognition, which can contribute to greater revenue in the long run. Brand lift can then have a lasting impact on a company’s success.
Brand Lift Makes Brands More Memorable
Brand lift is key to longevity. When companies invest in brand lift, they can build brands that are memorable to consumers and target larger audiences later on with performance marketing.
“Your brand will always outlast anything else you do in your company,” Melanie Balke, a digital marketing consultant, said.
By comparison, performance marketing on its own can feel like a hamster wheel.
“You may just be finding easy prospects and converting them off your ads,” Lindsay Fordham, senior director of audience products at Lucid (now part of Cint), told Built In. But “it’s much much harder to build a new base of consumers.”
Crafting memorable brands is especially crucial in industries like the auto industry. People buy cars so rarely that “by the time a consumer is ready to purchase, priming is super important,” Fordham said. When a customer knows a car brand off the top of their head, that will “lead them down a more actionable funnel.”
Brand Lift Reveals Promising Marketing Channels
By closely following brand lift metrics, companies can also determine which channels are drawing in the most traffic and customer interactions. This ability is vital in a marketing ecosystem where trends are changing all the time.
TV ads continue to play a role in marketing, with companies like Roku enabling advertisers to retarget consumers with web ads for a product they previously saw in a TV ad. But consumers are spending more time on social media as well. In fact, 82 percent of consumers made a purchase on a social media platform in 2022. Companies may want to branch out if they’ve relied solely on traditional marketing channels to gain more conversions.
In addition to marketing channels, brands may want to track the types of content that resonate with consumers. A Wyzowl study found that 95 percent of marketers have said video content has increased their brand awareness and 91 percent have reported a rise in web traffic. Adding videos to digital content can then bolster the results of a marketing campaign.
At the same time, following consumers’ online habits is becoming more difficult as adtech companies enact stricter measures around data privacy. Marketers may have to get more creative with their campaigns, taking other factors like keyword research and search intent into account.
Staying on top of which channels consumers frequent and the most ethical ways to track consumer behavior enables businesses to center their marketing efforts around the current formats that matter most.
Brand Lift Helps Teams Organize Their Marketing Budgets
Since brand lift metrics can reveal the marketing channels that bring in the most traffic and the interests and demographics of customers, teams can focus spending on the most effective marketing strategies and tailor content to consumer preferences.
This is crucial since “realistically, most [smaller businesses] don’t have the money to spend just for people to be aware, without getting a return,” Balke said. The present-day bottom line is simply, as marketers love to say, “top of mind.”
So for small clients with shoestring budgets, Balke sometimes recommends her clients infuse brand storytelling into their direct-response ads.
“You can do a conversion-optimized ad [with] a brand focus,”she said.
Companies can also tell their brand stories through unpaid channels, she noted — on their websites, say, or via email. (Or, if they’re extremely lucky, via free placement in a TV show.)
Brand Lift Leads to More Sales From Marketing Campaigns
In the end, marketers are still concerned with addressing the question most important to their businesses: How does brand lift impact sales?
The answer to that question isn’t always clear-cut. Like Balke, Fordham doesn’t think that brand lift and sales are totally separate. One brand lift metric that links directly to sales, for instance, is intent to buy. This metric typically correlates with actual sales in predictable ways, she said, and it’s been especially useful for consumer-packaged goods brands that sell through grocery stores.
“[They] don’t have access to the point of sale,” Fordham explained, but “things like [intent to buy] can be used as proxies” for sales forecasting.
The connection between sales and other common brand lift metrics, though, like brand awareness or brand perception, feels murkier.
“Every brand is looking for a magic formula, like ‘If I drive awareness by 10 points, [it’s] going to lead to this much sales, or this many downloads,’” she said.
In the past, Lucid researched this connection while offering a brand lift measurement dashboard that delivered speedy measurement of brand lift and brand perceptions, letting users check in daily on shifts in their brands’ status.
“It’s really important to have a real-time pulse on how people are perceiving your brand,” Fordham said. “People are getting information about your brand from a lot of different sources.”
How Is Brand Lift Measured?
