Opposites Activate: Why Businesses Should Leverage Brand and Demand Marketing
The age-old debate over whether businesses should focus on brand or demand marketing has been dealt a decisive verdict: It depends. (Okay, maybe not such a decisive verdict.)
This September, LinkedIn teamed up with the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) to study brand vs. demand practices, across industries, and all over the world. The resulting report declared no clear winner, arguing instead that business growth depends on balancing brand and demand marketing, tilting in favor of one or the other when new goals arise.
Why both? Because they address different needs, and generate different types (and durations) of return. While demand marketing — designed to promote specific products and services — boosts revenue in the short-term, it alone will not produce long-term brand awareness, a key driver of growth. For sustained awareness, businesses must leverage brand marketing: top-of-funnel content designed to reinforce values, spread the brand story, and reach new customers.
For sustainable success, it’s not Brand vs. Demand, it’s Brand + Demand.
That said, different moments call for different objectives. The relative shares of brand and demand marketing will vary over time. Figuring out the right balance all depends on knowing who you are, where you are today, and where you need to be tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.
This article explores the relative benefits of brand and demand marketing, emphasizing the merits of a well-balanced approach.
In the simplest terms, brand marketing means top-of-funnel marketing — efforts to boost awareness, generate interest, and develop the right brand perception. Demand marketing refers to middle- or bottom-of-funnel marketing — efforts to promote a specific product or service.
Thought leadership articles (ahem) are an example of brand marketing. Rather than promoting any specific offering, they position businesses as engaged members of their industries, improving their credibility. While content like this often results from topical conversations, the broader messages tend to be evergreen.
On the other hand, ads supporting back-to-school sales are an example of demand marketing. Once the back-to-school season is over, the ads will no longer be useful. You might repurpose them next year, but there’s only a narrow interval of the calendar in which they produce revenue.
Brand and demand marketing have opposite — but interrelated — objectives.
• Brand marketing produces awareness, while demand marketing produces conversion
• Brand marketing is a long-term, theoretically never-ending process, while demand marketing relates to short-term, finite objectives
• Brand marketing works toward acquiring new customers, while demand marketing seeks to retain existing customers through improved loyalty
It might seem like these opposite objectives pit brand and demand marketing against each other. But in reality, all of these opposites inform each other, permitting the other to function. Conversions can’t happen unless people readily think of your product/service whenever they consider a purchase in your space. You can’t reinforce customer loyalty if you haven’t acquired customers in the first place.
Successful short-term campaigns depend on a positive, broad-scale brand perception. Short-term content strategies depend on long-term brand strength; demand marketing works best when brand marketing has done its job.
The Head + The Heart
We’ve written before about the importance of appealing to emotions when designing marketing campaigns. Businesses like to believe that rational elements — savvy pricing plans, well-articulated value proposition — drive sales. They do, and rationale has its place, but it all starts with emotion.
Interestingly, the LinkedIn/IPA study found that brand marketing works best when it appeals to the heart, whereas demand marketing should target the head.
Brand marketing aims for non-customers. These people haven’t yet heard of your brand, so instead of pitching them a rational argument as to why they should buy now, tell them a story. Demonstrate what makes your brand different. Allude to your values — the intangible, emotionally rooted elements that make you who you are. People remember feelings. If you can deliver the right kind of feeling through brand marketing, you can bring people to the table when it’s time to discuss a purchase.
At which point, demand marketing steps in with facts and figures. If your brand marketing has been successful, people have a feeling that what you say is worth listening to. By that point, well-honed demand marketing should discuss the unique benefits of your product and why the price point is so reasonable.
Because numbers are inherently quantifiable and emotions inherently aren’t, businesses default to a more demand-centric marketing approach. But people only listen to what you have to say when they sense that you’re credible and trustworthy. Credit and trust originate in emotion.
The Brand/Demand Equilibrium
Ultimately, the message boils down to age-old wisdom: Find a balance. The proportion of brand to demand will change depending on the urgency of your objectives, but never engage in one to the total exclusion of the other. Neither brand marketing nor demand marketing is superior; they’re equally valuable elements of any content schema.