Finding Marketing Balance Between Performance Marketing and Brand Building—Carolyn Walker, CEO, Response

Do you have a balance in your current marketing strategy between brand building and performance marketing? Can you easily distinguish between the two in your own company? 

Our guest today is Carolyn Walker, who shares with us the importance of finding balance in your marketing efforts between brand building and performance marketing. She shares in the interview how B2C and B2B companies should be splitting their resources between performance marketing and brand building.  


Find a balance between performance marketing and brand building for optimal results.


 Carolyn is the CEO & Managing Partner of Response, an award-winning independent marketing agency. She has extensive experience working with top brands such as Logitech, McAfee, Office Depot, and Tylenol, building revenues and maximizing market competitiveness. Carolyn also co-created the hugely successful branded podcast Hackable? by McAfee. 


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Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:01):

Welcome to the Multiply Your Success Podcast, where each week we help growth-minded entrepreneurs and franchise leaders take the next step in their expansion journey. I’m your host, Tom DuFore, CEO of Big Sky Franchise Team, and as we open today, I’m wondering if you have balance between your brand building and performance marketing strategies and efforts, and can you easily distinguish between the two in your own company and organization? Well, our guest today is Carolyn Walker, who shares with us the importance of finding balance between marketing efforts with your brand building and performance marketing. And she shares with us in the interview how to allocate your brand building budget and efforts versus your performance marketing if you are business to consumer company or a business to business company. And she talks about how to properly split those.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:52):

Now Carolyn is the CEO and managing partner of Response, which is an award-winning independent marketing agency. She has extensive experience working with top brands such as Logitech, McAfee, Office Depot, and Tylenol, building revenues and maximizing market competition. Carolyn also co-created the hugely successful branded podcast Hackable by McAfee. So let’s go ahead and jump right into our interview.

Carolyn Walker, Response (01:18):

Hi Tom. Thank you so much for having me. My name is Carolyn Walker, I’m the CEO and managing partner of Response Marketing out of New Haven, Connecticut.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (01:27):

One of the reasons we wanted to have you on the show is really to talk about brand building and branding in general and to open, why should marketers look to use both brand building and this concept of performance marketing? Can you talk through those?

Carolyn Walker, Response (01:45):

Yeah, absolutely. So there is brand building things you can do and there’s performance marketing things you could do. And when I talked about these two concepts, I don’t want people to think that brand building isn’t affecting performance or that performance isn’t affecting brand. That’s not the case. They both have an effect on each other, but the fact of the matter is you really need to do both. And it’s about finding that balance. And what I’d say is in the last 10 to 15 years with the advent of digital and everything going online, there has been this flood to performance marketing, especially as it’s become so much more trackable and measurable, right? Way more than brand marketing is or brand building is. So there has been this big shift over the last 10 to 15 years to digital and companies taking budget away from brand building efforts and putting it into these kind of digital and more performance-based activities because they are so measurable and they feel like they work.

Carolyn Walker, Response (02:51):

What’s been found is that the balance has shifted so much that the brand has suffered. And so it’s a problem and I’m worried that performance marketing is crowding out brand building initiatives. And I’m not talking just about advertising, I’m talking about packaging, products, distinctive services, interesting ways to go through distribution, including advertising too, very creative advertising aimed at improving customer awareness and not just awareness, but affinity towards the brand and making the brand memorable so that when those customers are actually ready to buy, you’re at the top of the mind.

Carolyn Walker, Response (03:35):

I’ve heard stories about problems that these executives have where the budget has shifted and performance has taken over brand marketing, and they’re saying, “We’ve lost our brand narrative,” and I think it is a big problem and something that needs to be talked about and understood because there should be a balance. And I heard one of your prior guests actually talk about this 95/5 thing, and there is this 95/5 rule. It’s not really a rule, but the idea is that there’s a huge portion of your customers that are not in market today and a very small portion of customers that are in market. So we want to be sure that those customers that are out of market understand who you are like aware of who you are, what you stand for, how you can benefit them so that when they are in market, like I said, they’re in this kind of buy state where they’ll actually have a chance of converting for you and becoming a customer.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (04:29):

I see. And so this idea of brand building sounds from what you’re describing more in line with, you mentioned distinct packaging, maybe it’s publicity, maybe it’s doing some community service, community involvement versus performance marketing, which is more things like Google Ad words and advertising to drive leads into your system.

