Marketing without branding is like fishing without a hook.
You’ll be distributing your message, sure. You may see results in the forms of sales closed and new customers. But is there even anything behind the words? Your marketing is a method of pushing your message out, while your branding is the pull that attracts customers. While a marketing campaign may convert a prospect into a buyer, your brand is what retains their business for life. In an ideal scenario, it’s so much more than pure messaging.
Branding strategy allows you to position your business in your market solidly, build meaningful relationships, and retain customers over time.
In an ideal world, a solid brand should precede your marketing. However, that’s not to say it’s ever too late to begin developing a branding plan for the future. No matter when you start, it’s sure to offer immense benefit to your marketing program and outcomes. The following are some of the ways that defining your organization’s core can act as your marketing secret weapon.
Your brand isn’t what you sell or do. It’s what you believe.
At the end of the day, we’re all brand builders. Regardless of your job title or description, if you interact with customers or participate in any part of promoting, developing, or delivering your organization’s products and services you are a part of creating the experience that creates your brand.
Your brand is much more than any one particular department. It’s more than any single deliverable or output. It’s the overarching strategy that builds your brand. It’s the complex set of beliefs that defines who you are in the hearts and minds of your community.
While our strategies encompass our long-term brand-building efforts, we utilize the practice of marketing to communicate these beliefs to the masses. Does this mean we should never call something a marketing strategy? Of course not. Our brand strategies are longer term than our annual marketing programs and their accompanying tactics.
Our branding defines who we are while our marketing defines what we do for whom. First we build our brands, then we execute the marketing that brings our brands to life.
Brand Positioning Matters
Every well-written brand strategy should include brand positioning. It can be affected by the following factors:
Is it possible to market without establishing these factors, or to determine these each time you create a piece of content? Possibly, but it’s not going to work especially well.
Advertisers have long used a concept called “effective frequency,” which is a measure of how many times a potential buyer must be exposed to a brand before they become familiar or trusting. In many cases, it takes at least 3 separate instances of exposure for someone to feel comfortable with an organization. If you’re having trouble broadcasting a unique value proposition, differentiating factors or your target audience consistently, you’ll have a great deal of difficulty achieving effective frequency.
Once these beliefs are articulated and understood internally, it’s time to take your brand’s message to the masses. This is accomplished through that other label …
“The total of activities involved in the transfer of goods from the producer or seller to the consumer or buyer, including advertising, shipping, storing, and selling.” – Dictionary.com
There’s a pretty good chance that most of us actually work in the marketing department. Many of our job titles involve the label of marketing (if you’re a non-profit this could be further complicated by the curious substitution of the word “development” for “marketing”).
That’s because, as the definition above notes, the act of marketing includes all of the activities involved in taking our brand’s products and services to market. This definition has been further diffused by the new suite of digital marketing tools at our disposal. Another way of looking at all of these marketing activities is as brand-building tactics.
Branding Creates Evangelists
If a truly clever piece of content marketing converts a few customers, what’s the return on investment? It can range from minimal to profitable, but are you really earning any dividends over time?
Marketing is a way to capture sales, but branding is a way to make “loyal customers, advocates, even evangelists. Your content marketing is an owned asset, so ensure it’s a meaningful investment.
The difference between marketing and branding can be in how your customers are treated or feel once they’ve made that inaugural purchase. An effective branding strategy won’t just affect your marketing messages that your prospects engage with on a constant basis. It’s going to infiltrate every level of your business, from your customer advocates to your policies. The kind of cohesive experience that comes from branding and is embraced by all levels of your company is what creates customers for life.