Brand Growth Requires A Full-Funnel Approach

Emmanuel ProbstMay 2, 20173 min

While attending the Los Angeles Digital Summit last month, I realized that most marketers obsess about lower-funnel metrics. Only a few presenters talked about brand awareness and preference. And the ones who did took their audience through “Branding 101” because many attendees don’t pay attention to upper-funnel activity. Neither presenters nor attendees are to blame. With the average CMO tenure at 42 months, down six months in two years as a backdrop, marketers can often see their future in the analysis of what gets measured. Investors are riveted to quarterly results, prompting top executives to focus on monthly revenue, marketing executives to report on weekly activity, and digital executives to tweak tomorrow’s tactic based on what happened yesterday.

Yes, bidding on the best keywords and implementing the most sophisticated retargeting strategy is a waste if your target audience does not know and value your brand. That is, a brand that people recognize as meaningful, salient and different. As the saying goes, the best place to hide a dead body is on page 2 of Google. But your brand will always appear on page one for consumers that search for it, hence the importance of brand awareness.

Why Everybody Loves Lower-Funnel Metrics

First, part of the attraction of lower-funnel metrics is that they are easy to understand. A few hours of training are sufficient to master Click-Through-Rate, Cost-Per-Click and Cost-Per-Acquisition, among other self-explanatory metrics. Also, people love using TLAs (three-letter acronyms) because they make you look cool and educated. I’m making a killing with my new RTB strategy! I reduced CPMs by 15% and CTR is up 12%, bringing my CPO and CPA down by 5%! Awesome!* Last but not least, lower-funnel metrics are treated as an immediate measure of success. You will know within hours if people you retargeted converted, and within minutes the impact of your latest keywords buy.

*Real-Time Bidding, Cost-Per-Mille, Click-Through-Rate, Cost-Per-Opportunity, Cost-Per-Acquisition

The Evolution Of The Consumer Journey

With digital marketing came the proliferation of real-time, precise metrics. But the multiplicity of screens and platforms in the digital realm also made the consumer journey considerably more complex. According to Serena Ehrlich, Business Wire, there are now 22-25 touch points between your brand and your consumers before they buy your product. The typical customer path to conversion includes content marketing, social, and display advertising all served across Connected TV, desktop, mobile, tablet and offline.

It’s time to leave behind the buzzwords and three-letter acronyms. By focusing on clicks and conversion, you merely optimize a tactic to sell your product. Lower-funnel metrics, such as last-click and last-touch, are misleading because consumers have likely been exposed to your brand and product 20-23 times beforehand.

To develop a strategy for your brand, you need to map out the full customer journey like the one pictured above, from the consumer’s thoughts and feelings through his or her repurchase and recommendation. This strategy must be supported by a measurement program that allows you to measure and optimize your Return-on-Ad-Spend throughout the marketing funnel. That is, your measurement program should account for the impact of each and every brand/advertising impression on the outcome. Best-in-class programs rely on brand-infused Multi-Touch-Attribution (MTA), a process that combines attitudinal and behavioral data with statistical models to quantify the contribution of each touch point on the outcome. For example, your MTA model might reveal that retargeting accounts for 10% in the purchase decision, with display contributing 30%, native 15%, Connected TV 5% and social 40%.

Analyzing such results will allow you to optimize audience models, creatives and media plans. To take your measurement program one step further, you can implement predictive models to learn and respond to changes in consumer behavior in real-time. Ultimately, your goal should be to create not one but multiple customer journey maps and to convey the same brand values in the upper funnel, that are marketed through hundreds if not thousands of audience segments in the middle and lower funnel.

Reflecting on my most successful clients, their strategies are comprised of at least two layers. They combine an “always on” campaign to drive brand awareness with ad hoc product campaigns to drive tactical outcomes tied to events and promotions. Further, they always implement a comprehensive measurement program that allows them to optimize Return-on-Ad-Spend in the short run while improving brand health for the long run. Now I just need to come up with a three-letter acronym to describe these programs.

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