We typically think of luxury brands as innovators in the marketing space, with their vast budgets and huge creative resource. When it comes to performance marketing however, their progress in the channel has been somewhat slower. Why are they only now following in the footsteps of the mid-tier brands? What has held them back up until this point, and what is the new-found appeal of the channel?

With Burberry, Temperley London, and LN-CC among the latest brands to venture into performance marketing or to expand their programs, it’s worth taking a moment to consider what is behind this move and the short answer is that the channel has now been tried and tested. Allowing mid-tier brands to take the lead in the performance channel has had a couple of effects, the first of which has been a shift in the perception of the channel.

Where performance marketing was once perceived as being the preserve of SMEs, arguably with a lack of transparency, the presence of the large high street brands has done a great deal to counter this with advertisers now truly understanding just how much control they can have over how their brand is represented. In part down to networks doing a better job of educating advertisers on the brand protection strategies available, the performance channel is now recognised as the powerhouse of content publishers, providing a valuable stream of incremental sales.

The success enjoyed by high street brands has not just led to a shift in the image of the channel but crucially, has demonstrated to luxury brands the channel’s solid commercial credentials. Now worth an estimated £9bn annually, the channel is for most brands, a key part of their digital strategy, a fact not overlooked by the luxury end of the market.

It’s no coincidence that all of this comes at a time when brands of all sizes are under pressure to be more intelligent in their approach to spending. While performance marketing may not completely replace the high-profile above the line marketing campaigns for which luxury brands are renowned, by enabling advertisers to undertake a range of activity from retargeting to paid search all on a CPA basis, as well as to dedupe different sales sources, the channel offers advertisers significant commercial gain. What’s more with the growing number of content publishers, particularly in the fashion vertical, the channel offers brands a valuable bridge between paid and earned media spaces.

These content publishers are also key to understanding the appeal of the channel; while these sites have always been highly coveted by advertisers, we’ve seen a rapid growth and diversification in this area of late, as publishers find new ways to monetise content.

This has taken numerous forms; the accessibility of blogging platforms has fuelled an increase in emergent long-tail publishers while at the same time, more established bloggers are learning of performance marketing for the first time and have begun to monetise their content as a result. High profile fashion content sites meanwhile have become key partners for fashion brands while numerous technology partners, from video-embedded checkout providers to content distribution partners, are also now offering their services on a CPA payment model.

We are also now seeing multi-channel technology open up a wealth of opportunities to monetise content, with major newspapers not only having monetised their online editorial, but also having integrated with augmented reality apps such as BlippAR to monetise their offline editorial content as well.

The resultant explosion in content has a number of benefits for advertisers, not least the value it can add to a brand’s image. While neither bloggers nor even the larger fashion content sites possess the vast member bases of cashback and voucher publishers, it’s this exclusivity that is central to their appeal. Where once upon a time bloggers and content sites were very much in a position to choose who to promote, with their readership not only open to engaging with high end brands but expecting to do so, they are now, if anything under pressure to deliver accordingly.

This puts advertisers in a position to be able to leverage these content sites as a gateway to reach out to their target audience and to simultaneously expand that audience through distributing content. Many brands at the luxury end of the spectrum invest considerable resources in creating a wide range of their own rich content including video, images and long copy. By working with these specialist fashion publishers, such brands have accesses to a highly cost effective means of distributing this content and increasing brand awareness in the process.

Ultimately, the presence of luxury brands in performance marketing is central to a diversification the channel as a whole is experiencing. Alongside the growth in content, there has also been a real divergence in the applications of technology and publisher approaches. Remarketing, retargeting, pretargeting, and paid search are all now included under the performance marketing umbrella with advertisers able to capitalise on these technologies on a CPA payment model.

By taking advantage of the reporting and visibility the performance marketing offers, brands from SME right through to luxury retailers are able to ensure their various digital strategies are working cohesively and that ROI is maximised across all channels.

Emma Delaforce

Emma Delaforce


Emma Delaforce is Head of Key Accounts for Webgains UK.