How to effectively link your brand and affiliate marketing strategies

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No single marketing channel solely targets one part of the customer funnel. Awin shares why its important to link your brand and affiliate marketing.

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Brand marketing is often used to define a retailer’s team responsible for designing, building and executing it to the market, ensuring consumers understand its positioning and are able to see the value in the company over competitors. Brand marketers are seen as the creators and defenders of the company’s image. The structure varies from business to business, but typically teams within the brand marketing function focus on PR, social media, events and more recently influencers. 

With affiliate marketing sometimes being a newer channel to reach consumers than brand marketing, we often see affiliate marketing is grouped within a separate team, typically under the ‘performance’ umbrella. This is exacerbated by metrics of success between teams, with brand marketing typically using ‘reach’ as its key objective and the affiliate team focusing instead on revenue, new customer acquisition and ROI. Historically, affiliates were often seen to target the bottom of the consumer funnel, whilst the brand teams targeted the top.  

Many of Awin’s successful clients have managed to connect the dots between their digital and brand teams to work holistically to grow the company and achieve performance KPIs across all routes to market. At the end of the day, acknowledging that no channel solely targets one part of the customer funnel is crucial to growth.  

Here we’re sharing our top recommendations for where to successfully link your brand marketing and affiliate marketing activity.  

1. Mass media 

Large scale media outlets have always played a key role in any PR team’s day-to-day, as they ensure important press contacts are made, relationships are developed and coverage is guaranteed to maximise brand exposure.  

With traditional media outlets continuing to move their content online to coincide with changing consumer habits and the rise of adblockers minimising revenue that can be generated through display, the affiliate channel offers media publishers an effective way to monetise online content. Many of these sites now have dedicated affiliate teams to look after this ever growing revenue channel, including The Independent, Marie Claire and The Sun. Exposure varies from dedicated articles and gift guide features to newsletter inclusions. What’s critical to note here is some activity is reserved solely for the affiliate channel, meaning it cannot be booked on a PR basis. If your PR and affiliate teams are both operating to grow your business’ reach via mass media but doing it independently of each other, you could ultimately miss an opportunity for exposure because the teams are operating in their own siloes.  

Additionally, as previously mentioned PR teams typically use ‘reach’ as a KPI, but partnering with media via the affiliate channel brings the added benefit of tracking metrics outside of reach that would otherwise be unavailable, such as new customers and assisted sales.  

2. Content sites 

Outside of the large scale media houses, content sites are a great way to help forward your brand marketing strategy. Similar to mass media, content partners enable more flexibility to educate consumers, whether it be via a brand showcase or a new product range. Exposure can typically include a dedicated article, newsletter inclusion or video creation (e.g. store run-through). 

Some examples of content sites on Awin include Sheerluxe, Shopstyle and Lyst. Editorial publishers now make up 7% of traffic to advertisers in the UK, demonstrating the scale of these partners. 

Content site customers are typically at the top of the funnel, with the publishers aiming to create interest for brands from consumers who otherwise may not have considered them.  

From male advice blogs to LGBTQIA+ inclusive websites and sustainability focused blogs, there’s a specific content site that aligns and complements your target consumer. 

3. Influencer campaigns 

Influencers have rapidly become an intrinsic part of most companies’ brand marketing efforts. Having a roster of influencers that represent the brand - where the influencer acts as a brand ambassador - enables retailers to reach an engaged audience that trusts the influencer because of their authenticity and relatability. A recent study found that almost half of marketers are now spending more than 20% of their budget on influencers. 

Due to market demand, many brands have now added an Influencer Manager/Executive to their team to ensure a dedicated focus is placed on influencer marketing activity. Eleven percent of traffic to advertisers has come from influencers and bloggers in 2021 to date in the UK. 

With the influencer market growing daily, expanding your brand’s presence on social media and implementing successful influencer campaigns need to be a continuous focus.  

Outside of the social media platforms, Awin is now working with Incubeta to amplify the reach of influencer content using programmatic channels. You can read more on this new opportunity here 

4. Affinity partnerships 

Brand collaborations have been a popular method for retailers to gain exposure to a new audience, further its message and differentiate itself from competitors. Some of the standout collaborations over the past few years include H&M and Balmain, Redbull and GoPro, and Uber and Spotify. Several affinity partnerships have been as extensive as creating a new product line that represents both businesses. 

Collaborations aren’t limited to the brand marketing team and don’t have to be as labour intensive as creating a new product range. In fact, they work very well via the affiliate channel. One recent success story is from tastecard. With the coronavirus pandemic affecting its proposition of offering discounts at restaurants, tastecard pivoted its business model from advertiser to publisher, working with Awin to set up affinity partnerships via the affiliate channel with a dozen complimentary brands like BT and Lookfantastic via a new members platform that promoted these advertiser partners. This remarkable feat of agility protected business income and resulted in +399% revenue for tastecard. Read the full case study here. 

5. Measuring success 

When merging activity between departments, it can be difficult to decide on which KPIs will note success. Should reach remain the main KPI if it is a brand initiative or should performance metrics be used to ensure a positive ROI? 

Awin’s unbiased multi-channel attribution technology SingleView empowers retailers to understand the complete path to conversion to smartly and confidently invest marketing budgets for maximum return on investment. By exploring the value of the specific touchpoints where consumers are interacting with marketing exposure and understanding how these interactions connect to broader results, digital marketers can get a much firmer grasp of what is working as well as connect the dots of their marketing efforts.  

And unlike other attribution technology, SingleView requires no complicated technical integration. Sitting in Awin’s first-party tracking solution MasterTag, it easily empowers brands to assess which combinations of media formats deliver the best return on advertising spend. 

Accurate, unbiased attribution is especially important when working with partners that don’t always receive the last click e.g. media publishers and influencers. Using the typical performance metric of last click, marketing activity could be deemed unsuccessful when it could have helped influence customers at the top of the funnel that ultimately converted via a different marketing channel.  

It’s clear the divide between brand marketing and affiliate should no longer exist, and now more than ever it’s easy to advance wider company initiatives within your affiliate strategy.  

To implement any of the recommendations discussed, or hear other ways you can grow performance metrics and brand initiatives, please get in touch here. 

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Affiliate marketing has long boasted of a large pool of content affiliates. But with the emergence of influencer marketing, is the channel losing out on the opportunity to earn from brand engagement campaigns? As an industry is it time to wrest control of the influencer marketing narrative and shape it according to a traditional affiliate model?