Beyond the Brand vs. Performance debate: a customer-centric approach

I’ve seen in my career the conversation of brand marketing versus performance marketing come up time and time again. Often with polarizing views where the championing of one or the other becomes the debate. But in my view, this is the wrong discussion.

To be effective in marketing today there needs to be a focus on the customer journey, with brand building and performance marketing working in tandem, to build interest and serve customers at every single touchpoint.

The misconception of brand vs. performance

Let me start by saying brand is really how your business is perceived and experienced by the customer, in every touch point and “moment of truth”.  In today’s day and age – with greater empowerment from the customer, their ability to move from brand to brand at the flick of a thumb, with AI creating enormous amounts of content but also reasons for doubt – the biggest concern for brands is ensuring trust and authenticity. And this is required at every point, whether it is when you are promoting your brand for the first time and creating a first impression and brand promise, but also at every single ad and interaction with your brand that follows.  

For the purposes of this article, I am specifically talking about the argument of where to invest your budgets. Should it be in brand building? Or in performance marketing (converting potential customers into customers)?

Champions of brand marketing argue that a strong brand builds awareness and loyalty, and it is this investment that leads to future sales. They point to iconic brands that evoke emotional connections, resonate deeply with their target audience and result in repeat purchases.

On the other side, performance marketing focuses on immediate conversions and ROI.  Advocates highlight the power of data-driven strategies, of the importance of digital sales funnels, and clear call to actions, that deliver measurable results.  

In my view, both approaches are required, and by taking a one-sided view, brands will suffer from their limitations. 

Focusing solely on brand can lead to a lack of sales if customers don’t know how to find you when they’re ready to buy. Imagine a beautifully crafted brand story with no clear call to action – it’s like building a stunning mansion in the middle of nowhere but giving no one directions on how to get there.  

An overemphasis on performance marketing can create a transactional relationship that lacks emotional connection. Customers may be enticed by your targeted ad, but if they don’t understand your brand’s values and what way you are going to make their life better (easier, sexier), they’re unlikely to engage with your business or product, no matter how compelling the offer. 

The customer journey is key

The reality is that customers don’t exist in a vacuum of brand awareness or immediate need.  Their buying journey is a process, from not knowing you, to considering you, to buying from you. Marketers need to be present at every stage.  

In the early stages, brand marketing builds awareness and establishes both a position and the first brand promise and thus trust. Think of great videos, informative blog posts, engaging social media content, or thought leadership articles (just like this one!). These efforts educate potential customers about your brand’s story, values, and expertise.  

As customers move closer to a purchase decision, performance marketing delivers targeted messages and facilitates conversions. This can involve retargeting website visitors with relevant information, case studies, helpful tips, offering free value before you then make it helpful to offer an “opt-in” buy or exchange for free value.

Investing in brand: building a foundation for success

Brand is often the first marketing budget we see cut when money is tight but brand marketing is not a luxury, it is an essential investment. At Digivizer, we recommend to our customers allocating at least 30% of their marketing budget to brand building efforts. 

This investment creates volume at the top of the funnel that in turn makes performance marketing more effective. Consider brand marketing as an investment that targets new and potential customers and ultimately lowers the customer acquisition cost in the long run, i.e. the further down the funnel the customer moves.  

Think of it like building brand awareness as priming the pump – it creates a pool of potential customers who are familiar with your brand and more receptive to your performance marketing efforts, ultimately driving greater performance.

Building trust with digital marketing

It is no understatement to say digital marketing has fundamentally changed the consumer landscape. Today’s customers are bombarded with content and have become pretty comfortable with ad-blocking and other ways of protecting their online experience. 

Effective brand building in this environment requires creating engaging content that resonates with your target audience. This content should entertain, then infotain, educate, and build trust. 

The key is to create content that is valuable to your audience, regardless of whether they are actively looking to buy your product now or may consider it for later. This approach fosters a relationship based on trust and positions your brand as a helpful resource, not just a salesperson.

Finding the right balance

At the end of the day, the optimal balance between brand marketing and performance marketing will vary depending on your industry, product, and target audience. 

For a new B2B company with a complex solution, a higher allocation towards brand building might be necessary to establish reach, expertise and trust. For new brands, you want to ensure you have enough budget to create multiple touch points of your intended audience so they feel that you are bigger and more suited for them. However, for a well-known consumer product with a short buying cycle, a heavier focus on performance marketing might be more appropriate. 

The most important tip here is to pay attention to key metrics to guide your decision-making.  

Performance marketing KPIs like click throughs, time on site, conversion rates and customer acquisition costs are important. They help you measure the immediate effectiveness of your marketing efforts. But don’t neglect brand metrics like brand awareness, engagement, and sentiment analysis either. Like all metrics, a clear, data-driven objective should be set first.   

These metrics provide insights into the overall health of your brand and its impact on customer perception.

Continual measurement and improvement

It can feel like the world of marketing changes every day. Consumer preferences change, new technologies emerge, and the competitive landscape shifts. You should be regularly assessing the effectiveness of your marketing efforts and be prepared to adjust your approach in real-time. 

