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Attribution: From Awareness to Beyond

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Companies know that brand marketing is essential — that’s why they usually allot a significant portion of their budgets to branding activities. Despite this, there’s still skepticism around placing dollars into measuring brand marketing efforts. Why? Because many people don’t think it’s possible to measure how brand marketing drives business value accurately. However, as brand marketing spend continues to rise, marketers realize that relying on “soft” metrics such as impressions and sentiment simply isn’t enough. They need a holistic view of brand marketing’s real impact to quantify branding efforts. That’s where attribution comes in.

Let’s go over how branding plays an essential part in attribution, and how focusing on brand awareness efforts leads to higher customer retention and loyalty rates. 

Attribution Starts at the Awareness Touchpoint

Attribution is the process of identifying and assigning a value to marketing touchpoints that contribute to a conversion. The conversions could be anything, including a sale, a download, or an account sign up.

Many marketers understand the importance of attribution but approach it through a conversion-driven lens. When they look at attribution, they think of targeting mid to lower-funnel customers, people who are close to converting. They also equate clicks to success because a lot of marketers use tools such as Google Ads and Google Analytics, which default to single-touch attribution models like last-click.

However, as the industry continues to develop and different channels come about, it’s especially important to look at influences outside of clicks (like impressions). For example, social media channels like Facebook aren’t as click-driven, so they place a heavy emphasis on impressions leading up to a conversion. Moving away from a "click" focused attribution model allows you to understand how your other marketing channels are playing an impact on the customer journey.

From Awareness to Beyond

Brand awareness campaigns don’t have a financial value on their own — they’re part of the collective marketing effort that tells a story to drive incremental sales. 

For instance, let’s say you’ve seen a display ad for a brand that you’ve never heard of before, called Timber. They carry just the type of hiking shoes that you need, but first, you want to do your research before making a purchase. So, you scour the internet for its reviews and competitors, and in the process, you learn about Timber’s values and mission. You decide that Timber is the brand for you, but have to wait until you get paid. Then somewhere down the line, you forget about the hiking shoes altogether. A few weeks later, you see another display ad for Timber and that’s when you finally make a purchase. 

This scenario tells you that you have to be patient when looking at results and careful about what you deem as successful. What's often overlooked is that brand awareness campaigns are for people who are introduced to the brand for the very first time. People may be introduced to a brand and not convert right away, but you can still be in front of them by serving storytelling ads until the timing is right and they're ready to buy. 

Note: It's important to remember that your brand awareness campaigns and lower-funnel campaigns shouldn't be considered as separate — they should supplement each other to nurture the customer throughout their journey. 

When Building Or Selecting Attribution Models...

An excellent attribution model is able to detect relationships between brand-building initiatives and conversions. Not understanding how attribution models measure branding impact is a common mistake and could lead you to make decisions that devalue brand building. 

When you accurately assign credit to brand awareness campaigns via multi-touch attribution, there are a few benefits

  • You more accurately give value to touchpoints throughout the path so that you don't invest in the wrong places or over-index on the channels that happen right before the conversion.
  • You build positive brand equity. Brand equity is important because it describes your brand’s value through consumer perception and experiences with the brand. So, if people like your brand and think highly of it, then your company has positive brand equity. 
  • You encourage brand recall. Brand recall is the likelihood of instantly remembering the name of the brand if a product or service or any other kind of brand association comes up. It plays a crucial role in getting more customers to stick with your brand as well as to buy your brand repeatedly. For example, you own a company that sells sunglasses. If a customer is exposed to your ads long enough, once they need a pair, they would instinctively search for your brand. 

Awareness is an Ongoing Journey

Let’s look at attribution and brand awareness in the context of growing a lush garden. When you’re investing in brand-building campaigns, you’re planting a seed. When customers are introduced to your brand, that’s when you start watering the seed by nurturing them with more ads and education efforts. Then, you patiently wait until the seed blooms into a plant (your customer converts and makes a purchase), and you maintain said plant by continuously serving awareness efforts to keep the story of your brand alive. As you progress through the customer journey with this pattern, you’ll start to form relationships that lead to customer loyalty. 

Essentially, you’re creating a garden where you’ll continue to grow new plants (acquire more customers), and take care of existing ones (customer retention) so that it becomes a full fledged ecosystem (a successful business). 

Building Brand Recognition

Yes, performance is crucial, but building brand recognition makes a thriving business. If you fail to provide insight into this valuable component of the marketing mix, it could be a huge disadvantage to both your company and your customers.

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