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January 24, 2023

Articles

Industry-level differences in Brand Lift and Outcomes Lift

Using full-funnel benchmarks to understand industry strengths and weaknesses

Patrick Egan, Ph.D Avatar

Written by

Patrick Egan, Ph.D
At DISQO, we work with advertising clients across a wide range of industries and specialties every day. From brand researchers to agency partners to media owners, our tools and solutions help drive insights for stakeholders across the advertising ecosystem. Whether we’re working with a travel brand focused on driving website traffic, an agency interested in improving their client’s e-commerce activity, or a media company seeking to understand its unique strengths for partners, our tools provide rich, continuous data on the attitudinal and behavioral impacts of dedicated advertising campaigns.

As our breadth and scale continues to grow, we’re able to leverage increasingly large normative datasets to uncover nuanced insights about the industries, channels, and demographics that underpin ad effectiveness. That’s why we’re excited to begin releasing quarterly updates on our normative benchmarks for Brand Lift and Outcomes Lift. In these updates, we provide a constant pulse to marketers on what ‘good’ looks like in today’s advertising environment. Not only does this data give a fresh view on ad effectiveness benchmarks across a huge range of metrics, it also allows us to dive deeper into the nuances driving ad impact across different industry categories.


In this article, we leverage our most recent ad effectiveness benchmarks to analyze which industries lead and lag on specific Brand Lift and Outcomes Lift metrics within our database. Because our normative benchmarks span across 11 distinct industry verticals (e.g., Food and Beverages, Home and Garden, Entertainment, Utilities), we’re able to quickly compare across these verticals to see which industries have unique advantages near the top and bottom of the brand funnel. Upon isolating a few industries where certain metrics are well-above the overall average, we then discuss why these metrics diverge and what implications this has for today’s marketing leaders.



A quick primer on overall full-funnel marketing benchmarks


To start, let’s take a look at DISQO’s overall benchmarks for advertising effectiveness at the most general level. The below chart shows what the typical lift score looks like for the typical campaign in our normative database. These benchmarks are median values based on data from the past 21 months (March 2021 - December 2022), and are built from approximately 500 campaigns in total. The ‘lift’ score listed represents the difference between exposed and [triple-matched] unexposed control consumers on the metric of interest. Metric definitions for each metric can be found in our larger downloadable report.

Image of overall ad measurement benchmarks by metric

Median lift values for all ad campaigns in DISQO’s Brand Lift and Outcomes Lift database, March 2021 to December 2022. Lift represents the difference between exposed and unexposed consumers on the metric of interest after campaign completion.

While general in nature - remember, this is looking at ALL campaigns across ALL industries - there are a few quick takeaways one can glean from the topline results.

image of heart on computer representing brand loveBrand Lift is stronger on mid-funnel metrics: In general, mid-funnel metrics like familiarity, favorability, and purchase intent are the biggest movers for the average ads in our 2021-2022 database. For instance, brand favorability moves about 3 points after a typical ad campaign, which can represent a huge gain for established or emerging brands looking to win more share of wallet. In contrast, awareness metrics (unaided and aided) are slightly more resistant to lift. Unaided awareness, arguably one of the most critical metrics for staying relevant in any industry category, only moves about 1 point after a typical ad campaign.

image of brain representing of consumer behaviorLarge-scale Outcomes Lift is extremely difficult to generate: On the bottom-half of the chart, you can see a steep dropoff as we transition into behavioral metrics. In other words, it’s easier to move attitudes (top) than behavior (bottom). This is especially true when we look at the bottom-most bars of this chart, which are focused on brand-specific outcomes. If your ad can drive consumers to actively search for your product, visit your company website, or add your product to their online shopping cart, it’s fairly clear that you’ve had a highly successful advertising campaign. However, getting to that point is fraught with challenges both within and outside your advertising content, reinforcing why these outcome-centric benchmarks are so much lower than brand-centric ones. That said, it’s important to note that even a 0.2% increase in brand e-commerce behavior for any given brand can have huge long-term revenue consequences - so over-achieving these seemingly low benchmarks is still a high bar to clear.