Don’t be afraid to experiment and test different strategies. A/B test different ad copy, creative and web pages, analyze website traffic patterns, and gather customer feedback. 

Use data to identify what’s working and what’s not, and refine your approach accordingly. Think of the customer journey as a map, but remember that the map needs to be constantly updated to reflect the ever-changing terrain. Don’t throw everything out – work out what is working and what is not, focus first on fixing what is not so you are in a continuous state of improvement.

Moving beyond the debate

By moving beyond the brand versus performance marketing debate and embracing a customer-centric (value as determined by the customer) approach, businesses can create an effective marketing strategy. By focusing on the customer journey and using a combination of brand building and performance marketing tactics, combined with continuous improvement through performance insights, you can build new and lasting relationships with your customers to drive long-term success.

In marketing, curiosity is strategic

“Man’s mind, stretched to a new idea, never goes back to its original dimension.”?–?Oliver Wendell Holmes. This is one of my favorites.

As you can imagine, I meet CMOs all the time. When speaking with them, they all talk about how essential it is to understand their key audiences, prospects, value propositions and customers. 

One discussion I’m having more frequently is on how they are going about understanding Gen Z and Gen Alpha audiences. This can be more challenging for a high percentage of CMOs when they’re inevitably at least a generation (or two) older than those they seek to market and sell to.

This has got me thinking. What makes a successful CMO, a successful marketing program, and a successful marketer?

I think the answer starts with curiosity – not only as a human trait or style, but as a strategic discipline.

Curiosity as the foundation

Those who know me and who work with me will probably agree that I have a high action bias. But I never start with action. I start with curiosity.

In my experience, curiosity informs knowledge, which informs insights, and these are the foundations we actually need to create the strategies that will deliver success. Challenging the status quo at the strategy development stage is best born out of curiosity, which feeds the questions and answers that being curious provoke and promote.

I’ve learned that being better informed helps you make better decisions. Knowing what is known and unknown, understanding what is fixed or variable, what is determining and shaping the hypothesis that you are building and testing. 

Getting to the bottom of a why (which may take layers of asking why), ultimately makes you a better strategist, and that in turn leads to better execution and results.

I’d argue that always asking for more information, understanding what influenced a particular choice, decision or outcome, measuring what results followed these decisions, and exploring what might be changed, is curiosity deployed to good effect.

Being open is better than being closed

It goes further than strategic development. Creating a culture built around curiosity embeds this approach to marketing across the whole organization. 

The quote at the head of this article is attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes. I love what it represents because it embodies positive change across an entire company, and embodies a discipline that can be learned by everyone.  

Curiosity then becomes part of a company, not the characteristic and style of a select few.

Part of turning curiosity from an instinct into a discipline in yourself and your team is remaining open – not just to new ideas or new opinions, but to changes of direction, to new opportunities. Not staying open is the pathway to failure. 

I also strongly believe that when you face difficulties and your head is hurting, or you are feeling uncomfortable by what you are facing, that is an indicator that you are experiencing an opportunity for growth. 

Seeing it as a positive, being curious as to why you are feeling that way, and where the opportunities are to learn the best path forward, leads to faster progress. The opposite to that is when people retreat or find difficulty, discomfort or pain as something negative.

The biggest danger to a leader is to set a marketing strategy and then forget it. Assuming that an initial set of inputs, questions asked and answers given, even based on hard data, will not change, is the definition of a lack of curiosity about your markets and customers. As one constant is change – things will always be moving. 

If you set and forget, you miss two things: changes in customers, prospects, and audience; and knowing whether or not your program is working. Your audience might be right and your program might be wrong. Your marketing might be supported, and your audience or market might have changed. Your competitors certainly will.

Systematic curiosity: from trait to discipline

The alternative is to be curious, to make being open systematic by continuously seeking, measuring and acting on insights. It’s important to recognize that an informed strategy represents an initial hypothesis that, almost inevitably, will change and if you are the driver of it, will change for the better.

In marketing, this translates to having always-on data points that deliver real-time insights on how changes in the markets you operate in have impacts on your customers.

If you can build a culture of curiosity in your organization you move to an approach that welcomes knowing what’s changed, away from the mindset that something is either right or wrong.

If you hire for curiosity, you can develop and nurture that culture across the organization, to create a question-based approach to people and data. 

Curiosity may have killed the cat. In marketing, it leads to better outcomes, helps you be better informed, and helps you make better decisions.

A version of this article also appears at

Before Transformation Comes Data And People

I’ve seen many attempts at digital transformation stumble because there were three things missing at the start of the project.

These three foundations – objectives, data and people – are not new concepts. Deloitte makes the point that getting digital transformation right takes more than just ambition and bold investments.

What is changing the impact of transformation success is the capabilities of teams inside organizations, including the need for increased accountability across ever-larger groups and teams, and for data-led decisions being made on everything from digital marketing to AI.

Building out that capability is crucial to the success of transformations. McKinsey placed it second only to capable leadership in importance. My experience and observations are that this, along with an ability to understand and act on data, is often overlooked.

