Marketers need to rethink the division between brand and performance to drive the best results, argues Brian DeCicco, Mindshare’s NA Chief Data Strategy & Analytics Officer.

Most marketers today say they realize that brand marketing and performance marketing can’t operate in silos. But, in practice, too many of them seem hooked on the instant gratification of performance marketing, despite mounds of academic research and brand testimonials suggesting the returns can be misleading.

The accelerated growth of performance marketing separated from brand is bad for both business and consumers. On the business side, the short-term gains in customer acquisition or return on ad spend aren’t sustainable, and marketers end up optimizing themselves into a corner while ignoring the impact of brand metrics. And because budgets and tactics are split along these artificial lines, consumers are stuck with disjointed communications and experiences.

Effective marketing takes advantage of the reciprocity of brand and demand efforts. It works throughout the customer journey, using data to deliver relevant experiences wherever consumers are. At the same time, it uses analytics to balance brand-building investments with short-term performance marketing investments to maximize business outcomes like revenue, profitability, customer lifetime value, and shareholder growth.

Even with this enlightenment, there remain two common pitfalls across marketing organizations that threaten what good looks like.

The first is metric multiplicity. This is, most commonly, a result of an abundance of gathered data. And despite that, or because of it, there is an inability to derive insights connected to outcomes. Or it’s caused by data silos tied to organizational constructs.

Sometimes, the simple appearance of the word “performance” in a marketer’s title can indicate an isolation of key performance indicators (KPIs), data, resource availability, tools, and talent profiles projected against a singular business outcome: Sell more stuff to more people.

And it also can mean a rejection of and disconnection with other KPIs, data, resources, and tools that could be contributing to that outcome – like the power of a brand.

The second is the emphasis on speed. The singular obsession with speed burns out the people tasked to deliver it while often being the primary contributor to the false sense of success I mentioned earlier.

Every marketer wants speed and the tools to unlock it. But blind speed isn’t good, either. Success comes when you have the confidence to move at speed toward a specific outcome. In other words, you must have velocity. Marketers who aim to accelerate the performance of their marketing need a framework to give their decisions strategic purpose. Only with direction can you move at a pace that amplifies the return of desired marketing outcomes.

Here are five principles to overcome these pitfalls and unlock an outcomes-obsessed culture within your marketing organization and with your strategic partners: 

  1. Align incentives. An obvious place to start, but often overlooked. Focus on creating relationships between the KPIs each department is held to account for and the benefits of collaboration (e.g., data access, technologies that drive operational efficiency, and more).

  2. Beyond aligning incentives across the organization, go a level deeper and ensure the agency partners are engaged as part of a full-funnel, inter-agency team, not just one part of the business (‘brand be damned’ and vice versa).

  3. Drive a culture of understanding and appreciation. Specialism is the nature of an industry experiencing constant cycles of technological innovation and channel proliferation.

  4. Practitioners from all disciplines, across the brand and demand aisle, must meet each other halfway. There must be a joint learning agenda for the enterprise, with ample opportunity to educate and cross-develop talent, and a shared vision to which that learning agenda points.

  5. Create connected data and insights. Data informs everything we do, from strategic media planning to creative concepting to the algorithm that drives the personalized message that lands in front of the consumer.

  6. There must be an enterprise data strategy to enable this end-to-end workflow. Each brand or line of business has a role to play with unique use cases informing their utilization, but that must not get in the way of integration and data access and actionability.

    The latter requires a complementary technology strategy fit to unlock that data throughout the organization and enable faster decisions to serve better, smarter, and more meaningful marketing communications.

  7. Unify measurement. Metrics for metrics’ sake is crushing many marketing organizations. It’s what led to an overemphasis on reporting “what happened” and an underemphasis on asking, “What should we do?”

  8. Brands need to create a mathematical relationship between both brand and performance metrics and a single KPI – a beacon related to an explicit business outcome to guide all activities.

    Start by creating a unified enterprise measurement framework that can help you focus on the metrics that matter and resolve the tension between moving at speed and moving with confidence.

    With it, you can drive consensus among stakeholders, assemble the right data and put the right methods in place that connect short and long-term investments and all the strategic levers you can pull in pursuit of your business outcomes – audiences, channels, tactics, brand, and creative. Unified measurement brings unified accountability.

  9. Stay human. Data and imagination have been treated as opposites in the era of performance marketing. Creativity lives with brand, and data lives with demand. This can be dangerously wrong as we increasingly relinquish some decision-making authority to machine-learning and AI technologies.

  10. Today, all creativity must be data-driven, and unlocking the insights from data that can truly provide new competitive advantage is a creative pursuit. It’s not that easy. And, sure, it takes large data computational capability and machine-learning. But it also takes ingenuity.

Marketing organizations are complex, and mostly for valid reasons. But, at the end of the day, the common goal is transformation to a truly integrated marketing communications operation.

Keep in mind that your most valuable consumers don’t care about any of this. They just want highly relevant and engaging ad interactions, plus a flawless customer experience. Awareness of how common pitfalls could detract from that promise, and lead to missed opportunities and underperformance, is the first step on your journey to creating an outcome-obsessed marketing culture that translates to delivering meaningful business value.

Use these principles as a map to get there faster – increasing your organization’s velocity to value.