Honing in on industry-level differences


Once we parse through this topline information, the next question(s) for many marketers revolve around the generalizability of these results to their specific vertical(s) of interest. While that inclination has its drawbacks (see our articles on evaluating normative benchmarks + applying them to your organization), there is certainly a great deal of incremental value to be gained by analyzing benchmarks at an industry level.

Below are a few core questions we aim to answer in the remainder of this article. They help showcase the strengths of focusing on industry-specific benchmarks, and provide insights on how advertising strategies necessarily differ across domains.

  • Which industries have the most success moving top-funnel attitudinal metrics?

  • Do industries that excel in some attitudinal metrics excel in all of them?

  • Which industries drive category-level digital search and web behavior?

  • When it comes down to brand-level website visits, what verticals shine brightest?


In the subsequent analysis - aimed at answering these questions - we directly compare industry-level benchmarks versus overall (topline) benchmarks. This approach allows us to assess what level of underperformance or overperformance a given vertical achieves on any metric of interest.

To conduct this analysis, we simply divide the industry-level benchmarks for any metric by the topline benchmark for the same metric, which generates a multiplier value. When that multiplier is ~1.0, this industry performs at relative parity to the overall average. However, when the multiplier moves notably higher/lower, we can infer that this industry’s typical ad performance is ‘x times’ stronger/weaker than the overall average.

image of industry benchmark / top line benchmark = industry multiplier value

Using this technique, the below table provides a view of how different industries perform versus overall benchmarks on 4 key metrics: unaided awareness, brand favorability, category search behavior, and brand e-commerce behavior. We unpack the ‘leaders’ on each of these 4 metrics in the subsequent sections.

image of industry benchmark multiplier values

Top-of-funnel industry leaders


Unaided awareness
Starting at the top of the brand funnel is unaided awareness. This open-ended metric indicates how top-of-mind your brand is to everyday consumers, and is typically one of the first places companies need reliable strength in order to win consistent market share. When looking at how different industries perform on moving unaided awareness, the vertical that sticks out as uniquely successful is business services. These include B2B software companies, consulting firms, and other service organizations focused on supporting everyday business operations.

A quick look at the chart above shows that business services overperform the topline benchmark for unaided awareness by ~2.2x, indicating that they are ~120% more successful at moving the needle here than other verticals. While there is certainly a good deal of variability within these industry ads, the fact remains that they are notably stronger at building unaided awareness gains from today’s advertising efforts.

Because many B2B sellers are competing in crowded marketplaces with more niche audiences, simply getting their name towards the top of a consumer’s mind is critical in garnering outreach and sales conversations. As such, successful ads in this space may not immediately impact bottom-line conversion, and may instead simply push their brand name ahead of a few competitors to maximize the likelihood of [eventual] consideration when the buying cycle is active. Ultimately, awareness is a critical brand metric in this space, given that path-to-purchase is much more gated and longitudinal in nature than a simple retail transaction.

Brand favorability
Looking beyond awareness, another top / mid-funnel metric of high import to many marketing leaders is brand favorability. This metric - which represents the percent of consumers aware of one’s brand who view it favorably - is hugely valuable in driving consumer choice when all else is [presumably] equal about two products or services. 

When examining brand favorability across industries - again refer to the chart above - one clear winner that emerges on this metric relative to the overall average are home and garden goods (e.g., cleaning, organization, furniture, outdoor, security, baby, etc.). Ads for these types of goods are able to drive typical brand favorability lift scores ~40% more than the average ad in our normative database.

Because many home goods companies rely on word-of-mouth from trusted others (friends, family, neighbors) to gain a foothold within any given market, their ability to positively impact brand favorability is a huge advantage in these crowded categories. Differentiation on goods that might otherwise feel very similar to one another (e.g., building supplies, other physical goods) requires engaging and often humorous advertising that help make the category feel more nuanced for active consumers. This type of advertising is leading to above-average lift on favorability towards these types of products, and helping to position them for wins on physical and digital shelves.