Not focusing on the required capability building within the organization can lead to frustration especially with individuals, if they are suddenly being held accountable for results that they either have little control over, or which they have not been trained to analyze and act upon.

With business transformation, the objective is never a strategy

The digital transformation journey therefore needs to be planned for and managed. Organizations can’t just want things to happen, or expect things to change by company edict.

This was something we discussed late last year at a seminar held with the Australian Computer Society. A number of the panelists emphasized the point that the skills of employees need to be mapped to the needs of the business and the destination that is the new focus for the business. Where are they today? Where do they need to be tomorrow? What support, training, development and program of change do they need to be taken upon?

Success requires good people design, training and capabilities, measured against the organization’s overall objectives. This also includes review of KPI’s and remuneration that is tied to performance to ensure total alignment to the new outcomes you are looking to drive.

This is not a one-off process or approach. It’s a continued planned journey towards those pre-defined objectives. As one example, the concept of accelerated growth is attractive, but it requires the right talent in the right people, and the right type of investment,  inside the organization.

Without that, it matters little what the company or its senior management want: success by any full measure, won’t be possible.

Where to focus: multiple touch-points, customer expectations, first-party data

In working out what the transformation destination might be, along with the business objectives, the answer as to what needs to be solved, is rooted in the needs of the customers.

Their expectations change continually. Understanding both the changes themselves and the process of change is what triggers and drives the requirements of digital transformations.

At its heart, you need to understand how you can better serve and meet the needs of your customers, on their terms, when and where they wish to be served. This may be what is required to allow them to self-serve, but also in what information that is required to better support them from your people, or help them make better decisions around serving your customers and your business.

People’s capabilities can then map to customers’ needs. Otherwise, change in itself won’t create or deliver the desired outcomes. The capabilities of teams inside the organization may change, but they must meet the customers’ expectations.

An example of where I have seen this fail is the desire to upgrade a business’s web platform with a view that it will provide “everything”. However, the design of the website is either not mapped strongly enough to customers requirements, or the data that needs to flow and be available to the customer or internally has not been designed with the view of what needs to happen to it, or because of it, at the speed it is required. The other key failure point is having a great system built, but a team and those who need to get information, unable to do so or use it effectively.

Many commentators share the same, general areas of focus for success, but I think it’s helpful to distill these down to just three. These can be applied to organizations seeking to transform their marketing operations, all the way through to large companies seeking to transform their entire organizations.

Driver one

The first driver is that there are  multiple customer touch points, increasingly possible by smart devices and always-on digital connectivity. Very few of us now walk into a bank for a one-to-one engagement with a bank teller. And many of us do not wish to (for instance, I had to go into the bank last week to change an address for a business credit card. This was unable to be supported online and was a colossal waste of my time and a poor use of their time for something that could easily be supported online).

This goes much further than back-end apps and delivery processes. These multiple touch points represent new ways for brands to engage with customers, by creating previously unheard of customer experiences. So people’s capabilities need to be adept at e-signing and fulfilling these multiple touch points, across multiple data points.

Driver two

The second driver is that customers needs have changed. They expect much greater self-service, personalization, and they expect real-time responses on their terms, wherever that is, at whatever time that is. Particularly around support and when purchasing or tracking progress from you.

One implication of digital transformation is that every part of the journey needs to be considered, and a change here will likely directly influence a change over there. An accelerated success in one area can also lead to roadblocks in another, which in turn will frustrate customers who have been taken so far along a customer journey, but are now forced to wait.

Driver three

Finally, businesses need to rely more and more on first-party data, which means developing value to first exchange the permissions to obtain their data and to engage them as you hope, and in building trust with customers around acquiring and using their data to create positive and meaningful changes of value. And of course, this is increasingly driven and governed by regulation. Organizations that don’t get this right will add risk and costs to their businesses.

A complete understanding of all of these drivers will change any digital transformation from being something that an organization hopes or perhaps even demands will succeed, to something that will succeed with some degree of success, if built on objectives, data AND people capabilities.

This approach also minimizes the constraints (such as the ability to deliver through the transformed customer value chain) that can appear later in the transformation.

One thing we’ve seen with companies is that customers will not give organizations who cannot meet customer expectations the time and flexibility to catch up. Organizations will lose their positions in the market, their originality and competitiveness, and their ability to delight their customers.

Fundamentally, digital transformations are less likely to succeed if they don’t build people capability, aligned with a clear objective or strategy. BCG found that only 30% of digital transformations succeed. As BCG also points out, the inverse is likely to hold true: set clear objectives, align teams with those objectives, and transform the skills and capabilities of employees, that success will be achieved

Use data to inform and accelerate change, but also make data something more than a set of tools used by teams. When thinking about Digital Transformation, embed data and data-made decision making in the culture of the organization. Make data an essential attribute of the capabilities of your teams.

A version of this article also appears at

Show Me The Money

From Jerry Maguire to today, the revenue return on investment is ultimately what counts – something I was recently reminded of by one of our partners, who made the point that they will support organizations that help them generate revenue.

