Branding vs. Performance Campaigns

There seems to be a consensus that there are generally two categories or types of campaigns online.
In the branding case you don’t expect much to happen other than making sure as many people know about you or link a certain image to your brand. In the case of performance, you mainly worry about getting people to do something after they have interacted with your ads.

While this might be an ok way to categories these activities, I don’t think it’s useful or meaningful because it misses out on a few points.

When you are running a campaign for branding or raising awareness, the ads you run will generate results; views, clicks, interactions, engagements. These should be measured, and you should take action based on the results. You should be testing different creatives and messages to see what resonates with the audience more, this also should be measured. During the campaign, the engagement rates might go down, up, or remain stable. Again you should react by either changing the approach, or stopping the ads where users have clearly indicated with the lower engagement rates that they are fed up with those messages.

Every branding campaign is a performance campaign.

With so-called performance campaigns, people usually only focus on the results; clicks, conversions, conversion rates, etc. But just because you called it a performance campaign, doesn’t mean there isn’t a by-product of communication happening. More than 90% of people don’t click on your ads, but they still see them. More than 90% of people who click don’t convert, but they still see your site, logo, tone of voice, and general differentiation points. Even the most specific and intellectual ad, the text ad, has your domain name / brand name, and has a claim or two about why people should do business with you; great quality, free delivery, best-in-class service, etc.

Every performance campaign is a branding campaign.

So how do we classify campaign types and where do we draw the line between the different types?
We simply don’t. It’s not important what you call the campaign, as long as you have actionable, clear goals, and you set the expectations regarding what you can get out of them. There are always unintended consequences and side effects to any campaign and these should be measured, taken into consideration, and made use of.

Raising Brand Awareness

I find it strange when marketing and advertising people talk about raising awareness as one activity that has one outcome, which can be done simply by running ads for a period of time. Typically, a heavy initial campaign is recommended.

I believe there are levels or degrees of awareness, each of which has a different impact, and therefore, a different value.

Knowing the brand can be considered the first (entry) level of awareness, where people simply know about your existence. It’s generally good, and it’s the easiest awareness to generate and can be simply achieved by running the traditional heavy campaign.

The value of this level of awareness is not so high however. For awareness to be valuable, you need people to know more about your products, prices, how they work, what they taste like, and so on.

Recognizing your logo and brand name can be considered a higher level of awareness, where people can link that logo to your product and know vaguely what it is about. Still, we did not reach the awareness levels that result from interacting with your brand.

Visiting your site or your physical store is where people start to know more about the details of what you offer, and what exactly you stand for.

Sampling your product is when people start to know you experientially and not just on an intellectual level. Going to an electronics store and playing with a certain gadget, sampling small bites of the new sandwich you are offering, or signing up for a free trial of a software that you provide are examples of that.

Familiarity is the next level, which can only be achieved by people buying the product and living with it for a few months. This is when people start to know the details of your product or level of service. This is when the get surprises (the good and the bad). This is the most important level of awareness which allows people who tried it to become the promoters of your brand (or not).
People who bought a product of yours and tried it are going to be the authority in their circle of friends on whether or not your product is good. The reviews these people can give are detailed with specifics, and will make a huge difference on how many more people will give your product a try.

Basically, sales is the most important method of generating awareness, the kind of awareness that comes with customers’ commitment with their money, taking a chance on you and actually spending time living with your product.

Beyond familiarity, ultimately, there is addiction to your brand. This level of awareness comes with people having memorized the interface of your phone, starting to do things automatically on your website, getting personally familiar with the employees of your gym, knowing the waiter by name, etc. At this level, the loyalty grows new reasons, beyond the quality of your service and your cute logo. At this level, you are something that they are used to, a place where they feel at home, and you definitely want to build as much of this kind of awareness as you possibly can.

Based on this, getting one person to a certain level of awareness is worth getting tens of people to the previous lower level of awareness. Selling ten phones is much more important that having fifty people play with that phone for ten minutes each. Ideally, I think spending advertising money should be prioritized based on the deepest level of awareness, getting as many people there, then with extra money you go to the lower levels one by one.