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What is ​​‘performance branding’?

Posted by Paula Fifield on 22nd February 2024

If you work in B2B marketing, you may have noticed that ‘performance branding’ — the ability to generate long-term brand awareness — is having a moment in the spotlight.  

It differs from performance marketing —  which tends to zero in on a short-term, lead generation focus — and is gaining momentum among some big names in the B2B community.

LinkedIn has been vocal in its support for performance branding, claiming that too much time, money, and effort is spent on performance marketing, which it says is too short-term to be a good measure of marketing success.

Performance branding — a new short-lived buzzphrase or here to stay?

If you’re wondering whether performance branding is just another marketing buzzphrase, I wouldn’t blame you. 

The marketing profession —  particularly within the tech industry — is littered with buzzwords and phrases. So you could be forgiven for thinking this is more of the same.

That said, performance branding does offer tangible differences compared to performance marketing, so perhaps we shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss it.

So, what’s the problem?

The issue, as far as I can see, is that shortcuts have already been made in terms of how people think about performance branding and what it entails.

For many people, performance marketing has largely been associated with pay-per-click advertising (PPC). The same is happening with performance branding, with most of the value also being laid at the door of advertising.

As someone who works at a public relations agency, I could legitimately be accused of being biased, but bear with me here.

If we agree that performance branding is focused on building engagement with the 95% target market that is NOT in-market — advertising is not the only way. I’m not even sure it’s the best way.

Narratives that make an emotional connection are key

Sustained engagement means having a universal message that is appealing to the whole audience, whether they’re ready to buy or not. 

This means creating a story, a platform, and a narrative that develops an emotional connection with the target audience across multiple marketing disciplines, platforms, and channels.

These campaigns need versatility and endurance. If we look at WARC’s Creative Effectiveness Ladder, I’d argue that PR is way ahead of advertising in the race to create ‘Enduring Icon’ status for B2B brands.

PR remains a potent force in B2B comms 

After all, advertisers can say what they want about themselves, but that all-important third-party endorsement that you can only find through PR is hugely influential, given that buyer groups still prioritise reviews and recommendations when making buying decisions.

I’d also argue that advertising is closer to selling than it is to marketing. Concepts that work as an ad are less likely to be suitable for other types of marketing. A PR-led creative campaign, on the other hand, can feed all aspects of marketing, including advertising.

Don’t get me wrong, having a unifying narrative that works across marcoms, PR, advertising, sales etc — and that delivers growth for the business — is absolutely the right thing. But let’s not make advertising some kind of panacea for performance branding. It’s not.

To find out more about PR-first creative campaigns for tech brands, check out:

Or drop me an email at I’d love to hear from you!

Paula Fifield

Paula began working with the agency in 2007 as Business Development Director and was appointed as a board director in 2011. Prior to Wildfire, Paula worked at Sun Microsystems, Orange and Morse Group in a range of marketing, customer relationship management and business development roles.