In today’s digital marketing age, we’re all familiar with the concept of performance management: setting goals, tracking key performance indicators (KPIs), and making adjustments to fine-tune our businesses.
The question “How can I measure the impact of my brand advertising?” is one that is heard more often these days. There are a variety of reasons why this question is being asked now, particularly at the C-level, instead of 10+ years ago. What’s the biggest reason why?
The rise of digital performance measurement. The rise of platform reporting has changed how marketers think about attribution and proving the value of their campaigns. Now more than ever, marketers are expected to be able to prove exactly how budgets were turned into revenue, even when it’s not as simple as it seems.
Why Google Analytics won’t give you the whole picture on brand advertising
We all know that brand advertising is an important part of any marketing mix. The reason that evaluating the impact of brand advertising is difficult is that brand tactics don’t get credit for conversions in last-click attribution (GA’s standard attribution model). Marketers know channels like programmatic, OTT, or streaming audio support conversion rates in performance channels but lack the tools to properly measure lift.
The problem with measuring brand lift is that it doesn’t make sense to attribute conversions to performance channels like paid search. For example, if you see an ad on Hulu, then convert through a Google search ad, Google takes credit in Google Analytics for that conversion, even though it’s very likely that the Hulu ad also contributed to your purchase.
Here are four steps to better evaluate your brand advertising tactics:
1. Set Proper Expectations With Stakeholders
2. Align On The Right Metrics
3. Run Intelligent Tests
4. Leverage a Third-Party Measurement Tool
Set Proper Expectations With Stakeholders
Brand advertising tactics, whether TV, digital video/CTV, or other awareness-focused tactics are expensive and can be hard to measure. And therefore they are often misunderstood by non-marketing stakeholders and their efficacy is questioned.
The first step to better evaluating brand tactics is setting proper expectations with stakeholders: make sure the broader team understands that brand advertising has a different role than performance tactics (like direct mail, SEM or email). The goal is not necessarily to drive immediate results, but rather to create awareness for your company and its products over time.
Performance-focused advertisements are designed to drive conversions and are easier to track. Brand advertising is focused on building awareness and strengthening the perception of your brand. These two forms of advertising often work together, so they need to be evaluated in context of one another. At Mint Measure we constantly see that brand advertising makes performance channels work better.
Stakeholders also need to understand the role of patience – brand advertising tactics take time to pay off! The value of brand advertising builds over time, like how regular investments compound over time.
By setting proper expectations up front, you’ll be able to make better decisions about where your budget should be allocated and whether or not it’s working as well as expected.
Align On The Right Metrics
Brand advertising is an investment in building your brand’s positioning in customers’ minds, and as such, it’s important to measure the impact of your efforts. The number of people who clicked on an ad and visited your website is an example of a direct KPI. However, that’s not the only way you can measure the effectiveness of your brand advertising tactics.
You may be familiar with the concept of primary and secondary KPIs. Primary KPIs are the most important metrics you want to measure in order to know if your strategy is working or not, but they don’t tell you everything about your strategy. Secondary KPIs help give context to primary metrics by giving you additional information about how brand advertising is consumed.
Let’s use video as an example: videos are not going to drive a lot of last-click or last-touch sales, but you can measure the quality of your video delivery by looking at video completion rates or by looking at viewability scores. If a video has strong completion rates and viewability scores, that can be a good indicator that your audience enjoys that piece of creative and is worth keeping around.
Secondary KPI’s won’t give you everything you need to justify spend on brand tactics, but it’s a step in the right direction to demonstrating that brand tactics are performing well on the metrics that align with their role.
Run Intelligent Tests
Another way to prove the impact of brand advertising tactics is running tests.
If you’re not familiar with a hold test, it’s a simple way to measure lift.
1 / You take a control group of people and stop (or start) running the brand tactic you want to prove to them while still delivering performance tactics.
2 / Then, you compare them against a test group that was exposed to both the brand and performance advertising.
3 / If the test group converts at a higher rate than the control group, then you can be confident that your campaign worked.
While this is the simplest method of testing, we don’t often recommend it because shutting off an ad channel across your entire market is the most expensive way to test.
Here are 3 smarter ways to test:
You can run a better hold test where instead of turning off brand tactics to your entire market, pick a specific geography (state, etc) who will be the control (hold) group. Stop running brand tactics to them and compare how conversion does or doesn’t deteriorate over time. This will show you how brand tactics lift your performance advertising.
You can also run the reverse of a geo-specific hold test when you’re expanding channels. When adding a new brand tactic to your media mix, only launch it in a specific geography and watch if conversion rates on performance channels improve. Based on the results you see, you can decide whether or not that channel will be ROI positive. Another benefit of this method is that you can deploy several tests simultaneously to identify the strongest channels to add.
The last intelligent way to test is promoting a specific coupon code or offer. Using video as the example again (we like video today, not sure why): you’d run video ads promoting a specific coupon code that’s not advertised or available anywhere else. While this shouldn’t be used as an evergreen attribution tactic, it can be a powerful way to identify sales that came from video ads. You can easily use this strategy in any other low-intent channels.
Remember, you’re not trying to prove precisely the impact of everything, but that it works well enough to justify continuing investment in this tactic and this channel.
Leverage a Third-Party Measurement Tool
By adding a layer of measurement technology that can show how brand tactics are working together with acquisition tactics, you can prove their effectiveness more easily.
A third-party measurement tool can help you get an accurate picture of how many people were exposed to your ads and how many of them converted. While this solution requires a purchase, it is also the most clear and straightforward way to prove effectiveness.
The good news is that there are a variety of tools available to help you track and optimize your brand advertising efforts. Here are the two ways that any channel will impact conversions:
1) Lifting conversion rates in across your media mix (supporting other channels)
2) Reaching and converting net new audiences
When most marketers look to 3rd-party measurement tools, they usually look for an attribution or an incrementality vendor. Any solution that makes you choose either attribution OR incrementality is doing you a great disservice. Here’s why:
Attribution can only show Impact Type 1 (how channels work together).
Incrementality can only show Impact Type 2 (how channels reach net new users).
To properly prove the value of a marketing channel you need both attribution AND incrementality.
That’s why at Mint Measure we use a bimodal analysis that lets us prove BOTH the incremental value of channels and how they lift other channels.
While it can be challenging, there are ways to measure the impact of your brand advertising.
The impact of brand advertising in the world is vastly underestimated. Proving the impact of brand advertising will allow you to better show its value. But how do you prove that?
1 / Set proper expectations with stakeholders
2 / Align on the right metrics for the tactic
3 / Run intelligent tests
4 / Use a third-party measurement tool to directly quantify impact
By implementing these strategies, marketers will have clear insights into how brand tactics drive results.