Now we have arrived at the 20s, it is probably time to assimilate the last couple of decades since the dotcom boom, and reset what things are (or at least becoming) and more importantly what they are not. 

The phrase performance marketing I have used for years to describe my own set of expertise. Thing is if course, I have had to evolve with it, as the discipline has become more integrated as new formats, measurements and regulations transpire.

Need to look at the wider market and the greater demands of marketers who command transparency and accountability in their quest to return value to their own organisations or their shareholders.

So let’s first look at what Performance isn’t:

Performance is NOT a channel

To see where we are going, let’s look back at where we have come from. You only have to look at the evolution of coverage on this site, and indeed PMA winners, to identify what activity denotes performance. Traditionally we were talking affiliates and PPC. Formats that have come and gone. Display variants in particular. Pop-Unders. Interstitials etc. All in the name of performance.

There’s a theme here: the landscape changes and what you are left with is an unsatisfied objective, and most obviously, no medium certain of claiming the performance crown. Furthermore, the evolution of more effective data-driven attribution models has thrown light on the relative merits of various channels, so a single channel can’t possibly be indexed to performance.

Performance is NOT last click

Of course, traditional measurement like this has been the arbiter of what traffic has been deemed successful for conversion. Affiliate networks have been built on this model of course, with publishers gleaning handsome revenues due to being the last touchpoint on an often complex path to conversion. However, browser updates such as ITP 2.2 and impending Chrome 80 are now impacting the duration and security of the conversion tracking cookie, therefore we can denote the traditional last touch model is also not the definition.

However, Performance IS effectiveness

We are in 2020 for now. Let’s stop labelling some channels, performance channels, and others, brand. Of course, there are general rules; one wouldn’t invest in generic search terms for brand building, nor Out-Of-Home for a quick fix of lead gen and sales. Hell, a well-planned ad group, as well as an affiliate program, yields great short-term results (and sometimes LTV), but if you are considering planning these separately from each other, you are missing the whole point surely?

Performance is the outcome, not a channel. No affiliate campaign will smash it without the firepower of a strong brand behind it. What good is a brand name search term in AdWords without any awareness; or if your cashback offer is good on a comparison site it won’t fly if anything it will also lose clicks if the brand is unfamiliar or sounds ropey. In short, the return of all your ad dollars should be seen holistically, i.e. over channels, and over time.

Performance IS business return

To this end, having thought about this the last couple of years, this is where the updated redefinition comes in:

‘Performance marketing is the execution of integrated marketing campaigns that lead to specific business outcomes.’

Typically, these outcomes are revenue growth, or maybe sales/marketing leads for businesses. Know the absolute ‘north star’ objective, and go from there. Systematic performance marketing planning requires a wider understanding of the market, the nuance of channels, the impact on the consumer, and more importantly, accepting the fact that buying decisions and influencers are so rarely linear.

We are moving into a new decade with new regulations, restrictions and opportunities. With our collective wealth of experience in this now mature industry, let’s redefine what performance is. We are beyond now the labelling of channels as performance channels; let’s think about the outcome, and map back from there. Performance = outcomes. Seems like common sense right?