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The Age-Old Adage: What's More Important, Direct Response or Brand Awareness?

Building the future version of our company via brand building is difficult to juggle with generating immediate revenue using direct response marketing. It can be difficult to know how much to focus on the two aspect of marketing, but nailing down the right mix is paramount to success in such a competitive digital marketing landscape. So, it caught our eye this week when Facebook released an article on their blog titled ‘The Value of Performance Branding’. In this article, Facebook discusses the need to balance direct response marketing with brand-building and how these two relate to each other. They refer to the balancing of these two priorities as ‘Performance Branding’ which they define as:

driving performance outcomes while simultaneously building strong, consistent and memorable brands

And, this article isn’t just a bunch of postulations; they back their claims up with evidence from real Facebook ad campaigns. So, below we dig into a few of the most interesting and pertinent findings to help you better balance your marketing strategy.

The first claim that caught our eye is Facebook’s claim that mobile-optimized ads create 2x higher brand awareness compared to non-mobile-optimized ads. This is an astonishingly higher lift in brand awareness! In fact, this is the most surprising statistic in the entire blog post, so if you take nothing else away from this post, consider spending much more time making your ads optimized for mobile. In fact, you should consider making mobile-first ad optimizations one of the top 3 priorities for direct response marketing campaigns with all social media platforms (not just Facebook). While Facebook’s blog post only discusses advertising platforms in the Facebook ecosystem, it is plausible that this change in brand awareness lift is common across all social media platforms considering the vast majority of social media users access these platforms from mobile devices. Below are some recommendations from Facebook on getting the most out of the benefits to your brand from mobile-first direct response campaigns:

• Keep your videos short (less than 15 seconds)

• Capture attention with strong branding in the first few seconds

• Design for sound off (but delight with sound on)

• Shoot for vertical, full-screen display

The second claim we think is important to note from Facebook’s blog is that branding is actually really important to get the most out of Facebook advertising campaigns. They claim that, in their study, ‘57% of the brands saw brand awareness uplifts for their competitors as well as for themselves.’ In other words, if you are advertising for your product, say tennis shoes, and you fail to highlight your brand properly, you are actually helping more well-known brands like Nike by keeping tennis shoes on the mind of people already thinking of Nike tennis shoes. This effectively means that, if you brand poorly in your Facebook direct response campaigns, you are contributing much more in aggregate to the sales of more well-known brands compared to contributing to sales of your brand. So, this shows that branding just can’t be an afterthought for direct response campaigns. Not thinking of your brand’s perception in marketing campaigns isn’t just hurting your long-term prospects from your brand’s perception; it’s hurting the actual performance of your direct marketing campaign! Going a step further, Facebook claims that:

Ensuring brand identity is especially important for:

• Brands that are new and young to the market;

• Brands in a crowded and competitive marketplace with strong established competitors.

So, this ‘short but sweet’ Facebook blog post shows that direct response marketing and brand building are much more entangled than we might think at first glance. How you structure your direct response campaigns heavily affects your brand’s reception, and how you present your brand to your audience in your campaign has a strong effect on the performance of your campaign, a vicious cycle! The good news, however, is that leaning into performance branding can have a drastic impact on the value you get from running Facebook (and perhaps wider social media) ads.


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