Measurement of marketing performance underpins this fundamental position and purpose. As Gartners’ Ewan McIntyre reminds us, understanding that connection in tighter economic conditions has never been more important.

He also reminds us, marketing budgets drop like a stone at the first sign of trouble and rise like a feather once the environment is more settled.

This helps to sharpen the role of marketing in any organization.

It starts with understanding how an organization makes its revenues and margin, and how customers in turn make revenues from their customers (for B2B).

Next is to understand where the opportunities are, and to assign priorities to those the organization chooses to pursue.

Finally comes the understanding of how to generate value – including the tactics needed to go after – and land – those opportunities already identified.

Easy to summarize and to understand. So why do we see so many gaps in knowledge and execution?

Where is the money?

We are across a lot of marketing data points. And we see organizations struggling to deliver value.

The explicit link between marketing effort and the need to generate revenue is, too often, broken.

It can lead to challenges when being busy is confused with being effective. It’s what I call the illness of busyness, of feeling productive, getting things done, checking activities off a task list, but not actually tracking towards where the money is to be found. One of my favorite sayings is to watch for the operation being successful, but the patient dying.

One example of getting this right is the design and building of the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum in Spain. Architect Frank Gehry understood that the objective was about creating something of value and wonder to attract visitors to the city and region. 

The option of converting existing buildings that had laid abandoned for some years was rejected in favor of something new and spectacular that could fulfill the brief of generating economic growth in Spain’s north (an estimated €500 million in its first three years after it opened). 

Gehry kept his focus on answering the real objective, which was to create something that would attract large numbers of tourists to drive significant economic impact, and not making the mistake of designing a museum at the originally briefed location. 

(Note: this example was referred to in How Big Things Get Done by Professor Bent Flyvbjerg and Dan Gardner.)

Closer to home, an Australian financial services institution had the objective of becoming digital-first because it understood that’s where its future customers are to be found, and that’s the fastest way to compete effectively with organizations with larger budgets. 

Yet the organization continued to be busy doing the same thing that it had been doing before. The organization had to transform itself to follow the money. Even though the commitment and lip service to the new strategy was there, the old marketing habits were still in action. The gap between marketing and revenue had to be closed.

I think as a whole, marketers do understand their role: to create demand for products.

However, the best marketers have structured partnerships with their sales organizations and their impact on generating revenue.

The best will not only create demand but also support sales by taking customers along the path to conversion.

Both, though, are different from when everyone in the organization thinks this way. When everyone says “show me the money”, that is indeed when focus of time, resources and energy converts to revenue.

A version of this article also appears at

Google’s Algorithms Are Not Your Customers

The recent article by Amanda Chicago Lewis on The people who ruined the internet touched nerves with a number of marketers worried about their brands, SEO gurus worried about their incomes, and business owners worried about what to do next.

Add in the opportunities and concerns about the impact of AI on marketing, content especially, and the debate was always going to be interesting.

The way through, or around, this debate is, as always, to focus on two things: the importance of what matters to customers, and the impact and value businesses seek to create in response and through every touch point. 

This seems obvious, but SEO and SEM investments need to make both of these easier to understand and deliver, more so than they currently are. This can end up being a never-ending game of chasing the Google algorithm.

Never forget to market

The job of marketers is to create the best match between what someone searches for, and what businesses have to say about solving their needs, or in answering their questions.

SEO is only the task of optimizing effort and resources deployed to create content designed to answer customers’ needs and attract them to websites. The relevance and value of content are the most important parts of the digital marketing mix

Everything else around it is designed to help map and match consumers to that content, and deliver it in ways and volumes that also make the CFO and CEO happy.

Removing complexity from search

Google’s acronym E-E-A-T – for experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness – still rules. 

What’s most interesting though is the complexity that sits just beneath the surface of understanding search ranking and search query tracking. Google’s own general guidelines run to four pages of content alone.

Removing that complexity resets how search adds value to any digital marketing campaign. 

Websites should be designed, built and optimized for human customers, not for the Google algorithms. That means exploring the actual natural language and queries of the way people search, and designing sites that make it easy to access information, products and services, and measuring performance against those criteria and benchmarks. 

Performance measurement for all – not just the experts

This becomes increasingly important with the continued rise of AI, which can influence how search optimization and search query tracking might be deployed in two ways. First, how AI can be used in the actual creation of content. Second, how AI can be used to expose how others might be gaming the algorithms.

In both examples, measurement of performance becomes essential. For that to be as effective as possible, search query tracking has to be as accessible, easy and affordable as possible, to as many people in an extended marketing ecosystem, without compressing the validity or accuracy of the results.

That means removing the reliance on experts for data analysis. They are experts, but they are also expensive, and often siloed. They can only do so much. And since the role of creating relevant content falls to many, and the job is to increase the authority of the entire website, marketers and business owners can’t wait, nor  leave everything to a single source of expertise who holds all the data.   

