As any marketer worth their salt will know, branding is about invoking a feeling in consumers that they associate with a company name. Trust, reliability, punctuality, speed, ingenuity – it depends on the company’s values and aims, but the intention is to have an impact on the buying decision outside simply how much the product costs.
However, with the rise of digital advertising capable of focusing specifically on a particular audience it’s now possible to directly reach individuals of a certain type – i.e. best fit customers who are likely to want to buy a the product. This draws a question mark over the need for having an influence on that purchasing decision from a brand perspective.
Does this mean the importance of branding is under threat? It’s a question that a lot of people are asking at the moment.
Is branding under threat?
In the modern marketing world digital advertising has the potential to be astonishingly accurate. By utilising vast levels of data and sophisticated online intelligence tools, an advertiser can pretty much pick and choose which people see its adverts.
Brands know the types of customers to focus on through consumer analysis, segmentation and customer profiling techniques – tactics which are highly effective with the level of modern data available.
Not only does this level of accuracy mean marketing becomes more efficient and effective, it improves the customers’ experience as they are only shown adverts for things they are likely to be interested in rather than irrelevant products they would never buy. And we all know how important customer experience is these days.
Programmatic (read this post to find out more about programmatic) takes this further with automated and real-time evaluations of browsers enabling the most relevant adverts to be shown.
In some critics’ eyes the need for a brand to help create a pre-formed decision is reduced when advertisers have the ability to put relevant ads only in front of people who are highly likely to actually want to buy that product. Especially considering the level of effort and investment required to build a strong brand.
Using programmatic to build brand
Programmatic buying is about using a brief window to get a customer’s attention. Sophisticated algorithms can tell a great deal about a browser just from their history and behaviour, including at what stage of the buying process they are.
Because of this, programmatic is certainly suited to driving actions and conversions in direct-response advertising. Using it for branding purposes, with adverts without a specific call to action, could be seen as a waste of money that could be ploughed into campaigns which are instantly measurable in terms of success. This engenders a reluctance to run branding-specific programmatic campaigns. In my experience running a branding campaign that has no KPI other than ‘raise awareness of the brand’ can be difficult for digitally-focused marketers to understand and fully embrace.
This doesn’t mean programmatic doesn’t have a key role to play in branding. It simply means we need to think how we measure success and how we manage spend across channels to deliver the goal.
Branding strategy needs to inform programmatic advertising
When it comes to programmatic and branding it’s not one or the other – “yes do it”, or “no don’t”. Brand builders must embed themselves across the customer value chain and the brand story needs to be told across channels and the customer journey.
Programmatic should not be excluded from the brand story. Programmatic is a channel that needs to be incorporated and not treated separately. Yes there’s the temptation to concentrate programmatic spend on direct response campaigns but branding strategy needs to incorporate all aspects and touch points into the brand story. Every time you communicate with a consumer, it’s the brand they see so successful branding campaigns involve strategy and cross-channel outreach. Programmatic media buying can be an effective component of a branding strategy, not the whole piece, and using it as a separate channel to push single CTA ads would mean a lost opportunity to reinforce brand message. Or indeed could counteract some of the wider brand messages you are looking to promote.
The branding strategy needs to inform the messaging, tone and style of all communication – including programmatic advertising. Companies need to make better use of their marketing spend and ensure the right elements of programmatic advertising are added and included in the branding strategy, which will then help improve brand awareness. If any pound spent on advertising in any manner is having no impact on brand awareness, then that’s a pound wasted.
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