How often do you make a decision as a consumer based on your immediate reaction to an ad? Does your existing impression of the brand in question affect that decision?
Most of us would agree that our overall impression of brands has at least some influence when it comes to our own consumer behaviour, yet brand marketing is often overlooked in the digital world in favour of direct response.
Source: IAB - 2011 H1 Online Adspend Results
According to the IAB, just 13.5% of online ad spend was invested in brand marketing in 2011. Whilst this is a big increase from 5% in 2008, on average marketers spend 63% of their combined online and offline budget on brand campaigns (Comscore).
For companies who have woken up to the potential of online branding, the benefits are clear.
Starbucks Case Study
The IAB carried out a number of cross media research projects investigating the ways that digital advertising can be used to effectively build brands.
Some of the key findings were:
- Digital delivered more effective (and therefore efficient) reach of the target audience:
- Online delivered incremental and exclusive reach:
- Online delivered against brand metrics; increasing product awareness by 19% between control and exposed groups, and ad awareness by 41% between the two groups:
- Online delivered the above increase in product awareness at 80% the cost of press and half the cost of outdoor
Given that online branding does (or at least can) work, why is only 13.5% of online budget spent on branding?
There are 3 main reasons:
Digital marketing is a victim of its own accountability
Lack of knowledge of how to plan, analyse and optimise brand campaigns
Marketers don’t always choose to run branding campaigns online because they don’t always make choices in the right order. It’s often the case that decisions are made about which marketing channels to use before the objectives of the campaign have been decided. TV has become synonymous with awareness, so there’s a tendency to say ‘we need to run a TV campaign’ rather than asking ‘I need to build awareness – what’s the most effective marketing mix to achieve this?’. In this way, online can be eliminated from the choice of marketing channels before it has a chance to be considered.
Many digital marketers are initially drawn to digital for its accountability. While this has fuelled adoption and investment, it has also led to an excessive focus on direct response metrics, such as cost per lead (CPL), cost per acquisition (CPA) and return on investment (ROI). Of course, these are the right metrics to measure for direct response campaigns, but they are inadequate for branding purposes.
Brand campaigns should be assessed against brand KPIs – this may sound obvious but it is regularly not the case. Specifically, a “control vs exposed” methodology should be employed to measure the campaign’s impact on attitudes and awareness (we’ll be looking at this in more detail in our next post on this topic). Direct metrics often take precedence despite the recurring lack of correlation between the ads which are most effective at driving brand metrics (e.g. awareness, consideration, etc.), and the ads which are effective at driving direct response.
Even for those marketers who prioritise the correct metrics, it can be difficult to hold their nerve against the inevitable deluge of direct response performance data, especially if this is at odds with brand KPIs. At times, digital’s transparency can be its own worst enemy.
In something of a catch-22 situation, the relative lack of brand spend online has led to a gap in the knowledge of the digital sector. It’s also fair to say that many digital marketers don’t always give branding the respect it deserves. Brand metrics like ‘awareness uplift’ can seem vague compared to hard-nosed DR metrics, and control vs exposed survey methodologies can seem unreliable compared to conversion tracking.
The fact is that brand campaigns can be just as data-driven as DR campaigns – you just need to measure the right data in the right way. This is a big topic in itself. As mentioned above, we’ll be covering this in our next post on digital branding.
The Case for Online Branding
Digital advertising is maturing. The growth of online video has provided marketers with advertising opportunities normally associated with TV. New high-impact display formats such as billboards, filmstrips and portraits have unlocked a wealth of rich creative opportunities. Social media has facilitated direct engagement, as well as an ongoing dialogue that is simply not possible through any other medium.
Just like TV, outdoor, print and cinema advertising, digital can deliver positive long term branding – creating a lasting impression long after seeing an advert. Add great editorial environments and engaged users to this and you’ve got a great recipe for delivering real results for brands.
It’s time for digital to embrace these new opportunities and prove that direct response is just one of its many strengths.