Brand awareness and marketing ROI.  The yin and yang of marketing?  When discussing these important concepts, there’s almost a “code switch” that occurs in the minds of marketing professionals:

“Yes, we need marketing ROI (sales/costs), but we need to fill the funnel at the top. We need to invest in building  brand awareness before we get consideration and sales.”

Or, “It’s all about the bottom line and increasing our marketing ROI today; building brand awareness is a waste of time unless it drives sales today. So, let’s go get some sales!”

Yes, there’s an uneasy recognition (perhaps grudging) recognition of the “other side”, but collectively determining strategic priorities and investments is crucial. Because only when all priorities are working together towards the same ultimate goal – increased brand awareness and sales – will organizations successfully achieve the synergy necessary to advance.

More often than not, we see this tension in the emphasis of broad, impression-oriented campaigns on TV and digital display versus the immediate in-your-face cost/click/lead/sale focus of digital performance marketing (paid search, affiliate marketing, etc.).

So how do we value branding impressions and awareness versus sales? It’s the classic unanswered question. And when you have an unanswered question, actions get driven by opinion, faith, and habit, and – always the most entertaining part – dueling research and statistics.

“Our market research investment shows awareness is increasing due to our campaigns over the past quarter, and that translates into a higher purchase rate. We’ll fill the funnel, just close the deal.”  “But how do you know those impressions are optimal? We could be wasting our time and money. Bad investment!”

Or, “We’re tracking every digital interaction, and we know the sales performance of every impression and click. Stand aside, let the ROI optimization algorithms handle this.” “No, you’re not. I just deleted my computer’s cookies this morning. Besides why would anyone want to come to our website if they don’t know we exist?”

Has anyone ever heard conversations like that? (Although the “conversations” are often just one-sided echo-chambers based on the culture of an organization.)  If so, then you inherently understand the conundrum that exists for marketers.

How, then, can we bring together the best impulses of brand awareness versus marketing ROI viewpoints (without the obligatory lip service)? The best way is to think of marketing as both a long-term and short-term investment. Investing in brand awareness through impression-oriented campaigns produces results slowly. That is, investments in brand awareness are on the same level as short-term investments in immediate sales longterm they both produce return (and ROI).

Investing in brand awareness is not “anti-ROI”, but rather a matter of patience and persistence. At Brunner, for example, we can see how TV campaigns are often accompanied by surges in social buzz, brand searches and website visits. And branded digital search is far less expensive with higher conversion rates than nonbranded search. Thus, those investments in brand awareness can be measured not just with market research but with leading indicators of sales many weeks or months later. Overall, branded awareness can be ROI-smart.

In conclusion, all marketing investments must produce returns. That being the case, Brunner encourages its clients to take an ROI-oriented viewpoint on brand building (awareness, consideration) that identifies how long-term investments translate into short-term returns. Do not fall into the yin-yang mindset of brand awareness versus marketing ROI. Long-term investments can be measured and optimized, and are truly essential for growing sales.