Branding vs. Action Campaigns—What’s the Difference, and When to Use Them

branding campaign, action campaign

Great marketing campaigns can change hearts and minds, influence purchase decisions, and establish brand loyalty. However, not all marketing campaigns are the same, and there’s no formula for campaign success.

There are two types of marketing campaigns you can employ: action campaigns or branding campaigns. Both provide value and have their place in an annual marketing strategy, but they are fundamentally different in the objectives they can help achieve. Read on to discover when and how to use each effectively.

Branding and Action Campaigns Defined

  • Branding Campaigns — Also referred to as “awareness campaigns,” these campaigns are specifically dedicated to branding and aim to establish a company’s position, lift awareness, and change perceptions.
  • Action Campaigns — Also referred to as “promotional campaigns,” these campaigns are designed to drive your audience to take a specific type of action, usually tied to a specific business goal (like sales) within a brief period of time.

When Branding Campaigns Make Sense

As opposed to action campaigns, it can be difficult to know when a branding campaign will be most useful. However, it’s important to commit resources to strengthening your brand and supporting brand awareness consistently. Branding campaigns are long-term initiatives and it takes a significant amount of time to yield results, especially in a new market.

Here are three potential scenarios where branding campaigns are appropriate:

You’re New on the Block

Brand awareness refers to how easily consumers can recognize your company or product. For a brand new business, building awareness is critical before you can hope to steal competitors’ market share or establish brand loyalty. The goal of a branding campaign here isn’t immediate sales — it’s about building familiarity and capturing a space in your customers’ and prospects’ minds.

You Want to Establish/Re-establish Your Position

Becoming a thought leader in your category or influencing brand preference can’t happen overnight. It takes time, especially if your brand has been around for awhile and needs to contend with existing perceptions. If you make a big change — like how your products are sourced, the variety of services you offer, or something else fundamental to your business model — you’ll need to run this type of campaign in order to educate your audience and work on changing opinions.

You Need to Stay Top of Mind

Advertising isn’t always about pushing an immediate next step. Sometimes it’s about reminding customers that your company is attentive and available, even when they’re not ready to work with you just yet. This is especially critical for businesses that have an off-season, like home improvement companies. It’s imperative to continue to market throughout the late fall and winter months, so when spring comes around again and customers are ready to invest in home improvement projects, your brand will be top of mind.

When Action Campaigns Make Sense

If there’s a specific action that you want customers or prospects to take, this is the type of campaign you’re interested in. More specifically, action campaigns rely on calls-to-action to yield results. Consider an action campaign for any of the following scenarios:

You Have an Event Coming Up

Successful events require attendants — you need to plan ahead to fill seats, drive ticket sales or contest participation, and remind your audience why they won’t want to miss out. Events require clear calls-to-action to attract crowds. If multiple CTAs are necessary, be sure to only feature one per ad, or you’ll risk confusing your audience.

You’re Introducing a New Product or Service Line

This is especially important for established brands, when customers are familiar with you but may not have heard about your new offering. You’ll need to educate your audience (see above branding campaign notes), and then drive leads in order to get conversions and sales. For example, a healthcare brand releasing a new type of therapeutic product may combine approaches and use ads that both educate patients on the product and also drive them to a landing page where they find out more, with a CTA that offers a consultation or free trial.

You Have Specific Sales Goals

Every business needs to hit certain goals to improve revenue and profit margins. If you have quarterly or annual sales goals, action campaigns can help improve the number and value of transactions. This doesn’t always mean discounts. Tactics like retargeting allow brands to reconnect with customers about options they’ve browsed on their website, either promoting products they didn’t buy, or cross-selling products that could enhance their experience. A home improvement retailer, for instance, could retarget ads to customers that previously showed interest in decking by promoting stains or patio furniture.

Questions to Help You Decide Which to Use

With the insights above in mind, there’s a handful of questions you can ask yourself to determine whether a branding or action campaign will be most appropriate.

  • Does my audience already know me?
  • What kind of results am I looking for?
  • Am I trying to persuade the audience to see things a certain way?
  • When do I need to see results?
  • How immediate should the impact to my bottom line be?
  • What will “success” look like?

Action and branding campaigns can help your company to achieve different types of business goals. Understanding when to use each is critical to leveraging them at the right time, in the right way.

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