CTV is Fueling the 'Performance Branding' Boom

Most marketing professionals can relate: when budgeting for advertising campaigns, the spend has historically been split between brand spend (the creative “art” of advertising) and performance marketing spend (the “science” of numbers-focused optimization). However, this is not the only way to work. A McKinsey report published in 2020 leaned into a term that is taking off: performance branding.

Chris Kelly, CEO, Upwave

Chris Kelly, CEO, Upwave (Image credit: Upwave)

As a way to merge brand and performance mindsets, performance branding relies on a data-driven approach to the entire funnel. To implement, performance branding “requires a fundamental shift in marketing practices toward greater precision and agility” -- an approach all marketers should embrace.

The McKinsey report concluded that data-tracking technology enables performance branding to be “as rigorous and successful as more mainstream performance-marketing practices.” When implemented, brands can define a clearer customer journey and craft more effective campaigns overall.

A natural question, then, is what channels are most conducive to this new performance branding philosophy? The newest kid on the block seems like the best fit: CTV. Marketers are starting to realize CTV is the proverbial “best of both worlds”: the full-screen immersive storytelling medium of TV, with the precise targeting & measurement of digital. 

It’s almost as if CTV was conceived with performance branding in mind.

Preparing for the CTV explosion

With COVID restrictions keeping viewers at home, streaming content consumption spiked. In 2020, 20% of television viewing time was spent on streaming, according to Nielsen, a percentage that could reach 33% by the end of the year.

We all know where the audience goes, smart marketers will follow. Per eMarketer, in 2020, US CTV ad spending totaled $8.1 billion and will increase to $11.4 billion in 2021. By 2024 it will reach $18.3 billion. Modern marketers embracing a performance branding approach are already diving headfirst into CTV. CTV can enable a performance branding approach for all advertisers - legacy brands with decades of linear TV experience, or startup, digitally-native DTC brands. CTV can deliver solid, actionable metrics for the traditionally “fuzzy” world of brand-building.

Why is CTV perfect for performance branding?

Unlike linear TV campaigns, CTV campaigns enable truly data-driven, in-flight optimization -- on par with digital campaigns. Brands can bring programmatic audiences to their buys, and receive instant household-level feedback on brand metrics, like favorability or awareness, all while maintaining consumer privacy. This allows brand marketers to make daily changes to messaging, creative, and publishers...something unheard of in the linear TV era.  

This is the dream of performance branding becoming reality.

If you are a marketer wanting a more data-driven branding strategy, here are a few ways to get started:

1. Diversify Your CTV Approach
Don’t just place one bet on the CTV table. Try direct buys with multiple publishers, try PMPs, try programmatic buys via a DSP. Run the same control-vs-exposed experiments you run on digital. Test different creatives and messages, and plan on in-flight optimization.

2. Break Down the Walls
Brands often have separate budgets and separate campaigns for performance goals and brand goals. In some cases, they even have separate agencies. This bifurcated approach likely prevents you from utilizing a performance branding mindset. Why silo your best data analysts to only look at reporting on your performance campaigns? Find talent that can take a data-driven approach to all campaigns, regardless of what part of your funnel the campaign is impacting.

3. Check Your Work
CTV is not devoid of risk, so perhaps only the paranoid marketers will survive. New fraud schemes are found monthly, so partner with verification providers. Demand granular reach & frequency metrics from your publisher partners and DSPs. Analyze the behavioral targets you’re reaching. Don’t simply assume you’ll move the needle on brand KPIs. Find and work with partners that can measure the causal impact of your CTV media.

Executing on these performance branding approaches will enable you to truly view your marketing spend as the valuable investment it should be, not an expense to be minimized. Your CFO will appreciate it.

Upwave is a marketing analytics company providing machine learning-driven brand marketing measurement technology and intelligence to brands, agencies, and publishers.

Chris Kelly

Chris Kelly is a serial tech entrepreneur with experience in enterprise software, big data, brand marketing, financial services, and management consulting. He founded multiple web startups, including an online college textbook market and DeliveryEdge, a same-day delivery service for consumer goods startup. Earlier in his career, Chris worked in marketing and business development for SavvyMoney, was a management consultant at McKinsey & Co. and an investor at Matrix Partners. Chris is an accomplished founder, entrepreneur, and venture capitalist. He holds a degree in finance and economics from the University of Notre Dame.