Carolyn Walker, Response (04:52):

It really is about the short-term effect and whether that be… it might be bigger than just leads by the way. It could be leads, but it could be we’re looking to get engagement, we’re looking to get clicks, we’re looking to get MQLs, marketing qualified leads like what is the metric? But it is all about that short-term effect and that’s performance marketing, right? We’re trying to get that person who is in market to actually engage with us and ultimately be a customer. The brand building side is about putting the brand out there and it over the long-term having an effect on your customer and the market. It really is about building that positive equity in the brand so that you’re in a strong position over time. And I think it’s very difficult for some CMOs to influence their CFOs about thinking about marketing and brand building and what is the effect.

Carolyn Walker, Response (05:45):

I think it’s very easy to go to a CFO and say, “Look at my digital marketing results. I converted all these people, they became customers, and it’s this amount of sales.” It’s much harder to do that on the brand side. And so it takes time, it takes investment. And I think that’s another important point is that many CFOs see marketing as an expense, not an investment, and branding and marketing as an expense, not an investment. And it really is an investment that you really have to have some patience for to ultimately see the long-term benefit. But there is one, I know that there is, and the data shows that there is, and in fact, there’s some research out there from the LinkedIn B2B Institute that says, when you run performance marketing on its own, there’s this result, but when you layer on top really strong brand marketing and brand initiatives, you can have a 6x improvement in your performance marketing.

Carolyn Walker, Response (06:41):

So it’s unfortunate that this has happened, but I think that there’s so much conversation that’s happening about it right now that the pendulum is starting to shift back from so much invested in performance to kind of figuring out the balance. And I’d say that the research from Les Binet and Peter Field shows that in the B2C space, the balance between or the split between performance and brand should be something like 25% performance, 75% brand in the B2C space. In the B2B space, they think it’s more equal like 50% brand, 50% performance marketing. So something to think about and then obviously put the KPIs in place and the measurements in place to see if that’s really effective for your business.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (07:25):

We have a lot of founders and CEOs and presidents that will tune in. What would you do in terms of starting to create this brand building strategy? Is there kind of a core focus or effort that you would go with?

Carolyn Walker, Response (07:40):

Yeah, I think it all starts with proper brand purpose. So if you don’t have a brand purpose, you need to figure that out pretty quickly. It’s your core belief, what your brand stands for, and all of the initiatives that we build for our clients are based in understanding who they are. And I think there’s a lot of businesses out there, and you can listen to Simon Sinek, he says the same thing that so many businesses can tell you what they do and maybe how they do it. There’s very few that can tell you why they do it, and that’s really important. It’s the core of building a strong brand. The other piece of that is having a really good and strong brand positioning statement. And so once you have those two things, you’re in a position where you can actually build the communications, the campaigns that allow you to build brand.

Carolyn Walker, Response (08:28):

And again, not just from an advertising perspective, but everything that… all of the touch points that we might have, whether it’s distribution or like you said, PR or advertising or your digital presence is huge too like how are you showing up on your site and things like that and your social presence. So it starts there, and then it’s about having that strong campaign or that strong idea that then gets permeated, right? And how are we going to distribute that idea and what are the tactics we are going to use that are brand building, that are broader, and what are the tactics we’re going to use that are more targeted in trying to help that customer that might be in market? And so it’s about having that kind of omnichannel approach when it comes to the entire brand.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (09:17):

When I hear you describe this, brand strategy or this core belief, would that be kind of the North Star for the organization or for marketing or are those two different things?

Carolyn Walker, Response (09:27):

Yeah. No, it’s usually for the entire organization, not just marketing. And so we’ve done so much work with our clients where we do define that their North Star, their core belief, their why, and then as we start to look at it from a marketing perspective, we see how it’s implemented, but we also see opportunity for it to change internal processes. It changes products sometimes and so it does have a ripple effect through everything that company does, not just marketing. It is the North Star for the brand beyond marketing.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (10:01):

Just for an action item and for someone that’s tuning in, what might a first step be for a leader that’s listening into this take to start analyzing what they’re currently doing or just to start immersing themselves into this?

Carolyn Walker, Response (10:15):

Yeah, I mean, I think the first thing I would do is audit all the things that you’re doing right and understand, “Are we clearly defined as a brand? Do we have that North Star? Do we understand our purpose and why do we have a positioning?” I think those are the things, the questions that you can start asking and then start looking to what you’ve done and what’s been successful and what hasn’t been successful, and start thinking about those things. And also questioning yourselves like, “Have I done enough to build brand?” And I think that you’ll start to get some clarity around where you need to go. I would also suggest that there’s so many great resources and materials out there on this topic now that there’s a lot to study and read or listen to that can help you as well to think about where you go from here or invest in someone who’s a partner like ourselves. Sometimes it’s not a great idea to go it alone, especially if you’re not so familiar or experienced. So get a good partner to help you through the process.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (11:17):

That’s a great idea. Well, what might a great partner look like?

