Mastering Metrics: How to Measure Brand Marketing Impact

Mastering Metrics: How to Measure Brand Marketing Impact

Performance media has seen rapid growth over the years. The high degree of traceability in digital media has made it the preferred investment for marketers and CMOs looking to have a direct and measurable impact on sales. But as many are realizing, the pendulum is swinging back.

Brands are having a big moment right now. Many advertisers are pulling back on their investments, realizing that their performance-driven investment strategies may be depriving brands of the reach and relevance they need for future growth.

Still, smart CFOs will demand a return on investment on the dollars spent promoting the brand. Here’s how to measure the business impact of your brand marketing investments:

1. Direct impact on the business

One of the first concerns marketers have when making an investment is whether they’re sacrificing the impact on tangible business KPIs like traffic, conversions, sales, etc. But the goal is to move to a more balanced, full-funnel investment strategy. The good news is that in addition to boosting traditional brand metrics, long reach tactics are still often hugely successful for businesses. Brand campaigns can still generate significant volume, albeit with lower conversion rates, by reaching a wider, new audience for your brand.

To measure this impact, brands can use and refine the same metrics they developed and refined to measure media performance. For example, media mix models (MMM) can capture the impact of branded media on incremental traffic and sales.

Brands with first-party data can also feed customer data into these models to understand the impact on customer acquisition. Brand investments also increase the “fundamental value” or brand value in MMM results over time.

Testing can also help prove the value of brand investments. Effective experiments in brand marketing often use sophisticated test designs, including geographically aligned markets and target group holdouts. These methods allow marketers to isolate the impact of specific brand activities and directly measure the impact on key performance indicators (KPIs).

  • Geographically matched markets: These tests compare similar geographic regions by exposing one region to a brand campaign and using a set of other geographic regions as a control group. This type of test can be operationally challenging, but it helps measure the impact of complex media plans across many publishers and partners. At my agency, we use our proprietary marketing technology platform, All,i, to optimize the design, execution, and measurement of tests.
  • Audience holdout: This approach intentionally excludes a portion of the audience from exposure to a particular campaign to act as a baseline. Comparing the behavior of this group to a group exposed to the campaign provides clear insight into the campaign’s direct impact on consumer behavior and engagement. This test design is ideal for CRM-driven campaigns or testing the impact of large investments across major publishers and platforms.
  • Quantify full-funnel impact: The objective is to validate the direct impact of brand investments and understand the impact on other marketing channels. For example, a successful brand campaign increases brand awareness and improves the efficiency of performance marketing tactics such as branded search and social retargeting. Evaluating increased performance across these channels allows marketers to more accurately attribute benefits to upper-funnel activity, resulting in a more integrated strategy.

2. Brand Lift

Brand Lift studies remain the go-to solution for measuring brand marketing efforts. These research-based methods measure the intangible impact of brand marketing efforts, such as changes in consumer attention, awareness, and intent.

Comprehensive, independent Brand Lift studies are valuable because they provide direct insight into how brand-focused campaigns impact consumer attitudes and behaviors, and how their effectiveness varies across publishers, formats, and creative execution. Depending on your brand goals and prioritized KPIs, studies can focus on the following brand metrics:

Dimensions of brand awareness measurement

Awareness: This measures how familiar potential customers are with a brand or a particular campaign. Increased awareness is often the first indicator of success for a brand campaign, as it represents the change required for subsequent audience engagement and conversion. Measuring top-of-mind and off-top brand awareness before and after a campaign allows marketers to assess the effectiveness of reach and message penetration. Related to this, attention metrics, which assess how well a campaign or creative captures the attention of key audiences, are becoming increasingly important for shifting other brand metrics.

Awareness: Changes in consumer perception of a brand, whether in terms of quality, value or relevance, can have a significant impact on their purchase decisions. Brand lift studies measure changes in perception by analyzing consumer sentiment before and after a campaign. This understanding helps marketers tailor their messaging to consumers’ needs and values, differentiating them from competitors.

Consideration: Consideration measures the likelihood a consumer will choose your brand when making a purchasing decision. An increase in consideration is a strong indicator that a campaign has successfully moved consumers down the funnel from awareness to likelihood to purchase. This metric is critical to assess the effectiveness of a campaign in turning interest into intent to purchase.