That means giving in-house marketing teams, external marketing agencies, CMOs and CEOs access to the same organic search query data. And that means making the insights as easy to interpret and action as possible.

Then, the safety net and obstacles of complexity are replaced with accountability and collaboration.

At the start I said that there was a way through or round the debate about whether search had gamed the internet and, as a result, broken it. Ultimately, it’s the wrong conversation. 

One thing is certain: Google’s algorithms are not our customers. The better conversation is really about plugging data, including search query tracking, into strategy development and program performance management, to see the data and then make faster, better decisions as to how best to action it.  

Organic search results provide incredible insights into how customers are actually trying to discover  how to solve their needs. With personal social media posts becoming increasingly private and unable to be measured, search provides the largest open set of natural language data to inform strategy, marketing and content programs.

Organizations who will win in search will be making that information as widely available as possible, to every stakeholder inside and outside the organization.

A version of this article also appears at

Are vested interests killing your marketing?

That stakeholders are a forgotten audience within marketing programs may be more common than it should be.

I say this because in many cases, stakeholders are kept away from the unvarnished, objective, data-led, single source of marketing truth by those who control the data, who have something to hide, or have something to protect (usually their jobs).

In other words, vested interests are killing marketing programs.

Our experience is that many stakeholders, particularly C-level stakeholders, are frustrated at the lack of information made available to them by the marketing teams, the delay in receiving that information, and the biases in the information. 

And this is a business problem, not just a marketing problem. Stakeholders include, sales and business development teams, joint-marketing and co-branding partners, agencies and other external partners, in addition to the C-suite. All have reporting and ultimate budget responsibilities. Taken together with those responsible for delivering the programs, everyone who should influence how marketing is delivered, and therefore be held accountable for results, needs real-time access to single sources of truth about marketing program performance

Too often, we hear senior management and business owners say the opposite is the reality. 

As one business leader recently told me, “we realized too late that we spent a whole bunch of money on something that did not work, and we would not have continued had we known this earlier. We would have redirected the budget. And we’re not happy we’ve only just discovered this months after the campaign finished.” Waiting to find your budget did not work as hard as it could is an opportunity cost greater than the dollars wasted.

Better insights, better teams, better performance

There are other benefits in ensuring all stakeholders have real-time visibility. Transparency around real-time performance builds empowerment, upskills resources, and moves in all directions. 

Once a single source of truth about the performance of marketing programs is made available to everyone, without constraint or delay, marketing programs can  flourish. 

The collective learning muscle of the organization increases.

Marketing programs that already perform well can perform even better. 

Marketing programs that don’t perform well can be kick-started, redirected or discarded.

Greater trust can be built in agency and client relationships. There are no surprises, no place to hide, just the truth about whether the current marketing program is working as expected or not. Either way, resources can be deployed to best effect. 

Confidence is built with stakeholders who will be more likely to invest in success when they can see success. 

Decision quality improves as it can be based on real-time data and insights.

CMOs can prove the value of their strategies and demonstrate the quality of their decisions. 

Marketers and agencies can demonstrate the worth of their creativity and demonstrate how well creativity actually works for their customers.  Rather than working in silos, they have visibility into the insights from all aspects of the marketing program and customer touch points. These include organic search and social media, to best-performing creative, to what is actually driving valuable conversions on websites and from which platforms. These insights in turn drive better content outcomes.

Customers will relate to brands that clearly understand them.

And everyone wins. 

What’s wrong with marketing accountability

When Digivizer is invited to work with organizations, it’s often to address some of these concerns. Common factors include lack of insights, confusion, delays in information, competing silos, and an absence of truth into what’s working. 

Different teams try to justify their own reporting mechanisms or processes, often to justify the decisions they have made in external agencies or program development. We still see too many examples of teams seeking to show themselves in the best-possible light, or to rely on the agency they have appointed to do this for them.

That results in fragmented reporting. For every team with its own reporting process, targets, benchmarks and KPIs, there is another version of the truth. Nothing becomes clear, and the only thing that grows is the noise of competing claims.

As I said in a recent article, what’s interesting is that the C-suite is demanding more clarity. 

Recently, we’ve added two organizations that have rejected too many systems, too many competing teams and too many unchallenged claims about performance. They have turned to a single source of truth about marketing performance. 

We help with implementing this change, but what’s impressive is that their approach binds their extended ecosystems – their marketing team, management team and multiple agencies – into one reporting framework. This includes providing visibility and access to their finance teams. They use the awareness of real-time expenditure and conversions to estimate future revenues and book value. 

It’s worth emphasizing that this makes everyone in the ecosystem accountable as well. 

Ending marketing disunity

By removing a previous reliance on individuals to provide the insights, these two organizations – and their internal teams – now focus on consolidated data presented in a single, composite view.  

They no longer need to pay for valuable engineering resources or wait for analysts to provide the information. Instead they can invest in resources that add real value: developing  strategies, setting direction and making decisions that actually deliver returns.

The potential for team disunity and agency rivalry has been removed completely.