Carolyn Walker, Response (11:21):

Yeah, I think the first thing is there are tens of thousands of agencies out there, and so it’s finding one that has the expertise that you need. And so we always talk to our clients about this. I wouldn’t hire us as an agency if our capability didn’t marry up to your need. So you want to find someone that has this expertise in brand building and the marriage of brand building and performance marketing. So that’s number one.

Carolyn Walker, Response (11:48):

Number two is hopefully it’s not a one and done situation. You want to work with an agency that can help you over the long term. So you have to have good chemistry, you have to have a connection with that agency and make sure this is a partnership that you can live with for a long time. And I would say the last thing is, and we always qualify all of our clients this way, and I believe that they do the same for us, is that if that agency doesn’t have a passion for your business, then you’re with the wrong one. So make sure that they’re as excited about your business and the brands and the things that you offer as you are.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (12:23):

Great advice. Great advice. Well, Carolyn, this is a great time in the show where we make a transition and we ask every guest the same four questions before they go. And the first question we ask is, have you had a miss or two on your journey and something you learned from it?

Carolyn Walker, Response (12:37):

Yeah, I would say I think it’s true that your career and your life is full of learning experiences, learning lessons, and certainly mine is too. And I feel like you always learn from the things that maybe you didn’t tackle exactly the right way. I would say one for me is personally is that I really love teaching and I love being in a teaching and learning environment. I loved college. I just was obsessed over all my classes and I soaked everything up and just love that environment. And in fact, I’ve been a guest lecturer at Sacred Heart University and Quinnipiac University, and I taught some adjunct classes at Salve Regina.

Carolyn Walker, Response (13:19):

And so for me, I really wish I had pursued my MBA and maybe even a PhD so that I would be able to have more of a path as an educator as I think about the rest of what I’m doing in my life. So that’s one. And I think the other one is we were really, really fortunate in being awarded with the Ad Age Small Agency Digital Campaign of the Year Award back in 2018. I didn’t have a publicist to help us with the recognition of that award, and I really feel like it was such a huge honor and such a great recognition from the industry, and I wish we had put more publicity behind it.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (14:01):

It makes a ton of sense. And I’d say there’s always time in terms of at least pursuing your teaching path and other ways you can do it. Always fun and interesting there. Let’s talk about a make or two on the other side.

Carolyn Walker, Response (14:15):

Yeah, absolutely. I call them my home runs and I think I can start with my education. So I went to Northeastern University in Boston, and it’s a cooperative education school where you go to school full-time then you work full-time. And so I graduated with my degree and two years of full-time work experience with incredible companies like Kraft General Foods and Saatchi & Saatchi, and Frito-Lay. I mean, it was just amazing. And so for me, that was just a huge propellant to my career, and it was a huge win for me. I would never do it any other way. The other is that when I graduated from Northeastern, I worked for two huge organizations. I worked for Saatchi & Saatchi like I mentioned, out of New York, one of the largest advertising agencies in the world at the time. And then from Saatchi, I went to Darden Restaurants, which is one of the biggest restaurant companies in the world.

Carolyn Walker, Response (15:09):

And so while I have not yet gotten my MBA, I’m not saying never, I learned so much from both of those organizations that I took with me as I then pivoted from the big corporation to the really small organizations in terms of like Sandella’s and Response. And so that’s number two. Number three is my work at Sandella’s I’m really, really proud of. We took that organization from just a handful of locations to over 100 across the country. I mean that is like… it was amazing, and it was a lot of hard work and a lot of strategic thinking and pivoting big time with them from a franchise organization to a licensed organization. And then lastly, I would say my experience at Response, I did not found Response. I started as a freelancer, then I got hired full-time, and then I got promoted to a partner and then managing partner within three years. And I bought the original guys out in 2009. And over that tenure, I led them through basically a startup situation. I came in on year two to an enduring successful agency that it is today, and I’m super proud of that.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (16:21):

Wonderful. Wonderful. Thank you for sharing some great wins there. Let’s talk about a multiplier that you’ve used to grow yourself or your business.

