The world of digital marketing continually evolves as new tech bounces on the scene. Channels like display and search, once viewed as next wave, are branded “traditional” as new avenues like SMS proliferate. Facebook yields to TikTok creators and Gen Z brand ambassadors. Let’s not even get started on the metaverse!
It’s important marketers stay ahead of these trends, but anyone who’s been in digital for even a modicum of time knows each channel and platform, and the strategies therein, are often siloed. The emergence of new players only complicates things further. This breakdown within organizations impedes marketers' ability to successfully engage consumers in this ever changing environment.
Branding and consistency, then, are paramount as the digital ecosystem becomes more labyrinthine. Consumers now seek seamless experiences, and as marketers strive for LTV, the best way to score loyalty points is to innovate with a data-driven, cohesive narrative.
WITHIN, a Performance Branding company, are experts in this space. In their words, “we don’t simply create campaigns for channels. We consider your brand first, then orchestrate a cohesive brand experience — encompassing channels, content, website experience, and customer service — to maximize touchpoints and level up performance.”
I sat down with Mary Grace Tifft, Head of Partnerships, and Chris Jurado, Integrated Media Director, to learn more about how to better navigate the complexities that face marketers today.
Q: What does it mean to be a Performance Branding company? What types of projects are you working on with your clients?
A: When our founder Joe Yakuel was at The Vitamin Shoppe, he saw that most agencies were not focused on long-term business objectives - like acquiring customers with higher lifetime value. Those agencies were often siloed by channel, which led them to prioritize channel performance over company profitability.
When Joe started WITHIN, he reimagined the branding and performance marketing approach by aligning marketing goals with business goals in a way that compounds the success of every campaign on every channel. For brands like Nike, Casper, Hugo Boss, Virgin Galactic, Rite Aid and more, our team digs deep to understand a brand's unique value proposition and build an integrated content and media strategy around it.
One recent project that demonstrates the interplay of content and strategy is an augmented reality campaign we ran via QR codes. AR/VR has been a big focus for us recently, and our Emerging Technology team worked on a project to create physical cards that included a QR code that (when scanned with a mobile device) directed users to a digital experience via a web page. The experience prompted users to hold their camera to the front of the card, triggering image-tracking technology to unlock a hidden AR world. The world contained special messages, unique sounds, and digital animation. We’re seeing more and more interest in using AR/VR to accelerate product discovery, personalization, and consumer convenience.
Q: What are companies doing right and wrong when it comes to branding and performance marketing?
- With the explosion of so many new social platforms, we’re finding that brands are not equipped to create the volume and variety of creative assets necessary to capture their audience’s attention and drive conversions. Additionally, brands need content that is uniquely suited for the varying specifications of Meta, IG, TikTok, Snap, etc. Brands that are able to create and test hundreds of creative as well as find a way to scale the winning ads across platforms are set up to succeed. Luckily, WITHIN can help with that!
- Several brands miss the mark by thinking of branding and performance marketing in their own silos. Every touchpoint with a user is an opportunity to educate them on your brand and drive them further down the funnel. The two must work together in harmony to provide the best customer journey for users and eventually convert them into loyal customers.
- Many brands are doing the right thing by investing in higher funnel brand activations, like out of home marketing and TV, to build the brand message and drive revenue in the long term. However, many are missing the mark on properly attributing how successful these activations are at driving revenue, leading to frequent over/under investment in these campaigns.
- Some brands focus on blended efficiency across their business instead of comparing paid vs. organic channels. Knowing the difference here is key to understanding areas of opportunity to drive more incremental results, and identifying new levers for optimization.
Q: We have always leaned into the importance of personalization and creating 1:1 connections with your consumers. How do you take that same approach when it comes to creative and campaigning?
A: A one size fits all approach to creative simply is not good enough. Engaging 1:1 connections are achieved by tailoring content to who you are reaching and where, while laddering up to the same communications framework. One aspect of WITHIN that gives us an advantage is that we offer a variety of services in addition to managing paid media. This ranges from influencer marketing to Amazon management to lifecycle marketing and more.
We ran an extremely successful Halloween campaign for Playboy this past year that was centered on their iconic bunny costume being reinvented to be more inclusive, encompassing sexual liberty regardless of gender, shape, & size. This first came to the world through Playboy’s annoucement of Bretman Rock as the first openly gay male star to grace the cover of Playboy. We worked with our influencer and creative teams to generate a powerful library of diverse, inclusive content that aligns with this core message. This enabled us to tailor content across different audiences and placements, including organic social, email, paid social, and more. The result was authentic 1:1 experiences at every touchpoint that ultimately laddered up to the same core message the brand was standing for.