Everyone on these programs is empowered to seek the best possible return for the investment they are responsible for. These teams now research the opportunities that already exist, to provide inputs into strategies and to see how things are actually performing.

Making the data and the insights available (it can be found) and accessible (it can be understood) in real-time allows everyone to dig deeper into the meaning that they can see in front of them. That can be returns on a paid budget, the impact of creative executions, determining what content should be invested in or campaigns to be developed, or any other potential success factor.

New conversations, focused on performance

The discussion about performance continues to move towards what works best. This will be based on understanding why that’s the case, testing assumptions about what to do next, and focusing where success is either most-likely, based on past data, or simply demonstrated by results.

It is much easier to focus on a single area of potential performance lift within a digital funnel, than to try and move everything at once. Having visibility into everything, broken down into each platform, each stage of the funnel and each piece of creative, copy or destination, helps guide investment.

Ultimately, this comes down to business leaders deciding for themselves what they want to do about stopping the different vested interests in their organization getting in the way of better results.

They can replace the bullshit that results from different teams presenting different reports in different time frames, with one single source of marketing truth, that everyone has access to, whether they are a specialist or a beginner. 

They can close the gap between agency and brand.

And they can close the gap between failure and success.

Because the more powerful the spotlight being shone on the performance of marketing programs, the more accountable the extended business development and customer experience teams become, and the better the marketing results will be.

A version of this article also appears at

Marketing under the watchful eye of the C-suite

Digital marketing can be seen as a set of levers operated to improve performance. 

This requires marketing tools built on systematic and real-time data that help marketers understand a number of important performance measurements. These include the best return on investment (ROI), return on advertising spend (ROAS), the role of each platform, being aware of the campaign and content elements in any nurture journey, and the biases that inevitably sit within the native analytics functions in each of the channels being used. 

Marketers increasingly rely on data to optimize the performance of their digital marketing programs in the face of fierce competition for the eyes and attention of customers and prospects, and for the best-possible position in search returns.

Even more interesting though is that the C-suite is also seeking those insights as well.

As one Chief Digital Officer put it to me recently, his CEO and board are less interested in the story woven by marketers and their agencies. They are much more interested in a common set of trusted performance data around results and returns.  There is a real push for greater transparency and governance in digital investment.   

We’re experiencing this first-hand, working with a CEO and his C-suite to rebuild their business as a digital-first organization. 

So if marketers and business owners know they need to make sense of millions of pieces of data, and do so without undue expense or delay, they need to know which levers to pull, in time to make a difference.  

The consequence is that to be accountable, responsive and successful, new levers are needed that allow marketers to trim and change their programs.

Words, pictures, video, performance

The starting point is content. To be effective, content has to be served to audiences, be seen by individuals, and be engaged with. Peer endorsements need to reinforce the message so that search and serve algorithms elevate its appearance. Calls to action need to be tested and tracked so that their effectiveness at driving traffic to websites can be quantified. 

Content performance has to be defined by whether it’s effective, not on whether it “looks good” or “feels right”. 

And to achieve the best outcomes, it needs to be continually refined. 

Where to next, and how fast?

This means that content performance must be measured by platform, content type, budget spent, by return on advertising spend (ROAS), revenue, and by any other objective built into the program. 

The role of content is of course to create a compelling step in the journey for the customer. 

One of the defining characteristics of digital marketing is that it allows customers to travel on the journey from awareness to conversion along non-linear paths. The traditional concept of an orderly sales funnel no longer necessarily applies. Customer journeys start at multiple starting points. The deployment of social media and digital marketing is still typically aligned to different points on these journeys, but is no longer constrained by a defined pathway from top-of-funnel to bottom-of-funnel. 

Customers choose their journey, not brands. 

Data-led measurement

By using data to define a program based on different criteria rather than one pre-defined direction, marketers can start to measure and act on the overall ROI and ROAS at any point.

If marketing is about putting the audience first, then digital marketing is the means of connecting marketers and audiences, and engaging them as customers, based on the preferences and needs of those individuals.

Every channel and platform provides the means of measuring, assessing and analyzing performance, and there are any number of alternative solutions that, to varying degrees, aggregate such data.

The digital marketing levers are there to pull, if this information and insights are available quickly, easily, and promptly. 

Taking action requires insights derived from data, and the mindset and preparedness to act and then to measure the impact. 

And with all of this now taking place under the watchful gaze of the CEO, that means data-led accountability.

(I also discuss this topic in more detail in my paper in Applied Analytics Journal Volume 8, Number 3, published by Henry Stewart Publications, available on subscription at

A version of this article also appears at

Don’t do more. Do better.

Digital analytics changes the way businesses understand campaign performance. It allows marketers to personalize, prioritize and optimize.

Where they previously collected long-term data and painstakingly monitored programs over time, they now have access to quantitative data in real-time.

However, the principles of a successful campaign remain the same. ROAS (Return on Advertising Spend) remains a primary KPI for many businesses.

But fixating on this figure alone, especially over short time spans, might be having the opposite effect. It’s much better to understand where ROAS fits in digital marketing programs, and what it contributes to those programs.

