How to measure ROI on brand campaigns
Plus 5 steps to executing an effective branding activity
A couple of weeks ago, I spoke to the marketing team of a very successful bootstrapped startup. They were coming to the end of what they could do with SEO/organic tactics. The efficiency of their paid advertising wasn’t increasing. They had simply saturated these channels.
This was a professional, efficient team. They knew what they had to do next: Invest in branding. They knew that’s where growth was going to come from. And that’s why they were talking to me about running brand campaigns.
Are there any general pointers, they asked.
I gave them a short list. Here they are:
5 steps to executing an effective branding campaign
1. If you know where your target audience congregates online and offline, construct a strategy to be present and visible in these spaces.
2. Set aside a separate branding budget that does not eat into your usual marketing budget, and make sure you spend it all. Don't try to skimp on this or save it for something else.
3. Have some measure or metric to track for the success of these campaigns. Doesn’t matter which one, but there has to be some measure - trending on Twitter, impressions, shares, views - whatever. And please measure just one or two things important to you, never more than that.
4. Do more than one thing. A campaign is a series of events with a lead-up, a big bang, and a warm-down. All of this needs to be planned well in advance, and coordinated down to the last detail. Try to make a campaign last for at least a month with content, social, and influencer marketing keeping the buzz going.
5. Make sure the recall factor is high. There should be an easy CTA or a way for people who see the campaign to come back to you. Boil this into your planning from the beginning.
The question of ROI
This conversation done, I got the question the team really wanted to ask.
Our CEO is very particular about spending. How can we make sure there’s a clear ROI on branding campaigns that we can promise?
I wasn’t surprised. This is a very normal ask among engineer-founders, who thing marketing is an engineering function (Psst: It’s most definitely not).
I told them the answer they didn’t want to hear.
I told them that they should get a budget, and have some idea of the ROI they wanted to aim at. But if they had to get a certain number back, and the CEO/CFO was insistent on it, then I advised them not to do brand campaigns at all.
Because brand campaigns either work, or don’t work, and there’s no way to know in advance the scale of success and failure.
I’ll try to explain this with the tale of the two campaigns.
The tale of the two campaigns
I’ve written about the Failsforce campaign before:
In 2018, we at Freshworks flew a blimp around Salesforce Towers in San Francisco on Dreamforce weekend. It had Failsforce printed on it, and it was a knowing nod to the original NO SOFTWARE campaign. We wanted it to feel that way. The idea was that consumers see the campaign, and equated our audacity with what they had seen Salesforce do all those years ago.
When we did the Failsforce campaign, we followed every single step I point out above. We knew our potential enterprise customers would be at Dreamforce, so that’s where we would be. We set aside a budget, made sure we spent every last bit of it. We set up an integrated marketing campaign: The on-ground activities were supported in real time by content, social, and advertising. If you were in San Francisco that day, you could not have missed us. We had a clear brand CTA (you can see that in the tweet) - Here’s the website, come see who we are.
It was a huge success. We were tracking aided and unaided recall before and after the campaign, and the numbers told us that the campaign had hit the spot.
You know this, you have all heard about this campaign, or at least have some inkling it happened.
But there was another campaign that immediately followed Failsforce, which I’m sure you have never heard of.
For the Cricket World Cup in 2019, Freshworks did something similar. We flew a blimp around Lord’s stadium in London, where the final was being held, with the same kind of messaging as Failsforce. We did everything had done for the Failsforce campaign, all the activations, all the on-ground hoopla. Now we had the experience, had done better homework, and knew to the T what to do.
And yet you haven’t heard of this campaign at all, mounted on the same scale.
You haven’t heard of it because it didn’t work. It was a misfire.
Two similar campaigns by the same crack team, two similar planning and execution cycles, similar scale and investment, and yet two completely different outcomes.
Had we done anything wrong in the latter vs the former?
This is just the nature of a creative, abstract brand campaign. Some work, some don’t.
This is why you cannot promise clear and specific ROI on branding campaigns to your CEO/CFO. What you can do is make sure that every brand campaign boasts great attention to detail, clarity, and operational rigour. That way you give yourself more chances to be successful. And sooner or later, you will be.
There are a bunch of openings in Hevodata and you should apply. They are building a stellar marketing team, and this is a great opportunity.
If you want open roles at your company to be featured here, please send the links to me on LinkedIn.