Some people might argue that branding used to be simple when there were only a handful of TV channels and newspapers as potential advertising platforms. Everyone would watch more or less the same programs according to a set TV schedule. Things have changed, they say. People are now exposed to, or rather bombarded with hundreds, thousands of ads everyday. Given the abundance of brands and the convenience of online shopping, brand loyalty is decreasing over time. According to Smarter HQ’s research, less than 7% of millennials identify themselves as brand loyalists¹.
On the contrary, we would like to argue that this is actually the best time for branding. The rate of change in the Fortune 500 is higher than ever, digital transformation is defining new winners and losers. You have a plethora of advertising channels at your disposal, which by the way can deliver your branding messages across the border. People are connected 24/7 as they work, live and eat with a smart phone in their hand. Thanks to improved data collection, measurement and analysis, data-driven branding has become a reality. There has never been a better time for branding, really.
All it takes is smarter planning.
A common pitfall for marketers is failing to understand differences and similarities between different media in the mix. To keep things nice and simple, let’s narrow down our scope to branding on the two biggest channels, Facebook and YouTube. However, the logic we are covering here is applicable to all media.
Learn the platforms
You need to know more than “Facebook and YouTube are great branding channels.” or which video formats and campaign types are supported on the respective platform. What we mean is understanding the platforms on a high-level as well as digging deeper into hard metrics.
First, let’s consider the intrinsic differences in user behaviour. Recall the last time you were browsing on Facebook. You scrolled down your feed without much of a thought until something caught your eye. You might have liked the post before moving onto the next one. Some more scrolling… then you stumbled upon a cute and funny cat meme, which you knew your friend would love. You shared that meme on the Messenger app. Back to Facebook while waiting for your friend’s reply. This particular product ad seemed to keep haunting you so you visited the product website just to check out what it is all about. Your behaviour is not that different from millions of other Facebook users’. On Facebook, people scroll until something catches their attention. Then they engage with the content by liking, sharing and commenting. There is little resistance to moving onto an external website/app. It is, thus, more click-based and action-oriented.
In contrast, how was your last YouTube experience? You had plans to freshly paint the walls of your new home and wanted to find out all the tips and tricks out there. So you searched for a video on YouTube, found the most compelling one and clicked to watch it. But.. no painting tips and tricks until you finished watching this skippable ad. As you were on the platform for a specific purpose, it was very unlikely for you to click a CTA button to an external site unless the product or ad was something out of the ordinary. It also means that you would finish watching the ad – whether you liked it or not – so you could continue to the video of your choice. On YouTube, people have videos that they want to watch after the ads. There is higher resistance to moving onto an external website/app. It is a channel to get quality views in a cost efficient manner.
This conceptual understanding of Facebook and YouTube helps us strategically leverage each platform for its strengths.
Second, we cannot emphasise enough the importance of knowing how common brand metrics are measured differently on Facebook and YouTube. A video view on Facebook is not the same video view on YouTube. Why? At the time of writing, Facebook’s Thruplays mean video views over 15 seconds, whereas YouTube’s video views count over 30 second views (and completed views for shorter videos on both platforms). Although you can pull numbers for 3s, 10s video views on Facebook, you cannot extract 30s video views, let alone optimising for it. What this means, unfortunately, is that you cannot simply compare average CPVs. What about reach? Reach is a reliable metric on Facebook given that the data is based on logged in users but not very reliable on YouTube given the platform’s cookie-based nature (even when you consider looking at ‘unique cookies’ on Google Ads).
The metrics below are often more useful in comparison, assuming that you use the same video asset on Facebook and YouTube:
- Video plays at 25/50/75/100%
You can, for example, compare cost per mille (CPM) and identify which platform can drive more ad impressions for a given budget. If your primary goal is to make people watch more of the new branding video, you may compare the channels by evaluating cost per video plays at 75%.
However, because Facebook and YouTube serve different needs, you are likely to find one channel is better at one metric and the other at another. How do we know, then, which metric we should prioritise for branding impact? In other words, is there any way we can evaluate the true branding value driven by a particular channel?
Brand lift studies on Facebook and YouTube
Gold standard of inter-channel comparison: incrementality
Thanks to brand lift studies², we can measure incrementality³ from each channel and specific campaigns. Brand lift studies, in simple terms, measure differences in brand awareness metrics between a treatment group (users exposed to ads) and a control group (users not exposed to ads).
Both YouTube and Facebook offer self-serve brand lift studies, where the default control group is set to be 10% of your given target audience at random. Despite minor differences in the questionnaire between the two channels, you can survey control and test groups regarding your brand awareness in about five levels:
- Ad recall
- Purchase intent
For instance, statistically significant lift in consideration means that the treatment group had significantly more positive responses than the control group. And this incremental lift would not have happened if it was not for the ads from that particular platform. Due to this way of measurement, incrementality makes inter-channel comparison much more “scientific”, and quantifying brand incrementality helps maximise the brand investment.
After a brand lift study, you can try to identify a correlation between brand lift metrics and comparable operational metrics mentioned earlier (e.g. video views, clicks, etc). You might find that more clicks seem to be correlated with purchase intent, longer video views with awareness. When it comes to planning the next brand campaign, where the primary goal is ‘awareness’, you can choose to invest more in a platform that can drive longer video views more cost efficiently.
Step-by-step guide with a hypothetical client case
Let’s put all this into practice by following this simple step-by-step guide, with an example. Say we were approached by a hypothetical client X, whose main service is streaming movies, to help with their next branding campaign on Facebook and YouTube.
- Translate your overall business goal into a branding goal. After reviewing the client’s business goals and previous brand tracking results, we came to the conclusion that we need more brand awareness. People simply do not know about the brand X yet – as the market is highly saturated with big players like Netflix and HBO.
- Choose 1-2 metrics that can directly impact the goal. Unfortunately, we don’t have any historical brand lift data to look for correlated brand and operational metrics. Ok, what metrics do we believe are most correlated with awareness? If people watch our branding videos, it will most likely help people be more aware of X.
- Decide on budget split between the platforms based on historical data. We looked into our client’s previous YouTube and Facebook brand campaign data and found the following. Given that our primary KPI for the new campaign is quality video views, we will recommend our client to invest 3X more on YouTube as it is 3X more efficient when looking at cost-per-75%-view.
Driving best branding campaign performance on YouTube and Facebook hinges on learning the platform similarities and differences, quantifying incrementality through brand lift studies, and making informed, data-driven decisions based on historical branding campaign results.
If you want your branding campaigns to be managed by people who know their stuff, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org