Digital media performance has always been closely connected to conversion. Whether you’re talking about online sales or lead generation, we associate the idea of performance with a tangible action that has immediate repercussions on achieving a digital objective. On the other hand, it’s harder to relate performance to brand awareness or consideration initiatives, since their influence is often indirect and not as attributable, and their real effects are more often felt in the long term. Basically, at a time when we all want to quickly fulfill our needs, short-term initiatives get the upper hand. But does this justify a continual deprioritization of brand campaigns?
Before answering this question, it’s important to understand how to effectively integrate the various tactics of your ad campaign in order to ensure these represent a performance vector towards the achievement of your objectives.
First, as everyone knows, every media strategy needs to start with a clear, detailed brief containing a SMART goal. This is the first step in order to be able to properly evaluate the situation and define a strategy that responds to this overall objective. Once you’ve defined the strategy and established your various tactics, it’s important to understand the role of each tactic and the manner in which each can help you achieve your goal. This applies just as much to initiatives in digital media as it does to traditional media. For example, a billboard beside a highway could have a goal of introducing a brand, keeping the brand top of mind while it is already enjoying strong awareness, or even generating a specific action (such as taking the next exit to visit the business). It’s the same thing for digital initiatives, in the sense that an advertising placement can fulfill various goals. This is the point where the ad message comes into play—it’s the hub of any good advertising strategy, whether you’re talking about branding, conversions or 360.
Initially, an ad positioning is defined to maximize visibility. But without a strong, impactful message to communicate, your ad is like an empty gesture. It’s the message that allows you to influence the consumer and which acts as a performance vector. With digital, the message is sometimes deprioritized when creating the strategy and there can be a tendency to underestimate its importance. Basically, when using a single advertising message for all of your digital tactics, you’re communicating in a homogenous way with people who aren’t all at the same point in their consumer journey. Inevitably this means the execution loses efficacy. If you focus strictly on generating results in the short term, there’s a tendency to not consider media creativity initiatives. Yet they can have considerable repercussions on brand perception and developing awareness amongst the target. In Quebec, we have the luxury of having a strong, unique media ecosystem. So obviously we use this media to develop initiatives that are out of the ordinary. At the moment, we only need to ensure we correctly measure their effect in order to confirm whether they are relevant within the media mix.
As my colleague Jean-Christophe stated in a recent article, brand awareness initiatives are often analyzed using vanity metrics, and we spend too little time properly optimizing these tactics. By adding a traditional media component to the equation, for which measuring success is even more difficult and whose effects are, in most cases, only visible in the long term, the challenge gets even bigger.
However, a deep, thorough analysis of these tactics can bring positive effects in the long term. A user that’s engaged with a brand will recognize it more easily from amongst all the ad messages they are exposed to in a given day. We can also assume that they will tend to click on an ad for this brand in search engines if they’re searching online for the product or service it offers.
There are also surveys and other analytical instruments that enable the effects of an awareness campaign to be measured, but in a world in which the short term is ascendant, you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of aligning all these tactics (digital or traditional)—it’s essential to the success of a campaign and a brand. Don’t forget that these long-term repercussions will still powerfully influence the generation of conversion results. In this sense, time can be on your side.
In short, at a time when performance is dictated by our analytics platforms and by generating short-term results, our eyes tend to be laser-focused on data and metrics, with many forgetting the importance of the message. We’ve forgotten to what extent aligning with the ad positioning can have a gigantic effect on brand recall and engagement, two metrics that are hard to measure and attribute in the short term, but which have indirect, long-term effects on achieving your results.
So before you throw in the towel and deprioritize awareness initiatives, make sure you really understand their role in the activation of an ad campaign, their connection with a strong message and how they relate to developing initiatives that are out of the ordinary in order to give yourself the best chance of having an effect on people and stimulating their interest in your brand. Lastly, you should ensure you’re properly measuring the success of these initiatives and that you understand that their effect is felt more in the long term.