Andrew Raso April 13, 2021

When you’ve only got a limited marketing budget, and let’s face it, all budgets are limited, you want to get the biggest bang for your buck. And that means campaigns that bring in leads, sales and conversions.

But if you only focus on more direct response forms of advertising, such as lead generation or conversion, you could be missing out on a crucial element of the picture – brand awareness.

Think about McDonald’s, Coca Cola, Nike and Apple. Why do you instantly recognise and associate certain words, products, and logos with these companies? It comes down to brand marketing.

How do you do it? That’s what I’m going to tell you in this article. Specifically, I’m going to show you how brand awareness should, in most cases, be a part of your marketing campaign mix.

Before you panic and switch all of your direct response campaigns to brand awareness, I’m going to give you the facts. It’s definitely not an either-or approach. Branding and digital marketing strategies rarely are. It’s about using data to guide your decisions and drive the best results from your campaigns.

In this article you’ll get the lowdown on:

  • What is brand marketing and the difference between brand awareness and direct response campaigns.
  • Why you should be considering brand marketing in your Facebook campaigns.
  • The strategies you can implement to use Facebook brand awareness objectives to get results and the factors that may impact this.
  • Why marketers in 2021 should be developing a full-funnel approach that includes both direct response and brand awareness goals.

This is all practical, actionable, data-driven marketing gold. So let’s get into it.

What is brand marketing?

What is brand marketing? Effectively, it is related to long-term brand-building marketing goals. Direct response marketing, on the other hand, is all about selling. I.e. taking the customer straight to your products and services so they will convert to a sale.

But what you need to know is that they both drive conversions in their own way. I’ll give you more details on that later. For now, I want to dive into the fundamental differences (and similarities) between the two marketing strategies.

Direct response marketing vs branding

Direct response marketing is designed to drive an immediate action from your customers. You want them to click through to your website and complete the checkout business or send an enquiry for your services. Direct response calls to action are typically strong phrases that compel customers towards action, such as “buy now” or “limited time only”.

The messages and calls to action for direct response marketing is highly targeted. Much like in a conversation, you are giving your customers everything they need to know in order to make a quick decision… and take action.

On the other hand, brand marketing is about the long game and educating your customers about your company brand and the products and services you provide. Brand marketing helps to establish your brand identity with your customers and to build positive sentiment towards your company.

As a long-term strategy, brand marketing helps you to distinguish your business from your competitors. Through brand marketing you are telling your brand story, reinforcing your brand messages and positioning your brand as an industry leading business.

Ultimately, brand marketing allows you to control the narrative. Can you see how both direct response and brand marketing play an important role in your marketing funnel?


Don’t discount the role of brand marketing in driving sales

Even if your number 1 metric is conversions, don’t discount the role of branding in driving revenue growth. In fact, recent research from Facebook showed that in certain industries, brand marketing can be a more effective strategy at driving short-term conversions than direct response strategies.

But isn’t that counter-intuitive to everything I just told you about the difference between brand marketing and direct response?

It is. But also, it isn’t.

The Facebook research, in partnership with Marketing Mix Modeling (MMM), analysed results from 500 Facebook marketing campaigns across 21 different businesses spanning three years. The intention of the study was to test the assumption that lower-funnel (direct response) strategies outperform upper-funnel (brand marketing) strategies for driving sales.

The results found this assumption to be untrue. As I’ve already mentioned, brand marketing can in fact play a huge role in driving conversions for your company.

There are a few points of clarification I need to make so you have the full picture. Direct response was shown to drive more incremental sales over brand marketing. However, because of the nature of direct response targeting, i.e. based on very tight and specific criteria, these ads do tend to be more costly.

Due to the nature of the broader audience targeting with brand marketing, the cost per impression is generally lower than direct response, which makes the performance more comparable.

And, in fact, with media cost accounted for, on a per-spend basis, the return on investment that brand marketing delivers is consistently better for certain industries, like eCommerce and retail. I’ll dive more into this industry related impact later.

As a strategy, the conversions that come from brand marketing can be more cost effective than direct response and deliver a higher ROI.

My message here isn’t to give up on direct response marketing. It is that band marketing and direct response marketing as a combined approach can be a very successful strategy to build better results.

Image source: Facebook


How to use Facebook for brand marketing

Now it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty. I’m not just talking about the what or why anymore. This is the how. How you can drive brand awareness of your business branding with Facebook Ads. And Facebook is one of the most successful channels for growing your brand’s name, establishing an emotional connection and building brand recognition.

There are more than 2.7 billion active users on Facebook giving you an enormous opportunity to get your company brand in front of more people.

As I’ve already mentioned, the answer here isn’t to move your direct response marketing budget towards brand marketing. But you do need both social strategies in the mix.