Bottom-of-funnel industry leaders


Category search
As we transition from the top of the brand funnel (attitudes) to the bottom of the funnel (behaviors), the first metric we want to look at is category search. Plainly speaking, category search refers to whether a consumer actively searches for the product or service category (e.g., search engine, review site, etc.) in a brand-agnostic manner. For instance, if you watch an ad for a new gadget, and that ad causes you to do some research on which gadget brand is best, your ad has driven category search.

If we examine industry multiplier values for category search in the previous table (see above), entertainment is a vertical that clearly stands out. This vertical primarily includes movies and streaming services, both of which are extremely competitive areas given the evolving nature of connected TV and content consumption. Overall, entertainment ads garner ~4.5 times the amount of category search lift as other ads, meaning they drive consumers to review sites, search engines, and other brand-agnostic locations relevant to the overarching vertical. 

One sub-industry within this vertical where category search plays an extremely compelling role is streaming TV (e.g., Netflix, Hulu, Peacock, Disney+, etc.). With so much new content emerging on these platforms regularly, an assortment of subscription tiers to consider, and a potentially-large annual subscription cost, consumers are intrigued by the possibility of new services that can drive cost reductions and/or compelling long-term content. That said, before committing to any one service, they naturally want to check review sites and compare plans to find the option that’s best for them. In this way, it’s not surprising that the category search benchmarks here are well above the overall average.

Brand site visitation
Near the bottom of the brand / outcomes funnel lies brand site visitation, or the extent to which a given ad drives incremental gains in direct web traffic. For many brands, their websites and apps are sacred territory, and they dedicate an extreme amount of effort to ensuring that visitors are able to navigate to their ultimate outcome of interest. It follows that industries who are able to overachieve on brand site visitation can establish notable advantages on spend efficiency and customer conversion.

One industry with unique strength on brand site visitation lift is apparel and accessories. These advertisers, who focus on clothing, footwear, jewelry, and other wearables are able to drive a tremendous amount of web traffic, to the tune of about 7x (!) above the overall average. This is not necessarily surprising, insofar as these brands have a clear call-to-action around particular apparel products and an easily-accessible purchase path through both owned and third-party shopping sites. 

For other industries who may look at these results and say ‘we can’t do what they do; retail apparel is just a unique category’, there’s likely some truth to that assumption. Many retail categories have the distinct benefit of omnichannel presence, third-party sales channels, and straightforward paths-to-purchase. That said, many of these brands are still ahead-of-the-curve when it comes to the CTAs within their ads, strong branded websites, and heavy branded presence on this-party retailers. For other industries that want to ensure advertising effectiveness is cascading all the way to the bottom of the purchasing funnel, connecting one’s ads to the apps, channels, and objective sources that rank their brand highly may help drive incremental gains in site visitation lift for future campaigns.

There’s more where that came from in our Brand Lift and Outcomes Lift report


The analysis presented here is a small sampling of what’s available in our larger quarterly report. In this quarterly report - available for download now - marketers can dive into:

  • Category-level benchmarks for all brand and outcome lift metrics


  • Our four core buy / sales cycle categories include consumables, goods, services, and vehicles. Examine benchmark data from this perspective to gain the scale of higher-order benchmarks without losing all the granularity that industry-level benchmarks offer.

  • Every benchmark from every industry


  • See the exact benchmark values underlying all ‘industry multiplier’ calculations from this article. Examine other brand and outcome lift metrics beyond the four discussed in-depth here, and consider building your own multipliers for specific industry x metric combinations.

  • Social media’s unique influence on brand and outcomes lift


  • Following our recent deep-dive reporting on social media benchmarks (see our article here), we provide an update on how social media advertising performance stacks up to other channels. See where social media shines brightly, and where other channels have their own advantages.

Interested in learning more about DISQO’s most recent ad effectiveness benchmarks?

Get the report