The Need for Brand Strategy and Performance Marketing Integration
One of the ongoing, inherent flaws in the broader marketing landscape is the clear delineation between brand strategy agencies and performance marketing agencies. This is not to say that you can’t have success by hiring both of them independently. For example, you can go through a rebranding initiative with one agency, while simultaneously executing a social media campaign with another. Not only is this very possible, one could argue that it’s the norm. That said, it screams inefficiency.
Brand Strategy Agencies vs Performance Agencies
Think about it in the simplest context: branding agencies dive deep into a product’s soul, learning every inch of the brand, and defining the essence of its existence. After countless hours of honing in on the most minute details, a brand strategist comes to know a brand intimately (yes, I’m going there), and can tell its story to someone at a cocktail party with unparalleled depth and precision.
On the flip side, performance agencies speak an entirely different language. They tell a completely different story. They are immersed in the world of UTM parameters, pixels, tracking and cookies. Spending late hours in the depths of Google Sheets and analytics platforms, these folks make sure that campaigns are optimized and tracked correctly. They often face a tremendous amount of pressure, as the fate of a brand may lie in their hands.
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The Inefficiency of Hiring A Separate Branding Agency and Performance Agency
Here’s where the inefficiency comes to light. The reality of the modern realm is that the brand strategists from one agency might be completely removed from all facets of user acquisition, which is being managed by another. It’s ironic that after all of the hours spent slaving over the tiniest details to build a brand’s foundation, they might be absent from a process that ultimately determines the same brand’s fate.
On the flip side, the performance folks’ may have been removed from some really important brand building processes. Their knowledge of the intricacies and nuances of the very same brand that they are working so diligently to grow might not be as strong as that of the brand strategy agency. There’s significant irony there as well.
The Fragmented Ecosystem
All of the above leads to the obvious question: How did we (the agency world) create such a fragmented ecosystem? I contend that there are two ways: First, we took the “niche” concept a step too far. I totally understand the rationale – we followed the same fundamental rules that we do with our clients’ products and services. We take what we do best, hone in on it, and promote it. It’s essentially marketing 101. But in doing this over the course of a few decades, we’ve created an industry of largely niche players that is not equipped to effectively handle a broader suite of marketing services.
Second, as this ecosystem evolved and grew, so did our niche expertise. For successful agencies, this newfound, high level of competency yielded an increased sense of confidence. In turn, this created a stronger sense of complacency. Or in more simple terms, we don’t step out of our comfort zone as much as we used to. Not because we can’t, but because we may not need to. On a micro-level, what incentive does today’s media manager have to learn more about brand architecture and different types of brand strategy? And why should a brand strategist give a darn about the technical nuances of attribution?
The Link between Brand Strategy and Performance Marketing
As the marketing world evolves and grows more complex, we’d be foolish not to acknowledge the following: There is an intrinsic link between brand strategy and performance marketing. I contend that agencies that successfully offer and deliver both services simultaneously, with ongoing collaboration between brand and performance teams, will be in a much better position to deliver standout results for their clients. The silo approach may work in isolated cases, but will it be nearly as effective or consistent? I doubt it.