Let’s face it: brand marketers get a bad rap. In the last decade, the conversation has focused on technical marketing: growth hacking, conversion rate optimization, SEO, the merging of product and marketing, and data, data, data. At the same time, brand became less exciting—and sometimes an afterthought. It was too “fluffy.”
But that’s all changing. Companies have found their edge by investing in incredible brands, and a company’s brand has become its differentiator. Look to the recent launch of Hey or other companies like Equal Parts, Headspace, Warby Parker, Casper, and Notion as examples.
It might seem like building a brand doesn’t line up with the idea of being data-driven. But we can apply what we’ve learned about technical marketing over the last decade to build better brands and make better decisions in today’s data-driven world.
Through customer research, landing page testing, conversion rate optimization, and traditional brand development tactics, you can be smarter about building and evolving your brand. Landing page optimization can serve as your testing ground for this stuff, and I’ll show you how.
What Goes Into a Brand?
Before we dive into how to take a data-driven approach to building a brand, let’s make sure we are on the same page about what makes up a brand. The short answer is “a lot.” But for this overview, I’ll focus on a few critical parts:
- The look and feel (design, user experience)
- The voice, tone, and messaging
- The positioning (versus others in the market)
- The overall brand promise
The look and feel of a tech brand is mostly encapsulated in the design, feel, and user experience (UX) of both the website and product. Everything (from a company’s color scheme to the feel of its animations) matters when trying to convey a personality. Look to Airbnb as an example of how important the design and feel can be in establishing your brand’s personality:
The voice, tone, and messaging of a company make up the “written words” of the brand. Pretty straightforward, but it’s important to note that companies should aim to make this attractive to the right person at the right time (and that’s where landing page testing can come in).
Your company’s positioning in-market versus your competitors is an essential part of your brand. How do you distinguish yourself against the alternatives? Why should someone choose YOU over THEM? You only have so much real estate. What you want to say can vary depending on a variety of factors, like your personas and where they are in the funnel (i.e., people who are just discovering you versus ready to make a purchase).
Finally, the overall brand promise represents what you are promising to deliver to your customers. What is that thing you are promising? Sometimes it can be something as straightforward as a promise in your tagline: “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance.” It’s important to balance:
- how you position yourself against competitors;
- what is attractive to your target customers;
- and what you can deliver on.
Your messaging and positioning will differ significantly based on these factors above. How your product serves one persona may be far different than how it serves another.
A solid understanding of all of this will result in a successful marketing team and (likely) company growth. But this is also what most marketing and product teams mess up. Without the data, people tend to make assumptions. Or marketers aren’t customer-centric enough in their approach, and they deliver the wrong message, brand, or feel to the wrong person at the wrong time.
The great thing about all of this is that we can use landing page testing and conversion rate optimization to test and validate all of these elements of your brand. Let’s explore a few ways you can get this done (fast).
1. Use landing page testing to validate your personas.
Say you are revisiting your target customers and why they decide to use your product. Understanding what resonates with each persona at each stage may be hard to figure out. It usually takes a lot of research, but you can also get quicker answers with landing pages.
Below are a few examples of how you can do this. For these tests, it’s best to send traffic to these landing pages with an A/B test (which you can do in Unbounce). You can drive traffic to the pages using paid ads on Facebook, for instance, or you can tap into your existing audiences and push traffic via email—in either case, split the traffic for reliable comparisons.
Test different calls to action to let users self identify.
On your landing page, create the isolated options that someone can click to self-identify. For example, describe your product for specific personas and with clear self-identifying calls to action (e.g., “I’m a marketer”). See the example below:
From there, push them into the funnel or purchase page and see which CTAs get the most clicks and have the best conversion rates. You can use this data to see which audience your product resonates with most and validate or invalidate specific personas.
Test different jobs-to-be-done through CTA optimization.
To gather data around which jobs your users are hiring you to do, test different CTAs with those audiences. Allow them to self-select, just like in the example above. But here we put different jobs to be done side-by-side with our product. With this data, you can see the most common and attractive use cases for your product.
You can also run different landing pages entirely and see which one converts best in an A/B test. These are not going to give teams definitive answers about your personas and why they use your product, but they’ll inform those strategic discussions. And it’s far better than going into this strategy blind.