There are a few outcomes you might want to achieve from your Facebook brand marketing. It could be simply to reach and educate a new audience of customers for your company. Or you might want to give your existing customers a gentle nudge to remind them of the core values of your brand and why they should buy from you. Depending on your market position you might also have a goal to strengthen and build on your brand message to foster trust and loyalty with your customers. Or even to completely shift your core brand identity and core values to change the perception of your brand amongst your customers.

Whatever your objective is, you need to establish it before you do anything else. Without a clearly defined objective, you can’t possibly measure the success later down the track.

Once you’ve defined your objective, then you need to consider four things – your target audience, ad creative, budget and measuring the results. These four elements are all directly linked to how you actually set up brand marketing ads within Facebook.

Define your target audience

This is why understanding your goals and objectives is so important. If you are working on brand marketing to educate new customers about your brand you will target a different audience than if you want to give past customers a reminder of your brand.

Audience targeting for branding and brand awareness requires really solid understanding of the characteristics of your buyer personas so you can target the right people. As I’ve already mentioned, a target audience for brand marketing will be much broader than for direct response, lower down your funnel.

Image: Sprout Social

Set your ad creative

The ad creative and copy must be consistent with your brand marketing objective. How do you want people to feel when they see your ads? What brand sentiment are you trying to build? What differentiates your brand from that of your competitors? What problems can you solve for your customers? Why should they care about your brand and what your business does?

Brand marketing ads are about education so a strong “buy now” type call to action will not work. These ads are more about communicating a message and getting in front of new or existing customers than compelling a direct action.

Image source: WordStream

Determine your budget

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, you need to manage your budget across both branding and direct response goals.There will be times when your budget leans more towards brand ads and other times – such as during a sale or event – when your focus and budget will sway to direct response ads.

When you set up your brand building ads, use a CPA goal to reach a broad audience through dynamic ads.

Image source: AdEspresso

Measure your success

I recommend using multi-touch attribution for your marketing brand ads. Why? If you are running both brand and direct response ads, multi-touch attribution allows you to see the value of each touchpoint rather than the last touchpoint only.

You will see much more variation in your brand marketing results than you will for direct response. And that variation will also be impacted by the size of your target audience, budget and creative. What you need to do is create benchmarks,

However, there is also a tool within Facebook that you can use to measure the success of your brand marketing ads. That is the Facebook Brand Lift Test which uses polling and brand awareness measurement to determine the actual value of your brand marketing efforts. You can run this on a single campaign or across your entire portfolio.

You will find the Brand Lift Test within the Experiments section of Facebook Ads Manager. I recommend using the Brand Survey option across only your brand awareness ads. You will need to select up to three polling questions related to your objectives. Do you want to measure brand loyalty? Establish whether your customers can recognise the brand identity of your company?

Consistent measurement is a crucial step. You need to be able to measure your results so you can tweak and adjust your ads to improve their performance.

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Consider your industry and other factors

One thing you do need to remember in all of this is that the results aren’t going to be consistent across every industry or subset of demographics.

I’ve already mentioned that the Facebook research found that brand awareness ads are particularly useful in industries such as eCommerce and retail. But you can drive down even further than that.

For example, the research also found that for the healthcare industry, brand marketing is a more effective way to drive short-term conversions for the 35-54 age group. For teens however, better short-term conversions are linked to direct response.

Consider your industry and demographics, then establish benchmarks so you can measure your results and tweak your ads for the best results.

Image source: Facebook

The power of a full-funnel approach

What’s really quite interesting about this research is that it showed the value of having both lower-funnel and upper-funnel strategies in the mix.

The temptation is to focus on the direct response. The ads with a strong call to action that drive sales, leads and support your cash flow.

But now it’s time to think differently. If brand marketing can be more efficient, at driving short term sales, and helping to build brand recognition and trust to foster loyalty, what are you waiting for?

A consistent full-funnel approach allows you to balance your budget with the higher cost direct response ads and the lower cost brand marketing ads. You are taking your customers on a journey through the funnel and, perhaps, even circling back to them to push them down that funnel again.

Ultimately, this is the approach that is going to help you achieve both short and long term goals.

Image: AdEspresso

So, what does this all mean for marketers?

For many, it likely means a change in strategy. If you’ve dismissed brand marketing as contrary to achieving your short-term goals then you need to rethink. Broaden your perspective to look at the complete funnel, rather than just the end of the funnel where you can see the dollar signs.

If you want efficiency from your marketing, upper-funnel brand marketing strategies are the way to achieve it. Not only will you get greater efficiencies but you’ll also help to boost sales of your products and services.

But, at the end of the day, the most important thing is that you don’t just charge into any strategy. You look to the data and the evidence and make smart decisions that will deliver results.

The question is no longer what is brand marketing, it’s how you can use it as a tool for your business.

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About the Author

Andrew Raso

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