The true growth lever: Brand building

Author: Chris Copacino


The COVID era has had prolific effects on consumer behavior and marketing strategy, with impact as we look to the future. 

The pandemic accelerated the shift towards a focus on performance marketing and direct-to-consumer outreach. A survey by Advertiser Perceptions found that:

  • 56% of US marketers increased their investment in performance marketing during the pandemic
  • 52% of those marketers plan to continue that investment in the future
  • 63% of marketers plan to increase spend in performance marketing

The focus and investment are understandable. Marketers need to be able to show measurable results for the money they spend and, done well, performance marketing is highly efficient, and immediately measurable. But also, growth has slowed for many D2C brands that grew fast during the pandemic. I've had several conversations recently with brand leaders who are bemoaning their ability to drive more growth from existing audiences. 

In a marketing world focused a lot on pure performance marketing, lest we forget the opportunity to pay more attention to growing and building audience. 

Upper funnel, audience-building marketing is a critical aspect of any successful marketing strategy—and it's an aspect that's become all-too-ignored in recent years.

The ability to create awareness of a brand, build familiarity, generate interest, and attract potential customers is powerful—and often the last lever left to drive meaningful growth. Focusing solely on mid-to-bottom-of-funnel strategies and ignoring upper funnel marketing can greatly limit a brand's potential, forcing marketers to try to "squeeze blood from a stone" with current audiences. Which is incredibly difficult, and risks turning off an audience already in a brand's orbit. 

Here's why focusing on upper-funnel approaches wields so much power:

  1. Broaden target audience: The primary benefit of upper funnel marketing is the ability to reach a broader target audience. As more people become aware of the brand, the potential customer base expands, which leads to increased sales and revenue. 
  2. Educating potential customers: By providing informative content, businesses can help potential customers understand the value of their offerings and how they can meet their needs. Educating potential customers early in the funnel can also help businesses overcome objections and build trust, which can lead to increased conversions in the later stages of the funnel where the performance marketing machine becomes critically important. 
  3. Finally, upper funnel marketing is crucial for building a relationship with potential customers. By providing valuable, relevant content and creating a positive brand image, businesses can establish a connection with potential customers early on. This connection can lead to increased loyalty and repeat business in the future. 

It seems like a no brainer, right? So why do we see so many marketers loathe to truly commit to more brand building efforts? It often comes down to cost. 

Marketers and their agencies have failed to convince the C-Suite—namely CFOs—to change the lens from which brand marketing is viewed. It's often viewed as solely a "cost". Brand building is actually—and with no hyperbole—an investment in a brand's future growth and audience building. Is it as immediate as a performance marketing driven conversion? No. Does it take faith that investment will see return? Yes. Is it critically important to drive the growth brands seek to satisfy the C-Suite, investors and the alike? Absolutely. 

Is brand building easy? No. It takes a strong brand leader, a strong marketing organization, a keen understanding of current and desired audience, a thorough identification of the "truth" of the audience we seek to affect—and often a strong agency partner to pull it all together to deliver the message in an effective and efficient manner. But all that said, it's critically important and a focus that has become a little lost. 

Because there's two core ways to drive growth: More sales to current customers or sales to new customers. And the latter should only be ignored at a marketer's peril.