Here’s how to figure out which one is right for your business. (Hint: It’s not what you think.)

Here, you’ll find:

  • What performance and brand advertising are and why they matter
  • How to leverage branded and performance-based campaigns
  • The pros and cons of performance and brand marketing
  • Examples of performance and brand marketing campaigns 

Digital marketing. Search engine marketing. Content marketing. Video marketing. 

It’s a lot to keep up with — we get it. But doing so positions your business at the forefront of the latest trends that keep your brand top of mind. 

One style growing in popularity is brand marketing. In fact, McKinsey states that it accounts for more than half of business’ marketing budgets

But is it worth investing in brand marketing over performance marketing — another common strategy companies have used since the dawn of advertising?

If you’re on one bandwagon and wondering if you should hop off to join another, continue reading.  

Performance marketing vs. brand marketing: What’s the difference?

A performance marketing strategy focuses on driving a measurable return on campaigns designed to reach prospective customers and gain a share in untapped markets. 

It often uses a mix of paid advertising and inbound marketing techniques, such as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, blog posts, and social media, to drive clicks to targeted landing pages.

On the other hand, brand marketing is a digital marketing strategy that focuses on maximizing returns with existing brand equity. The goal is to build your company’s visibility and recognition to earn trust and, eventually, customers. It does this by creating an emotional connection with the audience and, in some instances, brand loyalty and advocacy.

Both require consistent nurturing to be successful. Some believe you can only track performance marketing and attribute it to sales. However, both can deliver tangible and measurable marketing results.

So, which should you prioritize?

“How much performance and brand marketing a company does, and in which proportion, depends on the objectives of the company, and/or the particular campaign,” says Steve Dang, VP of digital strategy at HawkSEM.

In his experience, there’s no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to how much of each you use. 

“The astute marketer should look at what the data says, while not focusing too much on KPIs,” Dang adds. “Typically, branded campaigns look better from a pure metrics perspective. For instance, those who know your brand are motivated and intentioned searchers. But it’s important not to ignore those searching generic product or category-type terms.”

Performance campaigns help drive new users into the fold, and expand your market share in the space. Branded campaigns keep your business top of mind, and relevant, to searchers who already know it. Or help you differentiate your company in an otherwise generic space.

A prime example of brand marketing: How Apple’s iPhone stands out amongst a sea of smartphones.

Types of performance marketing

Performance marketing channels include a mix of mediums to achieve its visibility and conversion goals, such as:

  • Paid search ads
  • Paid social media ads
  • Company blog posts
  • Email marketing 
  • Video marketing 

Each campaign has a specific goal, which marketers can measure to determine its success. Here are a few examples of campaign types:

  • Action-oriented campaigns that drive users to a specific action, such as filling out a form, downloading an app, or buying a product/service.
  • Conversion-oriented campaigns that drive users to convert, such as purchasing a product or service, or becoming a lead in an email nurturing campaign. 
  • Search performance-oriented campaigns that increase visibility in search results using paid search, display ads, and retargeting campaigns (these appear on websites your visitors go to after leaving your website). 
  • Social engagement-oriented campaigns that focus on getting your target audience to interact with your brand on social platforms (e.g., comments, shares, follows, likes) and potentially increase drive traffic, leads, brand awareness, and sales. 
  • Email nurturing-oriented campaigns that focus on nurturing leads into engaging with your site’s content and converting into customers (e.g., by promoting sales and sharing links to content). 
  • Influencer-oriented campaigns where brands partner with influencers to share branded content on their social media platforms to drive awareness, traffic, and sales (e.g., hosting giveaways, contests, or product reviews).

There are tools marketers use to identify the progress and outcomes of campaigns, such as Google Analytics. At HawkSEM, our proprietary software, ConversionIQ, helps us analyze and improve campaigns to drive more quality leads and sales.

Types of brand marketing

Brand marketing uses the same channels as performance marketing, but employs different tactics to get results. Instead of focusing on driving traffic and leads, branding is all about awareness, trust, and loyalty. This is a bit tougher to measure and attribute to any one campaign or blog post. 

Here are examples of the types of brand marketing businesses use:

  • Personal branding: Ideal for companies of one or that want to build a presence and identify for the CEO of a company. The purpose: to humanize the brand and build a personal connection with customers.
  • Product branding: Builds awareness of a new or existing product. It includes using logos, colors, packaging, and taglines to make a product memorable. 
  • Service branding: Creates interest and awareness for a company’s service offerings. It may use a mix of logos, colors, taglines, and testimonials to make this work. 
  • Cultural branding: Focuses on building a strong brand identity and company culture to attract like-minded prospective buyers and customers. For example, a company may cater to the youth by using pop music and relevant memes to connect with a younger audience. Others may take a deeper stance, such as standing against social injustices and promoting diversity in its workplace to appeal to others who care for the same causes.

