Over the past few years, I’ve been both an amused spectator and a willing participant in the performance versus brand marketer wars. The debate has often produced enough drama to justify a cable television reality show.  In fact, I must be careful how loudly I say that, given the fact there’s no end in sight to the feud between the marketing world’s Hatfields and McCoys, there’s still a good possibility that HBO will option the series.


For those who have missed the last few episodes, let me catch you up. There are two feuding families in marketing-land: The performance marketers and the brand marketers. Performance marketers seek measurable responses and transactional data tied directly to specific marketing efforts, both in the short- and long-term. In contrast, brand marketers seek to increase their Net Promoter Scores (NPS) or overall positive sentiment associated with the brand as a result of their efforts. Each group claims that its definition of success is what marketing should be held accountable to.

NPS, created by Fred Reichheld, Bain & Company, and Satmetrix, is a measure of the loyalty and advocacy generated from positive customer relationships.

Brand marketers, when arguing the value of Net Promoter Score as a business goal (vs. direct sales measurements) suggest that there’s a positive correlation between a high NPS score and the sales/profit growth of a business.  Yet critics argue that too many factors are at play in the long-term success of a brand to definitively attribute positive sentiment to specific sales growth. And therein lays the crux of the debate: If long-term success is impacted by multiple factors, including the efforts of brand marketers along the way, the claim that brand marketing drives sales and profits is anecdotal. “Anecdotal evidence” does not pay salaries, or so says every CFO I know.

Pundits have suggested that performance marketers seek results in 30 days, whereas brand marketers looks for the results in 300 days; however, this is a misrepresentation of the former. Performance marketing simply applies sales goals and metrics to the practice of marketing and advertising, which in some cases are seen and measured in the long-term as well as the short-term. The key is to identify if there is a direct relationship between an initial marketing engagement and the profit a business earns.  That would be the equivalent of the Holy Grail for marketing executives.

Casual observers of this feud claim that in reality, a combination of both performance and brand marketing is required for success. Yet this doesn’t answer the question at the core of this debate: Exactly which engagements contribute to the business’s profitability and which do not?

Can There Ever Be A Resolution?

I will argue that as technology evolves – and as the public shares more and more of its personal data and purchase habits online – we’ll soon be able to track and report the contribution of marketing engagement to business profitability.  Certainly, marketing and social media starts ups are in a race to unlock this mystery as evidenced by the plethora of analytic software being introduced to the marketplace.

New methodologies in influence marketing strategies, for example, are starting to connect marketing efforts to sales results. In fact, I’ve suggested that influence marketing will be the “tipping point” of social media ROI. Instead of identifying influencers with the biggest reach and activity on specific themes, imagine an influence marketing model that identifies how consumers make purchase decisions and then reacts in such a way as to favorably impact those decisions.  There’s gold in dem der hills!

A version of this post first appeared on Sensei Blogs.
Image Credit Janneman, Licensed via Creative Commons