How to Succeed on the Full Funnel Journey | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

How to Succeed on the Full Funnel Journey


The marketing industry is transforming, as brands grapple to find the sweet spot between performance-driven tactics and long-term brand-building strategies. Historically, the industry has been divided between brands in two categories: performance brands or brand-building brands. What we are seeing now is a reconciliation of this divide. Marketers who understand the dynamics driving this shift to integrate the two will evolve and experience more powerful outcomes.

The Historical Divide

Performance brands historically have operated on tighter budgets and focused primarily on metrics that can be directly attributed to marketing efforts. Their strategies are often laser-focused on driving immediate results, such as sales or leads. However, this narrow focus presents challenges, particularly when it comes to justifying investments in strategies that don't yield immediate, tangible results.

These brands may struggle to see the value in investing in long-term brand-building activities, as that payback is not as directly measurable or immediate as with performance marketing tactics. This narrower strategic focus ultimately impacts long-term growth. Look no further than any number of DTC "falls from grace" over the past five years.

On the other side of the spectrum are brands, typically with larger budgets or a different strategic outlook, who understand the value of engaging in full-funnel marketing strategies. These brands recognize that building a brand over time is just as crucial as if not more important than driving immediate performance. They are more willing to invest in broad-reaching marketing efforts that may not drive immediate sales but contribute significantly to long-term brand equity and customer loyalty. Such strategies might include content marketing, brand storytelling, and community engagement, which help in creating a deeper, more emotional connection with the audience.

Understanding the Shift to Integrate

Flash forward, and the most significant opportunity in today's marketing landscape lies in finally bridging the gap between these two long-standing approaches without either dominating the funnel. This reconciliation involves integrating the immediate, conversion-focused strategies of performance marketing with the long-term, brand-building strategies of full-funnel marketing. This integration is essential for brands that want to remain competitive and relevant in a rapidly changing market. Brand versus performance debate aside – this is more fundamental. It's about shifting to "customer first."

For brands mostly focused on performance, this transformation can be tough. It's also necessary. It will require a holistic re-establishment of the marketing approach, creative strategy, measurement technique, and overall brand positioning. This level of change is not just about adopting new tactics; it's about embracing a new mindset that values both immediate results and long-term brand health.

Overcoming Challenges will Pay Off in the Long Run

Along the way, it's also important to resist the urge to guess. Sure, the marketing solution is always some version of "customer first," but it's critical to use audience research to inform all plans and methods, and then use real data to validate and adjust any course.

True distinction and staying power along the way may not come easy. So, it's important to not only focus on distinctiveness and memorability but to commit to developing creative intended and likely to convert over time. That kind of creative should look quite different than creative intended to drive initial awareness and memorability. At the top of the funnel, brands should be very focused on distinct, "saying something differently," messaging that cuts through the noise and that begins to prove its staying power by reaching and influencing large audiences and continues to build.

Even following that approach, long-term planning still can be tricky. Designing for outcomes is truly a dedicated discipline. Longer term brand ads are not going to drive that immediate conversion and, in some cases, won't even drive that immediate site visit. We should all trust the process; if teams are focusing on the right values and on outcomes, all will gradually fall into place.

Aligning organizational goals, particularly with financial stakeholders like CFOs, is also critical. Brands need to develop new metrics and KPIs that can justify long-term investments. These investments might not show immediate returns but are essential for sustained growth and brand health. It requires a shift in mindset from seeing marketing purely as a cost center to recognizing it as a key driver of long-term business value.

None of these efforts to target and design differently will matter without the right measurement framework. So, it's important to think about leading measures. It's important to understand whether the strategy and plan can influence the short-term behaviors that generally map to the long-term outcomes that matter to the business.

Lagging measures are also key. Questions for the team to ask include: Are those short-term behaviors actually resulting in long-term outcomes? And did marketing drive this change or did something else? Lift studies are useful here, of course. It will be important to constantly reassess the leading/lagging measures and the correlation between them.

The marketing industry is at a pivotal point where the shift from a purely performance-driven approach to an integrated, full-funnel strategy is becoming increasingly important. This shift necessitates a fundamental change in how brands approach their marketing efforts, encompassing everything from re-worked creative strategies and audience perception data to measurement and goal alignment. By embracing this more holistic approach, brands can achieve sustainable growth, balancing short-term gains with long-term brand equity and have a better likelihood of strong outcomes.

Kevin Goodwin is VP of media services at New Engen.

The views and opinions expressed in Industry Insights are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.