Companies looking to measure brand lift often conduct brand lift studies. A brand lift study measures how effective a marketing campaign is in improving a business’ image in the eyes of consumers. This approach involves tracking a number of different brand lift metrics, with some of the most common ones being:
- Brand awareness: How familiar consumers are with a brand and its products.
- Ad recall: How well consumers remember a particular advertisement.
- Intent to buy: How likely consumers are to purchase a product from a brand.
- Brand consideration: How likely consumers will consider a specific brand when purchasing a product.
- Brand favorability: The level to which consumers view a brand in a positive light.
- Web traffic: The number of consumers who visit a website.
- Conversions: The number of customers who make a purchase.
- Keyword searches: The most popular terms searched for on search engines like Google, which companies check to see if their sites appear on the first page of search results.
Marketing teams can choose which brand lift metrics to measure, depending on the needs of their study. They may employ traditional surveys or tap third-party market research firms for help doing so.
Companies measure brand lift through consumer research surveys, where they select a sample of consumers and ask them a series of brand-related questions.
If a company wants to understand the purchasing habits of consumers, it may decide to put together a consumer panel consisting of families across a wide range of demographics. On the other hand, a company could also conduct a brand perception or sentiment analysis survey, asking consumers questions about what thoughts, feelings and mental associations they have for a certain brand.
The questions may vary based on the type of survey chosen, but brand lift-related surveys can include these common questions:
- How familiar are you with this brand?
- What product(s) does this brand sell?
- What comes to mind when you think of this brand?
- What do you feel when you think of this brand?
- What three words would you use to describe this brand?
- How was your last experience with this brand?
- How helpful have you found this brand’s product(s) to be?
- How often do you use this brand’s product(s) on average?
- On a scale of 1-10, how likely would you be to make a purchase from this brand again?
- On a scale of 1-10, how likely would you recommend this brand to friends and family?
Third-Party Market Research Firms
If companies don’t have the resources or time to conduct their own brand lift studies, they may rely on third-party market research firms to handle the task. These firms often work with brokers to survey two large samples of people.
One consumer group sees a given ad or piece of brand-relevant content; the other doesn’t. These thousands of people then respond to a 15- to 20-question survey about the brand and its product category. Marketers compare the two groups’ responses and isolate the ad in question’s impact on their views. They then report their results to the client company.
Real-Time Brand Lift Tools
In 2020, Lucid rolled out a tool for measuring brand lift in real time: Impact Measurement. Lucid’s tool, much like other real-time brand lift tools from Nielsen and Upwave, allowed for the type of “in-flight” optimization processes common in lower-funnel marketing campaigns — except with upper-funnel efforts. Marketers can, for instance, see in real time which media channels are driving the most brand lift, and shift investment toward them “while the campaign is in motion,” Fordham noted.
They can also figure out which of their various creative options drive more lift, and invest more money in those, added Brett Schnittlich, former president of Lucid.
Lucid was well-positioned to launch a product that could monitor real-time brand lift beyond the “walled gardens” of Facebook and YouTube. The company’s core platform functions as a kind of “Uber in the survey-taking world,” Schnittlich said. It connects brands that want to administer market research surveys with high-traffic sites, like digital media outlets and rewards sites, that can show surveys to massive flows of people.
This speeds up the market research process, solving a problem that Schnittlich had encountered earlier in his career.
“I ran an advertising agency for a portion of my life,” he told Built In. “One of the challenges always was [that] advertising effectiveness was a look back.”
Marketers who embedded Lucid tracking pixels in their ads could easily differentiate survey responses from those who had and hadn’t seen a specific ad. The arrangement also helped the sites administering the surveys monetize their traffic since they were paid a few cents per survey.
Brand Lift Study Best Practices
When conducting a brand lift study, there are some best practices that businesses can follow to make the process as smooth as possible:
- Choose your metrics: Decide what brand lift metrics your team wants to prioritize for your brand lift study.
- Emphasize business needs: Ensure your marketing personnel understand how marketing campaigns and brand lift studies relate to meeting business goals.
