Unite Brand Marketing and Performance Marketing—and Thrive

5 min read • Aug 26, 2021 • Grant Olsen

We live in a world where choices are often portrayed as mutually exclusive. Boxers or briefs? Rent or buy? Paper or plastic? But our options rarely fall into just 1 camp. Most of us have access to a multitude of potential choices that can be decided in a multitude of scenarios.

So let’s ditch the polarity and embrace flexibility. Just because your colleague uses a straw in her drink during a lunch meeting doesn’t necessarily mean that she loves single-use plastic and hates the earth. Perhaps there’s a more situational explanation, such as she’s experiencing painful tooth sensitivity and drinking was more manageable when she sipped through a straw.

As most successful small business owners know, there’s also no need to pit brand marketing and performance marketing against each other. Both have their uses. Both have their limitations. And if you keep them as options in your arsenal, you’ll be better able to navigate changing markets and connect with new customers.

“In my time consulting for startups and established companies, there seems to be a common thread that has emerged,” says small business expert Barry Enderwick. “One in which company leadership thinks in terms of brand marketing vs. performance marketing. And to be sure, they each have their value. Brand marketing helps build the brand for the long term, whereas performance marketing is often viewed as mostly concerned with growing the company. The problem is that what often occurs is that brand gets conflated with brand marketing.”

Now that we can agree that brand marketing and performance marketing can live together in harmony, let’s look closer and see what makes each of them tick.

The Essence of Brand Marketing and Performance Marketing

Let’s start with brand marketing. Every consumer already understands what a brand is, even if they don’t realize it. For example, think of your favorite online business. Why do you prefer that business? There are probably several aspects that resonate with you: the product selection, the witty copy on their website, the fun promotions that run every few months, or the free expedited shipping.

Brand marketing is how business owners promote their brand. It can be hard to track, as there traditionally aren’t many key performance indicators (KPIs) directly related to the impact. Instead, the goal is to extend the benefits and originality of your brand outside of the walls of your business.

When done right, brand marketing can create lasting fans for your business. Why? Because it highlights what makes you different—and better—than the competition. And it does so in a way that connects on an emotional level, which drives action better than logical arguments.

When you think about the main points of your brand marketing, put yourself in the customers’ shoes and consider what will be most important to them. Perhaps your easy return process is noteworthy in your industry. Or the quality of your products. Or your stance on social issues. Whatever is authentic and will move the needle for your business, that’s what you should promote.

Performance marketing, on the other hand, is more about concrete numbers from individual initiatives. Here are some common examples of performance marketing:

  • Webinars
  • Sales promotions
  • Discounts
  • Display ads
  • Social ads
  • Direct mail
  • Contests
  • Emails

You’re likely familiar with performance marketing because it often comprises the lion’s share of small business marketing. It’s affordable and gets results. Yep, it’s where the rubber meets the road.

But those who try to keep performance marketing separate from brand marketing are only going to dilute the power of their efforts. The KPIs of performance marketing are incredibly helpful, but the emotional resonance of brand marketing truly brings them to life. It’s like adding the “smarter” element to the phrase “work smarter and harder.” The result is marketing that works harder for you because it’s so much smarter.

“Remember the transitive property in middle school math class?” asks a business marketing analysis from Forbes. “If A=B and B=C, then A=C. That applies to performance marketing today. The performance marketing transitive property is this: all marketing is going digital, all digital is measurable, therefore all marketing will become performance. It’s time to stop thinking about brand and performance separately. Brand marketing encourages customers to raise their hands. Performance marketing makes it as easy as possible for a customer to get your product into their hand after they raise it. The reason marketers have drawn artificial lines between the 2 is not only because they are measured differently, but brand was historically so much harder to measure than performance.”

In our modern business world, you really can get the best of both worlds by using brand and performance marketing as complementary strategies rather than opposing forces. Just like you and your best friend, they just seem to bring out the best in each other when they’re together.

Moving Forward With a United Front

Take the time to outline the core benefits and characteristics of your brand—and remember to do this from the customers’ perspective rather than your own. There are likely things about your brand that you love—but if they won’t make a customer pause for a moment to contemplate how great they are, then they don’t warrant promotion through brand marketing.

Once you’ve prepared your list of brand marketing highlights, look for ways to incorporate them into your performance marketing efforts. You could create a fun contest where participants have to look for hidden clues on your About Us page in order to win prizes. In this way, you’re able to showcase your unique story and engage customers at the same time.

By using this hybrid approach, you’ll enjoy the lead generation and short-term revenue that come from performance marketing while laying the groundwork for the loyalty and long-term revenue associated with brand marketing. It’s like hitting 2 golf balls at the same time—1 with a driver and 1 with a putter. As the long ball soars through the air toward a distant green, the ball hit with the putter makes its way directly to the closest hole. Now that’s efficiency.

Grant Olsen

Grant Olsen is a writer specializing in small business loans, leadership skills, and growth strategies. He is a contributing writer for KSL 5 TV, where his articles have generated more than 6 million page views, and has been featured on FitSmallBusiness.com and ModernHealthcare.com. Grant is also the author of the book "Rhino Trouble." He has a B.A. in English from Brigham Young University.