July 25, 2024

KT Business

The Business Servicess On for You

How to measure the impact of brand marketing

8 min read

Performance media has enjoyed many years of supercharged growth. Its high trackability in digital media has made it a preferred investment for marketers and CMOs alike, looking to drive direct and measurable impact on the top line. But as many have noted, the pendulum is swinging back. 

Brands are having a moment. Many advertisers are shifting investment back up the funnel after realizing their performance-heavy investment strategies may have starved their brands of the reach and relevance needed to fuel future growth. 

Still, savvy CFOs will demand a business case for the dollars invested in driving your brand. Here’s how you can measure the impact of brand marketing investments on the business. 

1. Direct impact on the business

One of the first concerns marketers have when shifting investment up the funnel is whether they’re sacrificing impact to tangible business KPIs like traffic, conversion and revenue. But the goal is to shift toward a more balanced, full-funnel investment strategy. The good news is that, in addition to driving traditional brand metrics, broad-reach tactics often still work very hard for the business. By reaching a wider, net new audience for the brand, brand campaigns can convert at lower rates but still drive meaningful volume.

To measure this impact, brands can calibrate using the same measurement methodologies they’ve built and honed to measure performance media. For example, media mix models (MMM) can capture brand media’s impact on incremental traffic and revenue.

Brands with first-party data can also feed customer data into those models to understand the impact on new customer acquisition. Over time, investment in brand also drives up the “base” or brand equity value in MMM results. 

Testing also works well to prove the value of brand investments. Effective experimentation in brand marketing often employs sophisticated test designs such as geo-matched markets and audience holdouts. These methodologies allow marketers to isolate the effects of specific brand activities and directly measure their impact on key performance indicators (KPIs).

  • Geo-matched market: These tests involve comparing similar geographic areas where one area is exposed to the brand campaign and the other group of geos serves as a control. This type of testing is valuable for measuring the impact of complex media plans across many publishers or partners, though it can be operationally challenging to execute. At my agency, we leverage our proprietary marketing technology platform, All,i to streamline test design, execution and measurement. 
  • Audience holdout: In this approach, a segment of the audience is intentionally withheld from exposure to a particular campaign to serve as a baseline. Comparing the behavior of this group with those exposed to the campaign provides clear insights into the campaign’s direct impact on consumer behavior and engagement. This test design can be optimal for CRM-powered campaigns or testing the impact of large investments with a key publisher or platform.
  • Quantifying impact across the funnel: The goal is to validate the direct impact of brand investments and understand their influence on other marketing channels. For example, a successful brand campaign might increase brand awareness and improve the efficiency of performance marketing tactics like brand search or social retargeting. By evaluating the lift in performance across these channels, marketers can more accurately attribute gains to upper-funnel activities, leading to a more integrated strategy.

Dig deeper: Why B2B marketing needs brand building more than lead gen

2. Brand lift

Brand lift studies remain a core solution to measure brand marketing efforts. These survey-based methodologies measure the intangible effects of brand marketing efforts, such as shifts in consumer awareness, perception and intent.

Comprehensive, independent brand lift studies are valuable because they provide direct insights into how brand-focused campaigns influence the attitudes and behaviors of consumers — and how those impacts vary across publishers, formats and creative executions. Depending on brand objectives and priority KPIs, a study could focus on the following brand measures: 

Dimensions of brand lift measurement

  • Awareness: This measures the extent to which potential customers are familiar with a brand or a specific campaign. Increased awareness is often the first indicator of a successful brand campaign, as it is a necessary shift for subsequent audience engagement and conversion. Marketers can gauge the effectiveness of their reach and message penetration by measuring top-of-mind and unaided brand awareness before and after a campaign. Related, attention metrics are rising in prominence, assessing how much a campaign or creative captures the attention of key audiences to shift other brand metrics. 
  • Perception: Changes in how consumers perceive a brand — whether in terms of quality, value or relevance — can significantly impact consumer decision-making. Brand lift studies measure shifts in perception by analyzing consumer sentiments pre- and post-campaign. This understanding helps marketers adjust their messaging to align with consumer needs and values, ensuring a differentiation from competitors. 
  • Consideration: Consideration measures the likelihood that a consumer will choose a brand when making a purchase decision. An increase in consideration is a strong indicator that a campaign has successfully moved consumers along the funnel from awareness to potential purchase. This metric is crucial for evaluating the effectiveness of campaigns for converting interest into intent.
  • Purchase intent: This metric assesses the degree to which consumers prefer a brand over its competitors or actually intend to purchase from the brand. Increasing brand preference is often a key objective of brand campaigns, as it directly correlates with future sales and brand loyalty. Brand lift studies can provide insights into the brand’s competitive positioning and the campaign’s emotional resonance.

