Ugh, my fingers were itching with this topic, marketing vs. branding. Itching to get it written and out there as I have a lot to say. There is an on-going debate around the Internet, around the marketing and branding professionals, business and creative people in general. Talking about branding and marketing almost as if they are two separate, almost polarising topics. You’ll hear from the branding people that branding is more important than marketing. That branding goes deeper etc…
Don’t get me wrong, there are marketing professionals out there that say that marketing is what’s important and you shouldn’t think about branding. Not until you reach a certain level of revenue. In other words: “First think about growing your business and later think about the Brand”. Oh boy, do I dissagree. And I know, I’m not the only one – thankfully 😄.
Biggest misconception with marketing vs. branding
The more I read about it, the more I saw a pattern with the differentiation between marketing vs. branding. Which came a lot from the branding side of the argument. But what’s interesting, it came from the marketing side as well (which is in a way absurd to me, but I’ll get to my explanation for it later).
The pattern I was referring to, was that in the comparison between the two, they only used tactical marketing. So they basically are equalling marketing in general with tactical marketing (which mostly consists of different promotional tools and tactics to achieve a short term goal).
A more appropriate term would then be…
Branding vs. Tactical Marketing
And in all honesty, that would make some sense. But, there is a big part of this picture missing.
The first organic result I got form typing “marketing vs. branding” in Google search I got Outbrain.com. On there they stated this:
“Branding is your strategy, while marketing encompasses your tactical goals.” – No, may I dare to say. That is not true. Marketing is far more than tactical goals.
Marketing is not just tactical. It’s strategic. It consists of 7P. It’s ingrained in all the aspects of a company (or at least it should be and it is in all of the big brand/company names). And when we talk about the BIG picture, branding is a part of that.
Almost all of the successful companies (or at least that I know) testify to the fact that one without another can almost not exist. Or should I be even bolder? Nowadays one without another can not exist! They go hand in hand. Think of any big brand name that comes to mind, or even a successful niche company… They have a successful marketing execution with a strong branding presence, otherwise you’d never hear of them.
Branding falls under the big Marketing umbrella and I’ll explain how and why in this blog post. But first, lets start with branding.
This is my first time saying (or writing 🙂 ) this, but branding or brand management has a dear place in my heart. I strongly believe that marketing without branding is like climbing the summit on a cloudy and foggy day. Doing the work, without seeing the real value of it (the value may be subjective, but let’s choose that the value in this case is the view from the top) and eventually falling back to the ground.
"Successful Brand is the result and the heart of a successful marketing strategy."
– Mirijana Cota
In January of this year (2020) I went to a two day Strategic Brand Management training course in London, organised by The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) and lead by an amazing branding and marketing expert Paul Hitchens. We were organised in a small group of ten marketing and branding professionals. I was in a group of amazing people from all over the world. From the UK, France, Denmark, Saudi Arabia and Austria. And we talked about and learned from… you guessed it.. Branding.
During this short course, we’ve learned soo much. It was intense to say the least. There is a lot that goes into brand strategy. A lot of people have this misconception about branding as being a visual communication part of a company. So the logo, typography, colours, graphics etc. But it is so much more than that.
Let me quickly break down for you (and maybe in another blog post go more in depth ) what branding roughly consists of.
We could say that branding is in a way a personification of your company. When you start building your company, you need to take in account that branding is a crucial element in your marketing strategy. Why? Because when you get a brand that your audience loves and trusts, you won’t need to spend thousands and thousands on advertising to achieve your goal.
We could divide Branding into three layers:
1. Branding fundamentals
- When creating a company, you should define WHO you are.
- What are your core values?
- What is your mission statement?
- What is your culture?
- How do you want to position yourself?
- What is your vision?
2. Brand personification / Brand identity
- What personality does your brand have?
- How do you want your brand to look and feel?
- What tone / voice does your brand have?
- The brand focus : Brand architecture and brand archetypes
When you created your brand fundamentals and the brand personification or the identity, now it’s time to deliver. And this is the part where a lot of companies fail. When they forget about this part or neglect it completely. It’s not enough to have your values and mission written on your website, but not implementing them in all the aspects of your company.
- Think about you customer experience. All the time and everywhere.
- Brand standards. Do not be mediocre here. You don’t want any loose ends.
- Brand protection. When building a brand, an important thing to keep in mind is trademarking your brand.
- Fully breathing and living your brand culture and value!
There are three primary functions of a brand.
Big marketing umbrella
Marketing is in this context – the big picture. Not tactical marketing or branding, but marketing in general.
Marketing consists of roughly putting it: Marketing Strategy, Branding and Marketing plans.
As the graph above presents, branding is a big part of the overall marketing strategy. When you want to market yourself, you need to know all of the things I listed above in the branding section. Who you are, what you represent, your values, culture etc.
Your branding is always implemented and intertwined in your marketing strategy and plans. When you create a tactic for achieving more sales for example, you use your companies brand elements. From the visuals to the storytelling.
Years ago, the story of marketing was different than it is now. In the past, marketing was solely focused on advertising or the “push marketing” or the “outbound marketing” (there are a lot of names for it). But it isn’t like that anymore.
If the marketing wouldn’t have evolved over the years, then the marketing vs. branding debate would make more sense.
Where marketing people get confused when talking about marketing vs. branding.
When I mentioned in the “Biggest misconception with marketing vs. branding”, that people used only tactical marketing for the marketing vs. branding argumentation, I’ve said that some marketing professionals use that example too.
I don’t want to generalise to much when I write this and insinuate that all professionals in that field are like that, as I truly believe not everybody is. But as I read and read, I got this pattern from marketing people: Most of them, that explained that “marketing is a set of tactics to achieve business goals” are coming from the “tactical part” of the marketing industry. Tactical part meaning marketing professionals only taking care of the execution of marketing campaigns; social media advertisers/managers, AD agencies, digital marketers etc.
Why would that be, I don’t know: my only guess is that these professionals have no formal education in marketing and there for only know the area of marketing they learned about and didn’t study the big picture.
New Era of Marketing
Marketing isn’t what it used to be. Now it is customer oriented and we marketers really want to deliver to our audience.
As mentioned above, in the past marketing was a one way communication. Company created a product, then they had to create/build big advertising campaigns and spend thousands if not millions to try to achieve the best ROI possible.
So, it went from: “How do we convince the buyer, that he needs this product?” to “What does the audience need and how can we help them solve the problem?” And when we find the solution, we will communicate it to them through marketing tactics which implement brand elements. Why brand elements? Because Branding is a process, where we, through our brand strategy, build our brand, so that we stand out from the crowd (competition). We want to differentiate ourselves from the competition and by providing the consumers the best solution for their problems or wants, we build brand loyalty.
With marketing, we want to create a win-win situation. Our job is to deliver value to our audience and to achieve loyalty from them. And if we want to achieve that, we need to emphasise the importance of brand building. We may strategise, set up our brand, but it is up to our audience to perceive us the way they want to. And if we achieve what we wanted in the first place, then we won.
So what I predict for the future is even bigger emphasis on branding and it’s bigger role in marketing strategy.
Let me know, what are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree with me? I would love know your thoughts or beliefs surrounding the topic. So don’t be shy and leave a comment down below. Now I would like to finish this blog post with a thought (not mine) that sums up pretty well the importance of the brand.
“If this business were to be split up, I would be glad to take the brands, trademarks and goodwill and you could have all the bricks and mortar – and I would fare better than you".
– John Stuart, Quaker Oats ( former chairman)