- Find your audience: Unless you work with a third-party marketing firm, select a sample of consumers who meet your demographic requirements. Organize your audience into two groups, with one being a control group that doesn’t see your ad or campaign.
- Collect and analyze your data: Compile data through manual surveys, real-time brand lift tools or another preferred method. Use your chosen brand lift metrics to analyze the results and pick out meaningful trends.
- Share your results: Organize your findings into charts, graphs, reports and other formats for your team and company leaders to review.
- Decide next steps: Based on the survey results, decide what immediate improvements need to be made, such as expanding the number of marketing channels you use or tailoring products to customer preferences.
- Refine your process: Take insights from your current brand lift study and brainstorm ideas with marketing personnel to improve brand lift studies moving forward.
Well-planned brand lift studies give companies in-depth data to adopt a more efficient and cost-effective approach to marketing campaigns. Companies can trim down a marketing budget to only include marketing channels that drive more consumer interactions, marketing leaders can rework their messaging to target more specific audiences, and marketing teams can home in on new brand lift metrics for tracking campaign success.
Brand Lift Examples
Here are a few examples of companies that found successful brand lift through advertising or product placement.
McDonald’s has gone through its ups and downs as a brand, with 2002 being a particularly hard year as its stock price had dropped by eight percent. To combat the brand’s falling value and relevance, McDonald’s launched its 2003 “i’m lovin’ it” campaign, now its longest-running slogan.
There was a strategy behind this campaign: McDonald’s wanted to stop telling their customers what to think and feel the way it had with previous campaigns, according to former CMO of McDonald’s, Larry Light.
“The ‘I voice’ let customers express what they like about McDonald’s,” Light previously wrote for Brand Strategy Insider. “It reminded everyone that McDonald’s was part of their lives and their culture and that McDonald’s overall experience was one of warmth and a real slice of everyday life.”
The year the “i’m lovin’ it” campaign launched, McDonald’s spent $1.37 billion on advertising, according to AdAge. And it appears to have paid off — McDonald’s reported an 11 percent increase in total revenue in 2003 and another 7 percent in 2004.
Course Hero, the learning platform for college students, was looking to grow its brand awareness, so it partnered with Spotify to get in front of users while they listened to playlists like “Intense Studying,” “Focus” and “Brain Food.” The campaign used both visuals and audio to draw attention from the greatest number of users possible.
The results of Course Hero’s efforts show a significant brand lift thanks to Spotify. A case study on the campaign reported a 40 percent increase in ad recall, as well as a 50 percent increase in consideration.
Kellogg’s Eggo Waffles
The TV show Stranger Things first aired on Netflix in 2016. In the first season and beyond, Kellogg’s Eggo Waffles made a prominent appearance as the favorite food of one of the show’s main characters, Eleven.
Kellogg’s didn’t pay for its placement in the show, only gave permission to use their product — but they did take advantage of the brand awareness when the show took off.
Prior to season two of the show, Kellogg’s promoted 11 waffle recipes. The brand also provided instructions on its containers on how to create a DIY flashlight, purse and boombox out of empty Eggo’s boxes. The brand lift of Eggo’s was on full display during the 2016 Halloween season, when dressing up as Eleven — often with Eggo’s in tow — was one of the most popular costumes. A more concrete result from Eggo’s placement in the show was the 2017 sales increase the brand saw.
In the spring of 2015, the Mad Men finale aired, and — spoiler alert — the final minute didn’t feature any of the characters fans had grown to know and love. No Don, no Peggy, no climactic kiss or big promotion.
Instead, the critically acclaimed show about advertising ended with a real ad: Coca-Cola’s 1971 “Hilltop” TV ad, in which a group of fresh-faced young people from around the world sing that they’d like to buy the world a Coke.
For Coca-Cola, the brand lift following its Mad Men feature brought about an increase in what Amobee Brand Intelligence calls “consumption” — digital views of Coca-Cola’s name and brand across more than 600,000 top websites, including social media sites.
The night the Mad Men finale aired, online consumption of Coca-Cola’s brand soared by 991 percent, earning about two weeks’ worth of typical consumption in less than a day.