There’s no one approach to brand marketing — you can use a mix of tactics to build a stronger identity for your company and reach its goals.

Just make sure the assets used across campaigns are stylistically congruent, Dang advises. He adds that “different channel managers work in concert to ensure harmony and consistency in terms of messaging, style, and aesthetics.”

Otherwise, you risk diluting the brand message and losing effectiveness. Going off-brand can risk appearing inauthentic and performative.

Performance marketing: Pros and cons

Wondering about the good, the bad, and the ugly about performance marketing? Here’s a sneak peek. 

Pros of performance marketing:

  • Immediate results: Performance marketing often uses PPC ads, which can deliver traffic and conversions within hours of launching. 
  • Cost-effective: Performance marketing is a cost-effective way of reaching potential customers since it allows businesses to pay only when their ads are clicked, or conversions occur.
  • Targeted audience: Performance marketing allows businesses to target specific audiences based on their interests, needs, and behavior, ensuring that the right message is delivered at the right time.
  • Increased visibility: Performance marketing increases visibility for your business by appearing in relevant searches and increasing organic traffic to your website through SEO optimization tactics.
  • Flexibility: With performance marketing, it’s easy to adjust ad spend, budgets, and campaign strategies (in real-time) according to changing market conditions or customer preferences.

Cons of performance marketing:

  • Limited brand awareness: Performance marketing may drive traffic and leads, but it doesn’t create a lasting impression and fails to build brand awareness.
  • Short-term results: Performance marketing can be effective in the short term, but its impact is limited when compared to brand marketing which looks to build relationships with customers for the long term.
  • High competition: More businesses are leveraging performance marketing to direct your prospective customers to their website. If you’re targeting the same keywords, then this can increase the cost per click and cost per conversion.
  • Expensive: Especially if you’re running unsuccessful experiments, using the wrong methods, or targeting high-competition search terms. One reason we recommend using the right tools (like ConversionIQ) and techniques to ensure you’re attracting the right people to your website.

Brand marketing: Pros and cons

“Branded campaigns typically produce more leads and have higher underlying conversion rates,” says Dang. But this doesn’t mean it doesn’t come without its flaws. Here’s a look at the good and bad. 

Pros of brand marketing:

  • Build brand recognition: Brand marketing increases brand recognition, building loyalty and trust among customers. Plus, it yields long-term growth and results (have you forgotten Toys R Us yet?).
  • Create emotional connection: Brand marketing creates a strong connection between the customer and the company, allowing them to form an emotional bond with the brand (and potentially repeat purchases).
  • Stand out: Brand building gives your business and its products personality and a voice, making it stand apart from the competition. 
  • Increase reach: Brand marketing helps reach new customers while retaining existing ones by increasing awareness of your brand and its offerings.
  • Boost loyalty and sales: Brand marketing helps increase sales as it strengthens loyalty among customers, encourages further purchases, and persuades potential customers to buy from you instead of competitors.

Cons of brand marketing:

  • Difficult to measure ROI: Tying revenue back to a successful brand marketing campaign is possible, but not easy. 
  • Slower results: Developing an effective brand strategy requires a significant amount of time and resources, which may not yield immediate results.
  • Requires creativity: All marketing does, but branding relies more on the creative side than the science side to get results. This means coming up with ideas not backed by numbers and running experiments to see what works. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always pan out. 

Brand marketing examples

So what does brand marketing look like in the real world? If you watch television, listen to the radio, and browse the internet, then you’re exposed to brand marketing daily. 

Some examples include:

  • Apple: When you want quality and innovation, you opt for the product that starts with an “i” or “Mac.” 
  • Google: When you need to search something now, you go to the O.G. It’s “the” search engine for finding products, services, and information. 
  • McDonald’s: When you want a cheap quick meal, you know which drive-thru boasts a $1 menu.
  • Nike: When you want to get active and reach your athletic goals, you “Just Do It” with this brand.
  • Amazon: When you need to buy something online and have it delivered within 1-2 days, you know where to search. 

You’ll find these brands running ads on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and anywhere else millions of people hang out. After years of branding, you may know their slogans better than any. 

For example, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes’ tagline: They’re Grrreat!

brand marketing example hawksem

(Image: Source)

But this doesn’t just work for major brands. At HawkSEM, we’ve seen brand marketing work well for smaller, less notable companies, such as Timbuk2, a successful San Francisco-based bag manufacturer and marketer. 

In fact, compared to performance marketing, we found Timbuk2’s brand marketing activities were more successful. The marketing plan that seems to work best for this brand is running on a target ROAS bidding strategy. 

It drives more conversions than any of its non-branded performance marketing campaigns. 

To give you an idea, here’s what we’re seeing in its U.S. campaigns: Interaction rate between 32% and 34.73% and 2.25% to 4.51% conversion rates. 

