Brands need to find a balance between performance marketing and brand building; after years of focusing on performance media, eBay has renewed the emphasis on brand with welcome results.

Kantar’s recent Getting Media Right study confirmed that the industry finds itself in a muddle on this issue, with half of brand respondents not confident that they have the right balance between brand building and performance marketing, and 40% sceptical that their organisations are using the optimal media mix.

eBay presents an extreme case, since, back in 2015, its budget was split 90:10 in favour of performance over brand-building investment. As an online marketplace, by definition a digitally native brand, it had understandably prioritised digital performance marketing channels.

But as head of marketing Rosie Hanley pointed out at an event launching the Kantar report, “digital attribution doesn’t take into account the [full consumer journey], [like] the fact [that consumers have] been influenced by a TV ad, or that their mum recommended this product to them.

“While it’s brilliant that we’re getting more accurate with digital measurement, there are so many more factors that influence why and what the customer does,” she said. (For more details, read WARC’s report: Why eBay opted to reduce its reliance on performance media.)

Finance and management teams loved the certainty of the digital measurement figures, but even they were prepared to countenance change when informed that brand awareness and consideration levels had “fallen through the floor”.

Not only was eBay “mining the same group of customers” and not bringing in new ones, Hanley admitted, “we had brand trust issues and, unfortunately, investing in performance marketing can’t possibly hope to address those.”

A bumpy period followed the decision to shift the balance of its marketing, not least as the brand needed to put a “massive amount” of energy into learning and upskilling as it had never invested in above-the-line channels to any extent before.

But with the ratio now closer to 65:35, eBay has seen a “quite dramatic” improvement in brand consideration and the growth of organic traffic to its platform, according to Hanley.

“What we’re seeing is that when we invest in our brand, more people come to our site, first choice, without any need for advertising. When your brand channels are working well, then it should actually improve performance.”

Sourced from WARC