Drivers of brand growth: A deep dive into how advertising works today


Catherine Driscoll, Commissioning Editor EMEA at WARC, introduces a new regional Spotlight that covers fascinating new effectiveness research to supercharge brand growth.

The latest EMEA Spotlight, ‘Drivers of brand growth’, celebrates some of the brilliant brain power from our region and showcases new research into advertising effectiveness. With the proliferation of digital channels and changing media behaviours, where are we with advertising fundamentals? What’s changed, what’s changing and what’s evergreen?

Earlier in the summer Paul Dyson, cofounder of Accelero, updated his respected drivers of advertising profitability study. (For those who want to see how the findings have evolved you can check out his 2006 and 2014 studies on WARC too.) In his article, ‘Drivers of advertising profitability 2023’, he explains the expanded methodology, which now includes analysis of 28,000 ROI calculations from around the world, and shares how brands can use the various levers at their disposal. In an environment of increasingly fragmented media and the shift to digital commerce, brand size has increased in importance – now a 20x multiplier of profitability. However, there’s lots that brand owners can do to increase their profitability – creativity has also become a more powerful lever and is fully under the advertiser’s control.

The one media lever that has increased in importance since the last major analysis in 2014 is getting the optimal balance of performance and brand advertising. Perhaps no surprise given the growth in brands that started out online, and the need for more established brands to pivot to the modern digital playbook. However, knowing investment in brand advertising is important is one thing, but selling this investment internally is quite another. Dr Grace Kite and Andy Nethercott of the magic numbers tackle this perennial problem in their article ‘To get the mix of brand and performance right, theory on its own is not enough’. As they explain, “Putting theory into practice means combining it with your own data and using the combination in a persuasive way. Too often, these steps are lacking, so theory takes pride of place on the shelf, but the business carries on as before.” Grace and Andy share some powerful advice and examples to help a business get brand building up and running.

Planning long- and short-term advertising campaigns is evolving along with the way people consume media. Konstanze Fichtner and Harry Davison take us through the latest findings from marketing science at Meta and share three articles that look at brand building on digital channels. The first article, ‘The brand growth formula’, looks at how brand building is shifting to digital channels and the importance of measuring total ROI across all media, including long-term effects. The second article, ‘Mastering social media growth’, is a deep dive into brand building on social media. The research shows reach is an essential tool for driving growth in the short- and long-run, along with 2.5+ frequency per week and personalisation also playing a part in long-term brand growth. The third article in the series, ‘Marketing as a growth organisation’, focuses on how to drive sustained growth through marketing science, and the importance of having the right analytic capabilities and KPIs in place to evaluate media investment across short and long term outcomes.

Our final piece of research in the Spotlight is a reminder to take care of your brand assets. Even if the creative is great and media planning optimal, there’s still potential for this work to be wasted if people don’t link the message to your brand. In ‘Leveraging distinctiveness as a driver for brand growth’, Lee Rolston of Jones Knowles Ritchie and Hazel Freeman, Ipsos, share findings from a recent global study of more than 500 brands. The research found only 15% of more than 5000 brand assets tested met their gold standard – that is they immediately and uniquely brought the brand to mind. It’s clear that there’s huge room for improvement, and brands are struggling to drive recognition and attribution across multiple touchpoints and channels. The article shares research on how specific types of brand assets fared, and how to improve their performance in a constantly shifting consumer landscape.

There’s a wealth of insights into drivers of brand growth in this stellar collection of effectiveness research – enjoy!

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