Businesses are often reluctant to spend resources on things that don’t provide definite, measurable returns. Unfortunately, branding is one of those things — which has left many a brand bereft of a coherent identity that would benefit them with consumers. Branding is the underpinning of everything a brand does or produces, from the language used in its product descriptions to its packaging to the ads you see on the street. As a result, companies shouldn’t be viewing branding spend in a vacuum; instead, they should see it as an investment vital to making a brand successful.

Subway ads are a perfect example of the indirect value that branding can have. While it’s impossible to measure the direct impact that subway ads have on sales, they do help put brands into people’s minds. Brands like Casper, Seamless, Lyft, StreetEasy and Glossier have successfully used ads on subways to grab consumer attention, to the point where Seamless started selling posters of its ads online — which are now sold out. While in Seamless’s case there is a direct correlation between people seeing its ads in a subway car and people buying its posters online, the same is true for all other brands that advertise, even if the line can’t be drawn as neatly.

You can’t view branding spend in a vacuum; it’s meant to multiply and expand existing customer acquisition strategies and marketing campaigns. In other words, branding acts as the assist: It may not be the big splashy ad that gets people in the door, but it’s the essence that makes a brand recognizable.

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