Any business owner or executive will tell you that marketing is important, but many overlook the power of a strong brand. Because it is difficult to quantify and place an ROI on branding efforts, executives often focus solely on marketing activities with the hopes of driving short-term measurable returns. When organizations do invest in branding, it is often around design-driven creative endeavors that an external ad agency they hire devises. While important, these creative efforts are merely symbols of your brand and only touch the surface of what branding really is.
Instead, remember that your brand is your company DNA and “raison d’etre”. It is built from the belly of your organization and encompasses your values, your culture, your mission and your core principles. It is expressed every day in ways as simple as your company colors and as complex as the treatment of your employees, customers and partners. A good brand is built daily over many years and requires both strategic thought, genuine passion and consistent, exceptional implementation.
Branding and Marketing – A Symbiotic Relationship
The organizations I’ve spoken with over the years that do focus on brand building usually go about it the wrong way by relying on outside ad agencies to create their external-facing brand. While a beautiful website and a sleek brochure are important, they are only symbols of your brand and they will only get you so far. Oftentimes so much time and money is spent on these creative endeavors that very little money remains to actually market the organization to drive new business.
Even more important is that business owners are going about the branding process all wrong. Too often companies start and end with public expressions of the brand such as the look, the logo, the website, or the tagline. In doing so, these organizations neglect the fact that a truly powerful brand is built by the daily actions of all of your employees and the interactions they have with your prospects, customers and partners. A brand cannot be a campaign concocted overnight by a creative team that will then move onto the next project when completed. There is no completion date for a brand. Rather, every action and decision from the day that you open your doors is a part of your brand.
Marketing, on the other hand, is how you communicate your brand to the world in a concerted effort to grow. It is the campaigns, tools, tactics, and channels used to make sure that prospects and customers can see, understand, and value your brand. Ranging from paid media to email campaigns to SEO, it is what consumers see in the market and how they learn about you. Although these initiatives can be quantified in a way that branding cannot, they are no less or more important.
Marketing becomes much easier if what is actually being marketed is unique, genuine and differentiated in the marketplace. On the other hand, marketing is next to impossible if your brand is average. As marketing guru Seth Godin espouses, average does not get spoken about nor shared. Nothing viral ever happened to an average brand. So in today’s world of paid/owned/earned media, the power of your brand becomes more and more important the more earned media rises in influence.
Together, powerful marketing and branding can make a company the envy of an industry. No one will hear about your brand and purchase your offering without marketing, but your marketing will be more successful if you have a strong brand to push out. As soon as you have a brand that wows and a strategic marketing plan to communicate that brand, you will be well on your way to dramatic growth.
Since the crux of your brand building happens inside your walls versus being concocted outside your walls by an ad agency, you need to make sure that everyone in your organization is educated on the difference between marketing and branding. Once this takes place and everyone understands their unique role as brand ambassadors, you will find that your marketing will become much more profitable. It will take fewer marketing dollars to compete because you will be putting dollars behind something more impactful and impressive than that of your competitors. Your marketing team will be thankful that they have something special to market, making their jobs easier. Your sales team will also be thrilled to provide something that is different in the marketplace versus an average offering that is more difficult to sell.