Purchase Intent: This metric evaluates the extent to which consumers prefer a brand over competitors or actually intend to purchase from that brand. Increasing brand preference is often a key goal of a brand campaign, as it directly translates to future sales and brand loyalty. Brand lift studies provide insight into a brand’s competitive positioning and the campaign’s emotional resonance.

Improving Brand Lift with Technology

Brand lift studies can provide a comprehensive view of brand results, but the downside is that they rely on consumer memory, which can introduce bias into self-reported data. Digital media allows measurement providers to directly tag media to identify users targeted by brand campaigns, allowing for a more accurate assessment of lift for targeted versus non-targeted (control) audiences. Many providers use panels or intent-to-treat approaches where no such tagging exists.

Combined with other technological advances, brand lift studies can leverage real-time data collection and analysis tools. For example, integrating artificial intelligence into campaign analytics can help assess sentiment fluctuations based on campaign performance.

Our social sentiment analytics platform uses AI-powered sentiment analysis of comments to rank brands’ reviews on a scale from negative to positive. Because this data is available in real-time, brands have found that positive sentiment in their campaigns correlates with stronger performance.

A Low-Cost Alternative

For brands where third-party studies may be too expensive, most platforms and publishers offer brand lift capabilities and these studies are often included as added value with minimal investment. These studies provide key insights into how brand campaigns impact consumer behavior beyond clicks and impressions, providing a more nuanced understanding of campaign effectiveness.

3. Leading Indicators of Brand Marketing Impact

Beyond direct impact, many brands are finding new success through leading indicators – metrics that can be measured during or shortly after a campaign is completed and that strongly correlate with long-term business performance. These metrics allow brands to measure the effectiveness of their marketing strategies more quickly and adjust their strategies to maximize impact.

Search Share: A measure of how frequently a brand is searched for across an industry or category. This serves as a meaningful early indicator of a brand’s relevance. According to research by Les Binet and other industry groups, this metric can be used to predict subsequent market share changes. Monitoring search market share trends can be an early indicator of shifts in consumer preferences and brand health, giving marketers a proactive tool to quickly adjust their campaigns.

Site Traffic: An increase in site traffic, especially new users, can be an indication of successful brand marketing. It reflects growing awareness and interest in your brand due to effective upper-funnel activities. Analyzing traffic sources and user behavior on your site can provide deeper insight into the aspects of your campaign that drive interest and engagement.

Social Engagement: Metrics such as likes, shares, comments, and mentions on social media platforms provide insight into the resonance of your brand’s content and campaigns. High levels of engagement typically indicate strong consumer interest and positive acceptance of your brand’s positioning. Additionally, increases in follower counts and engagement rates can be a sign of growing customer affinity.

Integrate Early Metrics into Broader Marketing Goals

Integrating these early metrics into more traditional, longer-term metrics can help brands get a comprehensive view of the effectiveness of their marketing efforts. For example, correlating spikes in site traffic with increases in share of search can help brands see the impact of specific campaigns on brand metrics, conversions and revenue potential.

Test and Learn to Increase Brand Impact

Brands have worked for years to adopt and implement a culture of test and learn, and continuous improvement, into their performance media programs. Experimentation is equally important in refining a long-term strategic approach to brand building.

Levers to be tested include emerging publishers, audience targeting, creative optimization, new ad formats with dynamic creative, and more. Through continuous testing and learning, brands can adapt their strategies to shifting market conditions and consumer preferences to keep their brand relevant and engaging.

Implement a Continuous Improvement Cycle

The key to successful experimentation is a continuous improvement cycle: test, measure, learn, adapt. By incorporating this cycle into their brand strategy, companies can ensure that every dollar spent contributes to incremental improvements in brand metrics and business performance. This consistent experimentation approach makes the business case for brand investment clearer, ensuring sustainable growth and competitive advantage.

Brand Marketing ROI: Closing the Gap Between Awareness and Performance

As brands reallocate media spend to upper-funnel efforts, it’s critical to understand the full scope of impact: direct business results, brand effect, and leading indicators. These measurement strategies provide a comprehensive view that combines business responsibility and brand growth, ensuring investments resonate with consumers and clearly contribute to the company’s long-term success.

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