Beauty And The Geek

Digital marketing departments are often faced with what seems like an unfavorable trade-off: use visually appealing brand ads to increase awareness and shape perception, or drive sales using performance ads. As the stewards of the brand identity, branding teams have been hesitant to embrace the digital marketing team’s performance ad strategy, despite measurable sales results. This tension is heightened by increasingly mobile-optimized shopping channels in industries like travel, where marketers must now build a consistent brand – and shopping experience – across many platforms of various shapes and sizes.

Performance advertising is capable of producing 15 times, or more, the return on investment for digital advertisers across platforms. While this sounds exciting, it can still be a hard sell to branding teams as being integral to the marketing strategy – versus a sales tactic.

A key component of embracing performance advertising is appreciating the difference between brand ads and performance ads. Developed by a branding and creative inner circle, brand ads are designed by analyzing the audience as a macro group to determine how an ad can best influence brand perception among a particular target consumer, and versus key competitors. Performance ads, on the other hand, are created dynamically, in real time based on an individual consumer’s browsing behavior.  These ads aim to drive a click and ultimately a purchase, and their results should be measured as a function of sales. 



Further, brand and performance ads are intended for two different parts of the buying cycle. Brand ads build awareness and foster an affinity for a brand, which can drive consumers to the brand’s website or retail environments. Performance ads follow that interaction, using personalization coupled with brand assets to pull a consumer back to the site to make a purchase. Given these differences, the two types of ads should be evaluated on how they meet their individual goals and contribute to overall business growth. 

While branding teams must recognize and appreciate these differences, performance teams also have a responsibility to uphold brand standards and support the brand strategy. Since performance ads are created in milliseconds based on machine-learning algorithms, meeting the strict design standards of the branding team can sometimes be a challenge. Brand marketers worry that, for example, a consumer browsing a website might see a hotel brand ad that inspires thoughts of a high-end luxury stay on one page, only to be delivered a performance ad for that same brand conveying a budget image on the next page. 

Fortunately, performance ads have evolved to offer an enormous array of design elements that support brand guidelines while still driving clicks and sales. Though performance ads are developed and served based on the likelihood that the consumer clicks and purchases the product, today’s dynamically created ads still offer innumerable options for background design, color schemes, layout, font, etc. This creative flexibility allows for more attractive ads that can better support the brand strategy while still meeting ROI goals. 

As CMOs are increasingly challenged to demonstrate measurable ROI from ad budgets, the value of performance advertising is hard to deny. Given the ability to launch a performance campaign in alignment with the branding guidelines, there’s no reason why marketers shouldn’t consider investing more in ads that drive conversions.  Furthermore, marketing organizations that are willing to break down the traditional functional walls and have these teams work more closely together will demonstrate measurable sales results that prove the overall team’s value. Those that do not will be left to explain why they are missing out on growth opportunities.

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