Don’t Spend on Brand Awareness Unless Your Marketer Knows How to Measure Its Impact

By Laureen Peck

Let’s say you own a small to mid-sized business and are now profitable enough that you want to expand. You have heard that business owners who either cut spend on brand-building or don’t spend on it at all, risk stagnation and a loss of market share but you aren’t convinced this is a proven fact.

Since you want to grow, your marketing team has recommended that you spend more on brand-awareness but your company’s historic marketing reports show that lead generation and promotional campaigns appear to have a stronger return on investment than the brand-focused advertising campaigns.

So, you think it would be foolish to spend more on brand-building. The marketers advise you that you should keep the lead-gen campaigns going, but investing in those almost exclusively would not be a smart strategy because it could work in the short-term but won’t deliver strong long-term growth. However, you have seen each ad campaign’s numbers individually and the cost per lead seems exorbitant. You direct them to cut advertising to a bare minimum and spend more of the marketing budget on what you believe to be the more successful lead generation programs.  

Your Marketing Team Failed You

Your marketing team was correct to disagree with you, but they failed you because they either did a very poor job of showing you how the brand advertising that had already been done was instrumental in growing your company or they didn’t show you how they planned to measure the ROI from new brand-building campaigns.

This disconnect is not entirely the marketers’ fault.  Proving the value of growing brand-awareness can be difficult.  However if you continue to measure the success of brand-building campaigns the same way you measure lead-generation activities, you will never see the full picture. Ignorance of the value brand-building brings can hurt you in the long-term because the fact is, brand campaigns do increase sales.

So, if you really are ready to grow, you need to ask your marketers to show you how brand-building already impacted your company’s growth (assuming you have already done some of this) and make sure success metrics are set up for future brand-building campaigns. (By the way, if using the three tactics outlined below to measure success reveal that the brand campaigns were actually ineffective at creating awareness, it could mean your marketers are not targeting audiences properly, or the creative isn’t compelling enough to drive interest, in which case you may need to consider hiring a new, more creative and strategic marketing team and/or change ad agencies.)

Three Ways to Measure the Impact of Brand-Awareness

Brand awareness efforts mainly work to feed the top of the sales funnel (TOF). This is why it can be difficult to measure.

However, attracting TOF customers is essential for creating long-term growth. So, how exactly do you measure brand-awareness campaign’s effectiveness? 

Below are 3 ways your marketing director can prove the ROI from Brand-awareness campaigns.

1 – Website Traffic:

You can measure the overall impact that a campaign has by monitoring new traffic to your website during the time period your campaign is running.  If you notice a jump in traffic from new visitors as well as a jump in return traffic during the time your campaign is running, that can indicate that more people are becoming aware of your brand and/or are ready to reconnect with it.

However, if you are using the increases in traffic alone to prove your branding campaign is working, you may not be able to track exactly what is contributing to the increases. So, this should be a topline measurement only.

2 – Search Volume on Brand/Company Name:

Often many, if not most people, will receive a postcard, hear a radio campaign, see an online display ad pop up, see a TV commercial or another online or offline campaign, and instead of converting on the campaign’s landing page or calling the designated campaign phone number they decide they want to learn more by searching for your company name online.

So, an effective way of measuring how many new people have become aware of your brand or product is by tracking increases in website visitors from organic branded search terms. If you see an increase in people getting to your site by using your company name or product name to find you, this indicates your brand awareness campaigns are working. An added benefit of off-line brand advertising is that if it is effective it will increase paid search visitors to your website as well.

3 – Overall Sales Increase:

If your company sees an increase in overall sales volume during the time the branded campaign is running, this is another way to determine the effectiveness of your brand-building campaign. However, if proper metrics are not set ahead of time, it would be easy to say that the sales increase is not due to brand advertising but to other factors.  

One way to make sure you are attributing success from branding correctly, is to compare the proportion of your marketing spend that went to easily trackable lead-gen campaigns and what proportion went to advertising before and after the advertising campaign launches.

So, using theoretical numbers, if you spend $250K on Advertising and $250K on non-branded Lead Gen over a certain time period and change it to $250K on Lead Gen and $350K on advertising the next time period and see an increase in sales across all the channels, including the lead-gen only channels, this indicates your brand campaigns are working.

It might look like the individual ad campaigns have a much higher cost per lead and so are not profitable, but the truth is that even if the CPL is higher, your brand-awareness campaign influenced the higher sales across all the other channels because it worked to increase credibility in the mind of your target audience. If your prospect has never heard of your brand or company before, and/or does not have any emotional connection to it that good brand-building creates, it is often more difficult to get a prospect to convert to a sale. Conversely you could lower spend on advertising and increase it on lead-gen only campaigns and see an increase in leads, but a decrease in overall sales. This is why it is important your marketing director sets up success metrics carefully and you understand what it is you are looking at.

More Ways to Measure Brand Impact

Of course, the three tactics above are not the only way to measure brand impact. Your marketer should also be monitoring social media engagement, video metrics, mentions in the media, and more.

Tracking your customer’s entire journey through the purchase funnel will give you the best idea of what’s contributing to your company’s growth, even for specific campaigns that aren’t providing immediate conversions. In addition to directing your marketer to develop more brand-building campaigns, you should consider investing in Customer Journey Analytics software to help you and your marketing director measure the impact of brand-building over time.

The Bottom Line

A recent Forbes article summed up the importance of building brand awareness this way; “To build a business that’s sustainable, predictable and scalable–and that has a future beyond pure luck, brands must conform to best practices along the conversion journey, strategically guiding target audiences from one stage to the next. They also must recognize the importance of investing marketing dollars (and patience) to develop awareness and an emotional connection successfully.”

Businesses leaders with companies that achieved significant growth quickly and over the long term will tell you themselves that they could not have grown without the help of strong brand-building campaigns. You just need to make sure your marketer knows how to track branding ROI and is able to communicate the results to you in a way you that you can easily understand and trust so you too can take advantage of brand-building’s many benefits.


About the Author: Laureen Peck is an experienced and creative marketing growth leader. To learn more about her successful track record of growing organizations and brands please see her BIO.