Carolyn Walker, Response (16:31):

I have a couple of those too. I would say first, surround yourself with a great team. That has been huge to me. You can’t do it all yourself. It’s really hard to wear all the hats. And so surround yourself with people who you can really trust and who are excellent at what they do. And I would also say stay true to your core values. Ours are being curious and brave and caring, and that has been a constant throughout our organization and has really helped us in terms of deciding what we do and don’t do and who we work with and who we don’t work with. The other thing I’d say is I tell this to all of my clients, and you probably saw it on my bio, but I always say that marketing isn’t the savior, it’s the amplifier. And so if you’re looking to multiply your business, look at marketing as one of those multipliers or amplifiers, and it’s not going to work though if you don’t have a great product or service and you don’t have great operations or execution.

Carolyn Walker, Response (17:25):

You need to make sure those things are in place and then you layer on the great branding and marketing, and you’ve got a home run. And we’ve done this for ourselves. We took our time to kind of get the business, and we’ve certainly morphed over the years, and we’re in a place where we have just an incredible team of incredible strategic creative thinkers, and we also have amazing client service, and we’ve got hundreds of awards and dozens of testimonials to support that. But we are very fortunate in that we work with incredible clients from Fortune 500 to local nonprofits, and our marketing of ourselves has helped us be in a position where we can be super selective about who we work with now.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (18:12):

Amazing. The final question we like to ask every guest is, what does success mean to you?

Carolyn Walker, Response (18:18):

Yeah, so I think if you ask that question to me, when I was in my twenties, I would say it was all about money and materialism. But today it’s very, very different from me. I feel like it is an open-ended concept. It’s about continuing to strive to make myself better in this journey as a person, as a professional, as a partner, as a daughter, as a sibling, a marketer, a leader, a community member. And so it’s about learning from my failures. It’s about giving back and helping others. It’s about really being empathetic and kind and making a difference where and when I can. And I really love Maya Angelou’s quote that says, “I’ve learned that people forget what you said. People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you make them feel.” And I think if people remember how I made them feel in a positive way, that when I’m gone, I’d say I’m successful. To me, that’s success.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (19:17):

Fantastic. Well, Carolyn, as we bring this to a close, is there anything you were hoping to share or get across that you haven’t had a chance to yet?

Carolyn Walker, Response (19:24):

I don’t think so. I think to me, one of my big main messages these days is about this idea of brand building and performance marketing and where’s that balance? And so I would love for anyone who has their own business or a marketer in a business to think about that and what is the right balance and thinking of marketing, like I said, as an investment, not an expense. It’s something that really can help grow your business if you’re doing it in the right way.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (19:50):

Fantastic. Well, Carolyn, thank you so much for being a guest here. What’s the best way for someone to follow or connect with you?

Carolyn Walker, Response (19:57):

Yeah, I would say visit our website, it’s You can connect with me on LinkedIn, just search for Carolyn Walker, that’s with a Y-N, or you can certainly email me. It’s Carolyn, C-A-R-O-L-Y-N

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (20:12):

Carolyn, thank you so much for a fantastic interview and let’s go ahead and jump into today’s three key takeaways. So takeaway number one is when she shared that LinkedIn ran a study and found that when performance marketing is coupled with brand building, it’s six times more effective in the study that they found or can be six times more effective. And she said the recommended split for efforts and resources allocated to business to consumer should be 25% performance and 75% brand building. And then for a business to business organization, you should split those 50/50 performance marketing and brand building. Takeaway number two is she gave the first few steps in how you allocate and assess or do a marketing audit on your company. The first one, step one is to audit if you have a North Star core belief. Number two is, have I done enough to build a brand for my company?

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (21:07):

Number three is get educated and read, listen to lots of resources, podcasts like this. And number four, consider hiring an expert or bringing in a consultant just for an assessment or a consultation. And takeaway number three was the make that she shared, which I was just really impressed with what she did that she started working as a freelancer for Response, then she became an employee, got promoted, eventually became a partner, and then bought out the other partners in the business and owns it outright. Just a wonderful, wonderful story. I love that. And now it’s time for today’s win-win.

Dr. Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (21:49):

So today’s win-win is the last thing she said is that you need to find balance between performance marketing and brand building, whatever that looks like. Don’t neglect one over the other and really make sure that you’re giving care and consideration because the two coupled together are more powerful. And so that’s the episode today folks. Please make sure you subscribe to the podcast and give us a review. And remember, if you or anyone you know might be ready to franchise our business or take their franchise company to the next level, please connect with us at Thanks for tuning in, and we look forward to having you back next week.

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