Moving from a turf war to healthy tension as performance and creative need each other to thrive.

We get this question a lot: “What’s the difference between performance marketing and brand marketing? And how do they work together?”

Like many things, the answer is both simple and complicated.  

Harder-to-quantify goals such as “reach” and “awareness” were not particularly welcome.

Traditionally, performance marketing has lived in the realm of measurable results and trackable actions based on a set of concrete conversions, such as email sign-ups or ads clicked. The motto has been performance, or else. Lofty, harder-to-quantify goals such as “reach” and “awareness” were not particularly welcome. It’s no wonder performance marketing and the digital transformation have been a match made in data-driven heaven.

In a similarly traditional and increasingly outmoded way of thinking, brand marketing has been the province of the creative. Brand identity, activations, memorable taglines and iconic cultural moments are part of this space. In many ways, brand marketers owned the top of the funnel by addressing such questions as, “Who is my brand?” “How does my brand come to life through creative execution across digital and traditional media?” “What are the stories this brand tells, and what are its natural affinities?”

The two camps were once distinct worlds with minimal overlap and frequently conflicting views of what “works.”

No more.

Now that marketers have rightly shifted their focus to understanding and engaging the customer in a personalized, seamless stream of contextually relevant content, the two worlds have collided.

In a landscape that prioritizes relationship-building and personalization over passive, one-way “messaging,” performance and brand marketing have entered a new era of interdependency where every interaction – from slow page loads to suggested related content to a call with the support desk – is an expression of the brand experience. So, they both better shoulder the weight of delivering a good one.

In a recap of the ANA Financial Management Conference she attended, the founder of the brand consultancy Sunday Dinner, Lindsey Slaby observed the need for a healthy tension between brand and performance. More upstream collaboration is necessary to achieve the results and sales-side impact today’s CMOs demand.

This is an improvement on the current model where a lead partner agency often dictates creative direction and brand strategy without firm roots in consumer behavior, data or performance-driven metrics. Slaby recommends more agile collaboration across nimble players who can help connect the dots to deliver experiences that are focused on the customer’s needs instead of merely saturating channels.

Performance marketing

Every interaction – from slow page loads to suggested related content to a call with the support desk – is an expression of the brand experience.

A tighter collaboration between branding and performance experts is wise as more brands move away from mass media blitzing toward the cultivation of an addressable audience through deeply understanding and responding to consumer behaviors and signals. They can steadily scale their audience of known consumers, and control how marketing decisions are made – with collected, owned, realized data as the gold standard to achieve meaningful personalization.

So how do brand marketers and performance marketers work together? They need to flip the script. Let’s acknowledge that creative won’t move the sales needle without data-driven roots, and optimization without the human element will yield some cadaver-looking data. Performance and brand need to connect early and often, and treat each other as equal voices at the table by embracing a little healthy tension. It’s good for all of us.