Performance vs brand marketing: Is it one or the other?

Kellogg's, Genea and hipages shared their experience and views on performance vs brand building marketing as last week’s CMO Momentum conference in Sydney

From left: CMO's Rosalyn Page, Kelloggs' Tamara Howe, Genea's Nicole Papoutsis and hipages' Stuart Tucker
From left: CMO's Rosalyn Page, Kelloggs' Tamara Howe, Genea's Nicole Papoutsis and hipages' Stuart Tucker

Can brands striving for inspirational brand building also achieve performance marketing success? Or is brand work inconsistent with the metrics, measurement and real-time nature of performance marketing?

That was the big question put to marketing leaders from Kellogg's, Genea and hipages at the recent CMO Momentum conference in Sydney. Kellogg's director marketing and corporate affairs, Tamara Howe, kicked off
by defining performance marketing in its broadest sense as “any action that you want the consumer to take and then measuring those results”.

On the question of whether performance marketing is overriding brand building, Howe said rather than seeing it as a case of one marketing objective coming at the expense of the other, it is more useful to see how they’re complementary.

A unique facet to Kellogg's marketing efforts is the need to sell through retailers while also keeping up brand awareness. To help, Kellogg's activities this year include the campaign, 'My Perfect Bowl', built around a series of documentary style TV ads featuring real people explaining their unique take on the perfect bowl of cereal.

“In our business, we sell the vast majority of our product through Coles and Woolies and performance marketing is relevant in that context," Howe explained. "We are in 90 per cent of households so we have to drive reach. We also have 50 per cent market share so it’s also about driving the category.”

Operating in a vastly different market is head of marketing and brand at Genea, Nicole Papoutsis. The company runs a network of IVF and fertility clinics in Australia and New Zealand. As part of its strategic marketing efforts, Genea in 2017 launched Modern Babies, an award-winning podcast series focused on issues around conceiving and fertility treatment. The podcast is now into its third series.

For Papoutsis, the relevance of brand versus performance depends on the complexity of the customer journey.

“We’re in an industry where you only really need to know about us when you need us. So brand is a really big part of what we do to capture that search activity as women start on that journey,” she said.

For hipages chief customer officer, Stuart Tucker, one powers the other. For example, a strong brand is going to make performance work harder, he said. Hipages is an online portal for finding and hiring tradespeople. This year, Tucker and the team invested in their first above-the-line, brand campaign using the message 'Change the way you tradie'. This included TV advertising to build awareness.

Tucker explained just investing in performance without brand building can lead to hollow clicks that don’t bring customers.

“We built a business on the back of paid search, but the problem is you run out of steam. And performance without brand is lacking intent," he said. "It’s just a click with no commitment. If you don’t have brand, people are clicking on things involuntarily. But if they know are brand, they are going to come to us with intent, often via unpaid search channels.”

Performance marketing is attractive because it’s easier to measure, Howe told the audience, whereas brand building is harder to measure and is a longer-term initiative. Papoutsis agreed short-term gains often lead to more of a focus on measurables through performance marketing.

Yet it's brand activity that ultimately builds pipeline for the long term.

“We’re a digital marketplace so we can measure everything in real time,” Tucker continued. He also noted the power of TV in helping build digital brands that can be tracked back to online measurement.

Kellogg's uses a combination of brand health measurements along with other metrics and the majority of its investment is in long-term brand building, Howe said. Genea meanwhile has two markets - its customers along with its referers such as doctors - and uses internal and external brand building and measurement to suit each of those different groups.

For Papoutsis, the podcast series didn't neatly fit into the ‘performance’ or ‘brand’ categories. She described it as a “big brand idea” to create an intimate conversation with women looking for information on their fertility journey. Initially a brand building exercise, the increase in inquiries and bookings gives it a performance metric too.

In response to the question of whether creative has given way to measurement, Tucker agreed big brand and creative bets were adversely affected with the rise of digital, real-time performance metrics.

“We lost our nerve when it came to creative and become obsessed with spots and dots and targeting. But a bad ad well targeted is still a bad ad,” he said.

Howe added things are often being overcomplicated in the division between different types of marketing and the point of the exercise.

“The art of this discipline is simple. ‘What are you trying to do in a simple way?’ If the organisation can’t understand it, they can’t get behind it, and how will the customer understand it?” she concluded.

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