Measuring the impact of and proving ROI for digital brand awareness campaigns can be difficult or feel impossible, so it makes sense that many marketers want to avoid them. I’ve definitely been skeptical of digital brand campaigns.

But, MozCon 2020 changed my mind. Two back-to-back talks focused on 1) Why to run brand campaigns and how to measure them, and then 2) How to build a global brand without a global budget.

The key takeaway from these talks was that brand campaigns can not only be as valuable as standard content marketing and distribution, they can be measured, too.

Here’s what that looks like.

Why run a brand campaign?

Most potential clients or customers won’t see a single social media post, digital ad, or blog post and immediately make the leap from “I’ve never heard of them”, to “I’ll spend $10K a month with them.” Clients and customers are more likely to be persuaded by, and buy into, a whole brand. They need to know that you exist, and know what you’re about – and for those who do know already, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of it occasionally.

What does building a brand campaign look like?

First, the goal should be brand affinity, not brand awareness. Awareness is a good starting point, but you want your brand to actually resonate with people. You want them to like you, not just know you.

Second, the metrics for success aren’t just impressions, clicks, or conversions. Try to measure something more indicative of quality and affinity, like time spent with your brand, whether that’s time spent watching videos, listening to podcasts, or reading your content.

Third, the creative should look different. Instead of communicating your brand through short videos or standalone posts in a crowded space where many brands are vying for attention (i.e. Google Ads, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube), produce creative that is consumed in a space where you can curate the entire experience, like long-form video, podcasts, or original research/studies. Then use social to promote and distribute teasers for the long-term experience.

Lastly, go beyond hoping your audience will connect with your brand message, and instead focus on getting that message to resonate with entire subcultures and communities. Instead of focusing on marketing to residents in a certain area or demographic, focus on finding and marketing to very specific communities where you know your message will resonate.

How do you measure the results and find your audience communities?

You can effectively measure brand impact and growth, and find your target communities using free tools and simple tactics. By using and cross-referencing data available through Google Trends, The U.S. Census, Google News, Google Ads impressions and impression share, and paying close attention to changes in branded SERPs and search traffic, you can get a good idea of how your brand is doing with certain populations. Here is an example of how that could play out.

You use Google Trends to track awareness and searches for your brand over time, see interest spikes, and see where on the map that interest is coming from. You can also use Google News, to see if any news coverage or PR pushes contributed to the spikes in interest.

Then, with U.S. Census data you can drill into those locations to get more information about population and economy, and identify audience communities to market to, like veteran-owned businesses, for example. While marketing audiences are typically based on location, gender, or age, taking time to identify more specific audience communities with a shared interest, passion, stage of life, or even a job, can provide more targeted messaging, resulting in a more targeted and relevant experience.

For more granular product or service data, you can use your Google Ads data, if available, to view impressions and impression share to get a sense of how your brand stacks up against competitors in your area, or even against your own brand in the past. This data can also be cross-referenced against population counts from the U.S. Census to more accurately portray how impressions adjust across more and less densely populated areas, or in areas where you’ve identified the community you’re interested in.

Lastly, tracking growth in branded searches, traffic from branded searches, and even inspecting how your branded SERP has changed can give you an idea of how your brand has evolved over time.

If you want to know more about the type of work we do, or see what else I learned at MozCon, you can check out our digital advertising content, or read the full MozCon 2020 recap post.