The tug of war between direct response and brand marketing has many reasons. First, the two have different objectives, so they shouldn’t be packaged under the same umbrella. Second, direct response is grounded in exact measurement, unlike branding, which has little to no metrics for calculating success and therefore, little accountability.

While direct response measures the specific and immediate response from a consumer, brand marketing is more conceptual, relying on undefined measurements of a company’s identity and reputation. The two are intrinsically different in purpose and success tracking, so why should they have to measure success in the same way? Direct response always ties back to ROI, while brand marketing has a tougher time doing the same – just look at how we measure potential impressions from print and television ad buys.

The influence of brand marketing is also much more nuanced and subtle, but that doesn’t make it less important. While a direct response marketer measures the bottom of the funnel, focusing on engagement and conversions, a brand marketer’s job is focused on top-of-the-funnel metrics, such as exposure and awareness. It is clear that one cannot exist without the other, but how can they co-exist without stepping on each other’s toes? Clickstream data is the solution.

Clickstream data closes the gap between direct response and brand marketing

Clickstream analysis looks at every step of a consumer’s browsing activity, click-by-click, in the order taken. This form of data is particularly useful to both direct response and brand campaigns, as clickstream analysis provides marketers with a way to identify and categorize certain online behavioral trends to build out a persona or intent-based audience. For example, if you’re trying to target expectant parents, clickstream analytics can recognize users who had never clicked on pregnancy-related websites or products and then all of a sudden start to visit websites like Babycenter, search for terms like “signs of pregnancy” on Google, or buy maternity clothes on Amazon.

Clickstream data is also useful for measuring the more subtle effects of a campaign, such as the impact your campaign has over transactions happening on your competitor’s website and vice versa, or where consumers go after engaging with your campaign and visiting your site. By including new metrics on the awareness-level and benchmarking them from the outset, clickstream can add a lot of value to brand marketers.

Perhaps most importantly, clickstream has the unique ability to measure conversion impact and attribution higher up in the funnel. Clickstream analysis that measures events like an increase in brand searches and site visits post-campaign, and benchmark them against similar campaigns of competitors can help brand marketers measure awareness, influence, and other impactful metrics.

Bottom line: Think of clickstream analysis as a measurement for the entire marketing funnel. Measuring the entire series of clicks customers take from searching to browsing to purchasing is the key to understanding the success of marketing as a whole, brand and direct response included.