Q: What are the challenges you’re facing today in “traditional” digital channels like social and display? Have compliance and technology changes had an impact?
A: Cookie deprecation and recent privacy changes are giving everyone nightmares, and there’s unfortunately no magic bullet solution or right and wrong approach. We’re seeing brands that use multiple measurement methodologies are often in a much stronger position. It’s more important than ever to collate multi-touch attribution, media mix modeling and incrementality testing - we recommend tech platforms like Measured, Rockerbox and Neustar - and even assign some directional value to platform-level data. The big tech platforms like Meta and Google are still logging so much consumer data in their walled gardens. We’re advising that brands shouldn’t take this data at face value but it remains an important signal.
Q: I know you have a new Lifecycle team, one of your fastest growing business units! Tell us more about the types of campaigns they support and why lifecycle marketing is so important.
A: With the aforementioned privacy changes affecting paid acquisition performance, many brands are doubling down on owned channels and 0/1P data. At WITHIN, we see so much upside with lifecycle marketing since there are almost no advertising costs associated with messaging. Additionally, brands generate a substantial amount of 1P data that is given freely and can be used freely in future campaigns. Unlike paid ad channels, brands will also be able to segment their audience based on almost any opt-in trait while creating ethical, personalized messaging. Plus, brands don’t have to worry about constant algorithm changes!
Our team acts as an extension of our brands’ teams to nurture, convert and drive customer lifetime value through email, SMS and loyalty program management. We manage all of PLBY Group and Yandy’s paid media, creative and owned channels, allowing us to create cohesive experiences while sharing learnings about what products, creatives, audience cohorts, etc. are working across channels. This was a driving force in successful Halloween and holiday campaigns in Q4, with revenue driven by email growing 1,331% year-over year. This momentum has continued into Q1 with revenue growing another 2% period-over-period, despite exiting the higher demand holiday season. A large part of this success comes from the harmony between paid marketing and our growing CRM focus. Increasing our CRM list to include more users interested in Playboy apparel and lifestyle accessories (vs. legacy playboy offerings), coupled with lifecycle marketing tactics, help convert these users at the right touch point in their journey.
Q: We know WITHIN encourages brands to set aside a portion of their marketing budget to expand and test new platforms. How do you reconcile testing new platforms with the need to drive results?
A: Key considerations are marginal efficiency and whether we are reaching an incremental audience in new platforms. Is investing in a new platform the best use of our next incremental dollar, or is there opportunity to scale within our target efficiency in existing channels? Is the new platform hitting our target audience with an opportunity to drive incremental revenue to hit our goal? When expanding and testing into new platforms, the key balance to strike is investing enough budget to drive meaningful, statistically significant learnings but not investing past that amount until the platform is proven at driving results. Once a platform has proven it can be an effective part of a brand’s portfolio, investment can be increased to drive more scale while continuing to optimize within the platform to maintain efficiency.
Q: How do you think about mobile in the context of your strategic recommendations?
A: Mobile is a personal, highly engaged medium that helps drive users to purchase, especially for younger, Gen Z audiences. SMS marketing has grown substantially over the last few years and is key in driving business results as a common final touch point. Importantly, users do not always want to freely give you their mobile information, so brands must provide a strong incentive, whether it’s a discount, early access to sales, or mention of new product drops. Users love to feel important and cared for and mobile is a key medium to foster this. We, of course, partner with awesome companies like Button to achieve these ends!
Q: We noticed on your blog that you wrote, “In 2022, brands (and agencies) need to carve out their own space within the metaverse, connecting brand promises and products to virtual goods and value.” Tell us more about how you’re preparing for the metaverse to hit the scene.
A: Like it or not, the metaverse is upon us. Virtual goods, cryptocurrency and artificial intelligence will converge in the metaverse, creating a new dominant marketing channel. Many of our clients have already invested in metaverse campaigns in 2021, signaling that we are officially in the throes of a new era.
The possibilities are endless, from virtual sneakers to NFTs, to concerts and in-game stores with purchasable virtual goods. The metaverse is the next frontier, and 2022 will be the first pilgrimage into what’s next.
Brands don’t need to devote their entire budget to the metaverse, but do what makes sense for their company. This statement, of course, is predicated on the fact that we don’t yet know what the future will hold. Most of us will need to try new marketing strategies, adjust goals for a new normal, and remain open to new ideas in the new year.