When I conduct a quick brainstorm on the differences between branding and marketing I see a clear distinction between the two, however I can’t overlook the way they work together and the importance of building a strategy which depicts that, as Frank Sinatra would say, “you can’t have one without the other.” A quick Google search will provide a plethora of definitions and examples of their distinctions, so the question becomes, “how do you get them to work together?”
In my experience the first area every marketer must conquer in order to create a successful long-term strategy, is branding. Here is how:
Consider Your Brand Reputation First and Foremost
While the concept of branding and all it entails can be somewhat confusing, the truth is no matter how large or small, and regardless of your products and services offered, all companies including yours have a brand presence—even if it’s one that is unintentional. As soon as you give your company a name, proudly display it for the world to see and open for business, anyone who comes into contact with it will form an opinion about your brand. The assessment might not even result from engaging with the brand directly, it could be determined anecdotally from a friend who did—or even from a stranger via an online review. This is significant because word of mouth is often considered the most powerful influencer in purchase decisions for virtually all goods and services.
Additionally, the reputation of your brand continues following the purchase of your company’s product or service offering. How was the customer experience? Was the quality of the product as promised? Were the employees your customers encountered good stewards of your brand? The answer to these questions can mean the difference between loyal customers and those who will give only one out of five stars when they provide a review of their experience with your company.
The key takeaway here is, if you don’t position your brand with intention and care, you leave it open and vulnerable to public opinion, and chances are you might not like the result. Award winning brand expert, David Brier, captures it best: “If you don’t give the market the story to talk about, they’ll define your brand’s story for you.” If you consider bypassing attention to the health of your brand reputation there may very well be a heavy price to pay.
Get Your Brand Image in Order
Your company’s brand is woven throughout everything you do, from the very large—your most significant product—all the way down to the signature on your emails and employees’ tone of voice when they answer the phone. Branding also includes less obvious aspects of your business, such as channel participation, how offerings are priced and promoted, and even how you choose to expand your organization.
So prior to giving thought to your marketing strategy, make sure your branded house is not one the big bad wolf of public opinion can easily blow over. (Okay that was cheesy, but you get the point.) If you aren’t confident your company currently has a brand image which gives you every competitive advantage, consider partnering with an agency that specializes in brand strategy and development. They will work with you to create a brand position unique to your business and meaningful to prospective and current customers. A solid brand platform can guide growth and become the ultimate foundation on which to effectively heighten all efforts and strategies throughout your company.
Now, how do you control the narrative around your brand? With marketing, of course.
The Bridge from Branding to Marketing
As we just reviewed, branding is about strengthening customer loyalty and solidifying your company’s reputation. That being said, much of its greatest potential is generated by—and this is key—providing the strategic base upon which all tactical marketing efforts should be built.
Essentially, marketing “focuses on the way in which the brand goes to market.” This is a critically important doctrine and one in which too many businesses fail to consider as they explore, design and implement their marketing plans and promotions.
At the risk of being overly simplistic, think of it as the equation:
Branding + an Offer/Promotion = Marketing
Marketing can be, by nature, short-term and response-based, but it still must be anchored in a company’s brand positioning and all the ways that manifests itself. If marketing only considers getting the customer’s attention, the communications and promotions can appear dull and scattered.
Simultaneously, if marketing communications are too centered around brand philosophy they may not generate the sales necessary to sustain a successful business. However, set up as the proper dance partners they are, marketing which is grounded within a company’s brand positioning will guide consumers to feel the kind of connection to your brand that motivates intended purchase behavior around your product or service.
To develop a strategically sound marketing plan is to recognize the sum of activities which are aimed at creating brand equity (i.e. brand-specific value) for customers. These activities have to be consistent, credible and focused or there is no strategy. Ultimately, marketing tactics that are created in a silo, without ensuring they are strategically linked back to your brand, will give your customer a generic experience at best. It can make the difference between a prospective customer choosing you over your competition.
If you are a marketing professional or business owner looking for help in utilizing your brand to its full potential or strengthening the impact of your marketing efforts, please contact us. We can help you reach and convert potential customers with the right mix of branding, targeted marketing and execution that works.