There has never been a better time to understand the value of brand marketing. In 2021, people are very much aware of how brands position themselves (and notice their silence) after a roller coaster ride in 2020. In addition, the regulatory climate is forcing many marketers to find alternatives to third-party data and cookie-driven performance marketing.
At the same time, marketing executives must defend every penny of marketing spend in the face of financial uncertainty as CEOs and CFOs look for direct links between marketing spend and specific KPIs or business results.
While marketers know that measuring their branding efforts is difficult, they also know that branding via brand marketing drives loyalty and can lead to new considerations and intentions that ultimately drive demand.
How can marketers justify and defend the branding budget?
One concrete answer is to integrate brand marketing activities into a performance-based campaign. In 2021, winning strategies will calibrate the brand with performance execution. The secret weapon is contextual or native advertising.
Contextual strategies enable marketers to leverage branding assets and augment them using performance-based strategies. This approach ensures that a brand’s message and content are displayed in exactly the right context, including the right environment, and that they are efficiently distributed on a large scale.
The combination can be an exponentially strong brand manufacturer.
Brand marketing as part of a context strategy
One approach is to provide high quality branding elements – white papers, infographics, e-books, or explainer videos – as part of a native content campaign. A contextual strategy allows for detailed content – for example, service-oriented educational articles from a financial services brand aimed at a first-time life insurance buyer – to be distributed to the right audience (e.g., men 40+) environments (in business publications).
Instead of using a standard cost-per-1000-impressions (CPM) KPI, marketers can measure branded content using a native cost-per-click metric. This is a double win: Branding creatives are delivered through targeted and measurable contextual platforms (with the brand only paying for the delivery that triggers customer engagement).
With privacy regulations going into effect and upcoming algorithm changes from major tech platforms forcing brands to rethink their reliance on legacy, cookie-based targeting strategies, companies should add native content to the mix. People are very much aware of a company’s voice and reputation. You can quickly differentiate between meaningful and performative social responsibility initiatives, and this applies to businesses interested in business as well as brands with customer exposure.
Contextual distribution strategies with a cost-per-click goal allow organizations to combine levels of quality control, targeting, and context that cannot be achieved by relying solely on programmatic.
The combination of brand and performance can make an exponentially powerful brand manufacturer – especially as a means of marketing effectively at a time when we are yet to return to a world of personal events or business lunches.
Choose the right context
The pandemic outbreak put the world in anything but normal conditions. Businesses and advertisers were quick to run ads to avoid placement alongside COVID-related content. Media publications were impacted by the loss of advertising revenue as media consumption was at a peak.
The winners were the brands that didn’t take the breaks in their marketing, but instead turned their creative to hit the right contextual note. For example, some financial firms offered timely advice on changing investment strategies to accommodate volatility. Other companies, like location data company Unacast, provided pro bono data to underscore the importance of social distancing as an essential measure in combating COVID-19.
If we learned anything from last summer’s Stop Hate For Profit campaign against Facebook, it is that brand loyalty across the industry is at stake.
In short, identifying the right content is the first big step, followed by the context in which it is delivered.
Synergy of performance and brand marketing
Despite the dynamism of the current climate, marketers are expected to see an immediate ROI. Now is the time to reevaluate KPIs, marketing tactics, and creative toolkits, and add various delivery methods and measures such as cost-per-click options to CPM-based campaigns.
Customers pay close attention to the behavior, demeanor, position, and positioning behind a brand message, and marketers need to prioritize methods that give customers more control. Contextual or sponsored content can be a smart addition or alternative to automated tactics to ensure brand messages are enforced in a secure, premium environment.
With society grappling with COVID-19 and vaccines signaling light at the end of the tunnel, having a strong brand message and presence is vital for businesses to maintain customer loyalty. Service-oriented and authentic brand marketing can be an important air cover that also influences customer acquisition and retention.
Using the right performance-based tactic to catapult compelling, engaging, and authentic native content in a premium, contextual environment – and at just the right time in front of the right audience – is a powerful way to expand campaign plans and deliver meaningful results.