Enhancing brand lift with technology

While offering a comprehensive view of brand outcomes, one downside of brand lift studies is their reliance on consumer recall and the potential for biases in self-reported data. In digital media, measurement providers can tag media directly to identify users specifically targeted with the brand campaign to be more precise in evaluating the lift between exposed and unexposed (control) audiences. Many providers use panels or “intent to treat” approaches where such tagging is not in place. 

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

Our social sentiment analysis platform leverages AI-driven sentiment analysis of comments on a brand’s assess placements — placing them on a scale from negative to positive. This data is available in real-time and brands have found positive campaign sentiment is correlated with stronger performance. 

Cost-effective alternatives

For brands where third-party studies may be cost-prohibitive, most platforms and publishers offer brand lift capabilities, often including these studies as a value-add for a minimum level of investment. These studies can provide core insights into how brand campaigns influence consumer behavior beyond just clicks and impressions and offer a more nuanced understanding of a campaign’s effectiveness. 

3. Early indicators of brand marketing impact

Beyond immediate impact, many brands are finding new success with early indicators — metrics that can be measured in-flight or soon after a campaign wraps that correlate strongly with longer-term business outcomes. These metrics allow brands to gauge the effectiveness of their marketing strategies more promptly and adjust their tactics to maximize impact.

  • Share of search: A measure of how much a brand is searched relative to the industry or category total. It serves as a powerful leading indicator of brand relevance. According to research by Les Binet and other industry groups, this metric is predictive of later shifts in market share. Monitoring trends in share of search can provide early signals of changing consumer preference and brand health, offering marketers a proactive tool to refine campaigns quickly.
  • Site traffic: Increasing site traffic, especially from new users, can indicate successful brand marketing. It reflects higher awareness and interest in the brand, which can be attributed to effective upper-funnel activities. Analyzing traffic sources and user behavior on the site provides deeper insights into which aspects of the campaign are driving interest and engagement.
  • Social engagement: Metrics such as likes, shares, comments and mentions on social media platforms can provide insights into the resonance of a brand’s content and campaigns. High levels of engagement typically indicate strong consumer interest and a positive reception to brand positioning. Additionally, increases in follower counts or engagement rates can signal growing consumer affinity.

Integrating early indicators with broader marketing goals

Integrating these early indicators with more traditional, long-term metrics allows brands to create a comprehensive view of their marketing efforts’ effectiveness. For instance, correlating spikes in site traffic with increases in share of search can validate the impact of specific campaigns on brand metrics and conversion and revenue potential.

Dig deeper: Even great demand gen can’t overcome a lack of brand marketing

Test and learn to drive brand impact 

Brands have worked for years to adopt and operationalize a culture of Test and Learn and continuous improvement in their performance media programs. Experimentation is just as critical in refining the long-term strategic approach to brand building. 

2024 Replacement Survey Logo2024 Replacement Survey Logo

Levers for testing include emerging publishers, audience targeting, creative optimization, new ad formats leveraging dynamic creative and more. By continually testing and learning, brands can adapt their strategies to evolving market conditions and consumer preferences, ensuring their brand remains relevant and resonant. 

Implementing a cycle of continuous improvement

The key to successful experimentation lies in the cycle of continuous improvement: test, measure, learn and adapt. By embedding this cycle into the brand strategy, organizations can ensure that every dollar spent contributes to incremental improvements in brand metrics and business performance. This rigorous approach to experimentation sharpens the business case for brand investment, driving sustained growth and competitive advantage.

Brand marketing ROI: Bridging the gap between perception and performance 

As brands reallocate media spend toward upper-funnel initiatives, understanding the full spectrum of impact — direct business outcomes, brand lift and early indicators — is crucial. These measurement strategies offer a comprehensive view that combines business accountability and brand growth, ensuring that investments resonate with consumers and contribute tangibly to the company’s long-term success.

Dig deeper: Building a brand strategy: Essentials for long-term success

Contributing authors are invited to create content for MarTech and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the martech community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.


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