And the average cost is between $0.23 and $1.63 per click. 

In our most impressive campaign over the past quarter, we saw a 34.73% interaction rate and a 4.51% conversion rate — translating to over 4,300 conversions (a conversion value of $605,183). 

Performance marketing examples

Performance marketing is everywhere. 

It’s in search engines as sponsored ads and links to drive leads to landing pages:

PPC ads

(Image: Google search results page)

And on social media to drive sales:

Social ad

(Image: Instagram)

At HawkSEM, we’ve seen performance marketing campaigns excel. Dang explains that Ownbackup, a cloud backup tool for enterprises, saw great results using this approach. 

We managed multiple targeted performance marketing campaigns based on use cases and geography. The results: more qualified leads to their website and a lower average CPA (cost per acquisition or cost per lead). 

On one of our top-performing campaigns, we saw a 1.83% interaction rate and 3.17% conversions (showing that highly-targeted campaigns may generate less clicks, but provide higher quality leads).

“Ownbackup relied a great deal on their branded marketing efforts at the beginning of their PPC journey,” Dang says. “But today, their performance marketing campaigns drive most of their qualified leads, with branded campaigns helping them stay top of mind among new and old users alike.”

Performance brand marketing: A holistic approach

Performance branding — sounds like a mishmash of marketing buzzwords…and it kinda is. It combines the above-mentioned marketing tactics — performance marketing and brand marketing — into one cohesive strategy.

So rather than asking which is better brand vs. performance marketing, a more productive question is: How can I leverage the two to maximize my results?

“It’s much easier and faster to launch new products and services these days. In a world of Shopify, contract manufacturing, and AI — speed to launch will only be further minimized and expedited,” notes Dang.

This means more options for consumers and more competition for businesses. So the key to winning in a potentially commoditized world is strongly asserting your brand identity and unique value proposition to ensure brand marketing remains paramount.

“But using branded marketing without performance marketing won’t take companies and entrepreneurs the entire distance,” continues Dang. “These approaches need to be worked on in tandem for the best results. They should be seen as complementary and mutually reinforcing.”

Why performance branding?

“In a perfect world, you’d get thousands of searches on your brand name, but that’s not true for every company — it depends on what stage a company is in,” says Dang. “However, over time, successful marketing campaigns have strategies for both performance and brand marketing in place. It’s not one or the other.”

We call this: performance branding. 

Performance brand marketing is a growth marketing strategy that combines the best of both worlds, creating the right balance of:

  • Data-driven performance marketing to attribute efforts to results
  • Branding and demand generation to drive awareness, interest, and trust

How does performance branding work?

To make this work, you must understand consumer behaviors and preferences at the top of the funnel. This way, you can connect with prospective buyers early on and guide them through using relationship building. 

It may look something like this:

You use performance marketing to target a specific group of people and then use branded content to nurture them into customers. For instance, PPC ads will drive qualified leads to your blog, which guides visitors to your social media accounts. Some follow you and begin to learn the human side of your brand.

As they see your branded content over the weeks and months, they begin to like and trust it, so the next time they see an ad or promotion, they may finally make a purchase.

This is also possible using a mix of channels, such as email marketing, YouTube video marketing, and blog content. 

Whatever pathways you choose, your success relies on understanding your audience, which will come from your data. What they like, consume, and ignore will guide your marketing strategy. 

Building a performance brand marketing campaign

According to McKinsey, businesses can apply data-driven performance marketing to branding and demand-generation campaigns more effectively. This is likely because of all the analytics tools we have at our disposal. 

In its report, companies using performance brand marketing see efficiency gains at up to 30% and incremental top-line growth at up to 10%. All without increasing marketing budgets. A much higher ROI than what traditional marketing delivers for branding campaigns. 

So combining the two methods can improve your campaign results. 

Based on McKinsey’s findings, these are the steps to creating a successful performance branding campaign: 

  1. Gather detailed information on consumer preferences and behavior during the initial phases of their decision-making process.
  2. Use data-driven marketing methods like personalized messages, individual impact measurement, near-time optimization, and partial automation.
  3. Keep analyzing and improving your media spend for better brand awareness.
  4. Stay disciplined in managing your marketing performance to ensure that you’re staying in touch with your customers and driving maximum ROI.

Of course, working with an agency (like HawkSEM) that understands building and executing performance brand advertising and marketing campaigns can also increase your odds of success. 

The takeaway

If there’s one thing you’ll learn about business marketing, it’s that the more holistic your approach is, the better its results.

There’s never a one-size-fits-all approach to digital marketing, and until companies realize this, they’ll continue to struggle with disappointing campaigns. 

But you’re not one of them. You now see the benefits of using performance and brand marketing and want to implement them both. 

Want help doing that? That’s why we’re here.

Contact HawkSEM for Free Consultation