2. Use conversion rate optimization (CRO) to improve your positioning.
Landing pages are also the perfect way to test your product’s positioning with consumers. One of the best things you can do via landing page optimization is test your positioning against competitors.
How? Run an A/B test of a page showing you versus your competitors and have different positioning/messaging on each variant. See which one wins by looking at traffic, CTRs, and conversion rates. (Be careful here: a best practice is to avoid direct side-by-side comparisons against your competitors.)
Look to this Zendesk example below for inspiration:
You can also refine other parts of your positioning within your landing pages. For example, you can test headline copy with particular personas to see which positioning of your product resonates better with each. Or, as you push traffic at different funnel stages to landing pages, you can learn when to include a “learn more” versus “buy now” call to action. Testing CTAs will help you better understand what customers want at different parts of the user journey.
Finally, any ongoing testing will likely involve the refinement of your core value prop and product positioning. As you gather data from landing page performance and change the copy and design, note what wins. And, as you discover more winners, share this data with those in charge of your overall product positioning. Based on these opportunities, they can make improvements to the messaging and framing of the product against competitors.
3. Using CRO to find the best brand promise.
This may be the most straightforward thing you can do with landing page testing. How? Test and validate your main value prop in your landing page headline. Here’s one approach I have taken when trying to validate our best headlines:
- Develop your top 2-5 headlines based on your brand factors (personas, position in market, product value, etc.)
- Create a short landing page with the same sections below it and the same CTA (e.g., “Learn More”).
- Create variants of the page with each headline you’ve devised.
- See which one gets the most clicks/leads/sign-ups/purchases.
With this, you should start gathering data on CTRs that resonate best and you will have data that is more valuable than a simple survey: which copy actually got people to convert?
4. Ease tension between technical and brand marketing teams.
There’s always an inherent tension between the teams focused on conversion and those focused on brand. Conversion-oriented marketing teams push the boundaries of the brand to drive sign-ups, purchases, and more. Brand teams seek to rein in this approach to avoid going “off-brand.”
Data-driven approaches to brand development can smooth out this tension.
The conversion-focused marketing team can build relationships with brand teams by proactively testing messages, designs, and positioning through landing pages. (Brand teams might not know these things are possible.)
Plus, you can use landing pages to push the boundaries of the brand. Test the “off-brand” stuff by running small scale tests for copy, positioning, and design. The company faces less risk that way, but it may gain some interesting insights that help inform your strategy.
Build alignment by testing things together and evolving the brand together.
Key considerations when using data to inform your brand strategy.
When using A/B testing to iterate on your brand, there are some key things to note. More than anything, the team must avoid making decisions using biased data. Data is only as useful as its source.
Audiences are your most important consideration here:
- Who are you sending to these landing pages?
- What’s their context?
Careful consideration of these two questions can make or break any data that comes from landing page testing. In general, you should align your ad with your landing page as much as possible to avoid confusing the visitor.
Here are some other things to think about when evaluating the validity of your landing page tests:
- How confident are you that an up-funnel optimization will not lead to adverse behavior down the funnel? Or, said more simply, is your messaging deceptive? Use your best judgment here and ensure you tie landing page performance to down-funnel metrics.
- Are you trying to get in front of new people or existing people? People who know your brand or don’t? Identify the best audiences and find them—push people via email or ads or serve up the landing page(s) in a survey. Choose the right audience based on what answer you are trying to get. Similar to choosing the right audience for research, choose the right audience for landing page testing.
- If possible, segment the traffic to your landing pages to narrow down what is working for whom. For example, if your company serves both engineers and designers, separate the ads and landing pages for these audiences so you can understand what works for each audience independently.
Tying It All Together
Everything I’ve described here is really just a derivative of research, but you are testing it in a more robust and informative way. By giving people more context and a “real” feel via landing pages, you’ll get better answers to the most pressing questions about your brand.
Brand and data-driven marketing don’t need to be separate. By working together, conversion rate optimization pros can inform brand strategies and help companies better understand their customers’ desires, needs, and values.
Try a completely different approach to how you position yourself or even test landing pages against your traditional product positioning. See what sticks and see if you can refine how you speak to your customers across the board. If that doesn’t work, roll things back and try it again. You can evolve your brand over time, but this is a great way to start.