Why Companies Are Getting It Wrong With Brand Marketing Versus Growth Marketing

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on August 11, 2022

“Great idea. This will really help introduce our service to a new audience/demographic. Which team’s budget is this coming from?”

“These new in-situ product images really showcase our product in a forward-thinking light, but they don’t follow our historical paid social best practices.”

“We spend the majority of our marketing budget on growth marketing, but a majority of creative investment and resources go toward ‘non-performance’ assets.”

If you're reading this, you have likely been an active participant or at the very least a fly on the wall during some of these conversations. As someone who has been involved in a lot of these, I spend a lot of time thinking about how to avoid them in the future.

By: Neil Heckman

At most brands that I’ve worked with throughout my career, and specifically most recently during my 5+ years with hyper growth start-ups and disruptor brands, the marketing organizations are typically made up of 3 components — brand, growth, and creative.

The brand team is charged with steering the direction of the ship and coming up with new and meaningful ways to introduce the brand to new people. The growth team is more often than not made up of new customer acquisition efforts and existing customer retention, and is the marketing group responsible for attributable revenue and marketing-focused business efficiencies. And the creative team brings all of the above to life through visually and copy-driven campaigns based on each group’s known and tested best practices.

The silo-ing of marketing practices is essential for each individual team member’s skills to flourish. A brand marketer may not find paid search execution interesting, and a performance marketer may cringe at the thought of conceptual thinking and strategy sessions. But that doesn’t mean marketing GOALS should be siloed at the team level. In fact, doing so is actually harmful to the overall future outlook of the brand.

The current structuring and silo-ing of goals and purposes leads to internal friction, a lack of innovation, and prolonged time to accomplish business-wide goals. Marketing leaders, under the current structure, are regularly pitted against each other in the fight for budget and resources, and more often than not there is a “bad guy” (and, having been the bad guy who needed to focus groups on revenue generation and efficiency (rather than deploying budget for an amazing creative idea that may not lead to immediate revenue generation). All of those goes back to the aforementioned ineffective silos.

Everything is growth marketing, and everything is brand marketing. The two do not compete, and the two need to work in tandem at all times to ensure brand voice is true and that there is consistency in brand perception across every touchpoint, but that all team’s goals are met through a majority of efforts.

If you ask most brand marketers if they think revenue generation is important, they will say yes. And if you ask most growth marketers if they think traditional advertising with a non revenue generation goal is important, I think they’d also say yes. So going back to the crux of the problem — when revenue falls solely on the Growth team and impression delivery or press hits or another brand team KPI falls solely on the brand team, and both know historically what works, leaving the creative team with little room for innovation - the whole engine stalls.

Having worked with dozens of seed/series brands at this point, one alternative structure could be the below. I am by no means saying all creative marketers are suddenly responsible for revenue, or that all growth marketers need to be InDesign or Canva experts — but shared ownership and accountability is step one in de-siloing:

1) Marketing leadership must align on the 3 MARKETING priorities (not specific to brand, growth, or creative) for the next 6 months. Examples include:

  • Increase brand awareness 4%
  • Hit business revenue plan with marketing investment being no more than 25% of all revenue brought in
  • Limit performance marketing spend and focus more on influencer efforts and increasing existing customer LTV
  • Spend 5% of total marketing budget on a huge cultural activation and get 100 press mentions from the effort to improve awareness and SEO

2) All marketing resources must accomplish 2 of the 3 priorities, against which ALL teams should be working

3) Share ownership for all KPIs — growth teams to report on impressions, brand teams to make an effort (with the assist from the growth team) to find influencers based on past successes most likely to drive revenue or accomplish a growth KPI, and creative teams to outline hypotheses put into their campaign proposals and how each supports the goals

This will increase cross-team collaboration, partnership, and might even eliminate a few passive aggressive Slacks or meeting invites.

Need a proof point? When I was at Casper we almost had to cancel our Subway ads due to cost and our inability to gauge revenue or track interest. The brand, growth, and creative teams came together under the one goal of saving the subway ads, and the only way to do so was by introducing something buzzworthy, something innovative, and something attributable. And from that, Casper Puzzles were born. Each group felt this campaign accomplished their KPIs, and the partnership of working together toward one collective goal (while accomplishing each team’s individual charges), led to an unrivaled level of collaboration and output.

This is a bedrock and seismic shift. Some folks/brands may be opposed, and that’s ok — but I believe the most successful brands over the next 3-5 years will stop thinking in terms of siloed, short-term goals, and will think about how/when/where they can most meaningfully show up against total marketing and broader business goals… and how, when done correctly, the accomplishment of a brand team’s goals will benefit the growth and creative team’s abilities to accomplish their goals, and vice-versa.

Neil Heckman hails from some of the biggest internationally known D2C startups — Away and Casper — and founded his NYC based agency Breakfast Consulting just 1 year ago. At a fraction of the cost of a CMO, breakfast consulting can set strategy, execute, and optimize.