Then it can be a foundation for improvement.

ROAS as a journey

When taking a customer on a journey from not knowing who you are to being a recurring and referring customer, you need to consider the many steps involved in the customer acquisition journey. That will likely extend to subsequent customer relationships and up-sell opportunities.

The tried and tested funnel in sales doesn’t change just because you’re using digital platforms, even if the rigid funnel is now blurred for many organizations. Opportunities and prospects enter the funnel at different levels and stages. They can bounce around like flies in a bottle, absorbing content and being guided by your digital marketing cues, value and suggestions, along the path to acquisition.

But marketers need different targets and measures for each stage of the digital funnel. Customers develop awareness of your brand through impressions and views. If the message appeals to them, they will spend time researching and considering before making their decision.

Most crucially, taking this structured, data-led, performance-led approach means you understand what’s working for them. You can start to understand where they are on their journey, whether or not they are starting to leave your digital sales funnel, how you might attract them back, and so on.

By knowing what’s working, what’s happening, and knowing where and when, marketers can become increasingly confident about the quality and relevance of the experience they’re creating.

Any digital media plan needs to answer all aspects of the digital funnel, from prospect to satisfied return customer.

Why do businesses love ROAS? 

ROAS is a valuable metric for determining a value exchange, dollar for dollar. It can drive both the top and the bottom line, and everyone in an organization needs to understand what that means. The days of the expert data savant in an ivory tower are gone.

It’s also an indicator of where the budget should be spent. If marketers can predict a return and understand the multiple return based on invested dollars, they know what spend can be justified. Marketing becomes an investment (not a cost).

And as a result, marketers can make the best-possible case for that budget. (The alternative is guessing, which no longer passes muster.)

Conversions are a logical goal for many businesses, in the form of sales, enquiries, sign-ups, last clicks or something else.  ROAS is particularly important for e-commerce businesses that rely on investment to generate their income and profitability.

With access to digital analytics and insights, made as simple as possible without dumbing down the data, ROAS is easy to measure and report. At that point, the wider business can also then appreciate the precise value being delivered.

What does a successful campaign look like to you? 

Think about your last digital campaign. During the planning, you most likely set objectives you wanted to meet. They gave you a way to measure success.

You may have determined you wanted to drive a certain number of sales or website visits, hold user attention, grow your platform audiences, or build a brand.

The answer to “What does a successful campaign look like?” must start with, “It depends on what you set out to achieve.”

Taken in isolation, ROAS tells you one part of that success story. Understanding whether a customer is a new one or an existing one, and overlaying the lifetime value of that customer, gives you a significantly different view and indicators of return on investment.

Other key measures of value are understanding the customer journey. What brings them to you, do they stay and convert at your destination? Do they continue their journey to learn more, or do they bounce?  Do they repeat buy, do they only engage around discounted offers, do they refer you? You must have a complete view of the targets and results you need to reach for a fully optimized digital sales funnel.

There are many metrics you should also consider in combination:

  • Amount of organic referred traffic v. paid traffic to website, understanding each source, and which platform is driving traffic
  • If paid, cost of impression/video view
  • If paid, cost of engagement and % of engagements
  • If paid, cost of click throughs % click-through rates to website
  • If paid, cost of lead (converting from a lower-cost email acquisition may provide a lower cost of acquisition overall)
  • Total sales – organic v. paid
  • ROAS – Return on Advertising Spend
  • Total campaign return (invested dollars/lifetime value)
  • Website health on mobile and desktop – how fast it loads, how many people stay on site, the number of pages viewed (and which pages) before taking a final value action (sales/leads/registration/email sign-ups, etc.)

Insights are valuable when you look at your entire search, organic, earned and paid digital and website experience, across social media, and more.

If you are driving traffic to your website but not converting enough, it could be that your website is difficult to navigate, or the content leaves visitors cold. Your value proposition might be unclear, or there could be a technical issue with the checkout process.

All of these represent intelligence of real value. They help you understand where you can focus next to improve results. With data leading the inputs, and with all other variables accounted for, the conclusions suddenly become crystal clear. Looking at where customers get stuck or where they convert on your website allows you to focus on what to improve and test improvements for next. But you won’t know for sure unless you spend time looking at other metrics in addition to your ROAS.

Digital marketing means that the relationship between customer and brand has never been closer.

The job of your digital marketing strategy is to create these human experiences.

Which means doing better, not just more.

ChatGPT might create great content: its value still needs to be measured

In marketing, performance is everything. It determines the returns on your effort and investments, but also measures, analyzes, compares and helps you act on data such as engagement or impressions which are proxies for whether your customers actually care about your brand, its values, and the products or services you seek to sell.

So for me, the appearance and rapid adoption of generative AI starts with brand values, embodied in how brands seek to engage with their customers and audiences.

It’s a slightly different view from the consensus, which is currently anchored in discussions about productivity and profitability at one end of the debate, and the end of the workforce, especially for creative skills, at the other.

Neither is wrong, but neither is uniquely true either, and the choice is not binary in any case. AI in marketing, I suggest, is about understanding how to harness its power to create differentiation. 

And as David Meerman Scott reminds us, that starts with having a marketing strategy that includes AI, so that you understand where AI plays in your marketing efforts.

So what is AI’s role to be in marketing, and where does measurement and accountability come in?

We need to revert to first principles. If every organization replaces its creative team with AI engines, every company will eventually sound the same. Differentiation will disappear, content will either become generic or extreme as brands seek to stand out, and customers will vote with their thumbs. On its own, AI is not the answer.

AI has to continue to support authenticity and relevance. For sure it can speed up the process of creating assets that form the deliverables of a marketing strategy. But the strategy, and how success is defined, must come first. And customer trust must stay core to how you assess its value.

Customers demand differentiation: can AI deliver?

Thought-leadership and opinions invariably build on personal experiences and industry track-records. By definition, no AI engine can match these because AI engines can only distill what already exists to create visions of what might be possible. They may reflect thought-leadership already shared by experts, but clearly that won’t of itself be original thought.

Without this type of context, there won’t be differentiation, and it won’t be what customers want to consume, especially when they are seeking new input into complex business problems.

Accountability will also be important. ChatGPT’s hallucinogenic characters have already led to the first lawsuits, and AI governance remains in its infancy, with many organizations yet to consider who resolves questions of accuracy, legality, authenticity, and brand reputation. 

As generative AI creates new levels of productivity, profitability and even proficiency, people will still be needed to rule on accuracy and accountability.

In the meantime, companies and organizations can focus on what AI does have to offer. In my view, AI is  great for ideation. The Digivizer team uses various AI engines to prompt original thinking, around creative ideas, sources, and content for customers. As such, AI is a new partner at Digivizer, working alongside our experts and teams to help them think in new ways.

But the ultimate measure is whether you have created something of value, in your unique voice and contexts, that holds the trust of your customers and motivates them to take action.  

Content is great when it performs: that means measurement

Which brings me back to measurement. Content produced from the creative and fertile minds of one of our team, and content produced with the support of the algorithmic smarts of AI, both have to perform. The notion of “brilliant content” or “creative content” does not count: what does is how that content delivers outcomes. That requires systematic measurement and analysis of performance, however the content is created.

Measurement generates new inputs to the next iteration of content, so that the right levers are pulled to optimize and maximize content performance. 

Brands have to be clear about the value proposition they have for their customers, and be true to that value, as measured by the reaction of those customers. Differentiation comes from creating a unique position in the marketplace. And if AI is, above all else, regarded as a productivity tool, if it’s used solely in that way, brands will simply get to the point of being indistinguishable from their competitors faster than they otherwise would. 

Brand values are built on trust and authenticity. Brands therefore have to be clear about understanding the role AI has in promoting these values – in exactly the same way that they do today, with marketing programs that are created by humans. 

They can then focus on the benefits and advantages AI can provide, in product design and development as well as the marketing of that product, confident that AI will protect the brand promise and its values.

Digivizer named Australia’s-first LinkedIn Marketing Partner

We have exciting news to share!  We’ve been appointed to LinkedIn’s global Marketing Partner Program, making us the first Australian-based company to achieve this certification. 

We’re absolutely thrilled to have our real-time analytics technology certified by LinkedIn after three months of thorough testing. LinkedIn’s certification is validation of how our technology, insights and expertise have driven success for businesses around the world that are using LinkedIn to generate more leads and revenue.

This partnership is a huge win for digital marketers, in business of all sizes, who are looking to connect with, engage with, and sell to customers on LinkedIn. 

By integrating with LinkedIn’s Marketing Analytics and Ads API, our platform gives you a complete view across organic and paid marketing campaign performance. You can easily compare LinkedIn program performance alongside other major social media and search platform channels, to see which platform is driving the most value and conversions on your websites.

At Macquarie Data Centres, Krish Ruban, Head of Marketing, uses our platform to measure the performance of their digital marketing program across multiple channels: “Especially in the B2B space, using the Digivizer platform puts our data into context to deliver us with multi-channel insights. I know what’s working, all the time. Better still, I know why and how programs perform well. That’s a better use of my data, and helps us validate our investment in programs on LinkedIn.”

I’m proud that this partnership with LinkedIn recognizes the value we offer in providing a single-source-of-truth across multiple social media and digital marketing channels. We’re making this easily accessible and affordable to all those involved in a marketing ecosystem. It provides the real-time trust and governance that organizations need to understand the returns from their end-to-end digital marketing investments.

Watch our partnership video to see how to leverage insights to get more leads and sales from your LinkedIn investment.

If you’re a digital marketer looking to take your LinkedIn advertising campaigns to the next level, this partnership between Digivizer and LinkedIn delivers new benefits: new users of Digivizer and LinkedIn that spend US$500 (or the local equivalent) on LinkedIn Advertising will get US$500 added to their LinkedIn Ads account. T&Cs Apply.

To unlock the value of LinkedIn for your business, book into one of our 15-minute LinkedIn insights sessions here.