Many organisations around the globe rely on internal marketing departments, marketing budgets, marketing managers, directors, and CMOs – and let’s not forget the countless marketing agencies and freelancers who are available to help companies of all kinds with their marketing endeavours.
Focusing on marketing is undoubtedly the right thing to do whenever you can afford it but it does brush a certain distinct promotional concept under the rug. A concept that often gets mentally filed in the same drawer as marketing, despite it being a separate process that can make or break your marketing success.
We’re talking, of course, about branding. The importance of branding often gets overlooked, yet learning about how these two distinct concepts interact can help to keep your company visible, memorable, and relevant.
What is Branding
Your brand is who you are as an organisation. This includes visual identity and tone of voice, but it also goes much deeper. A strong, enduring brand wordlessly communicates a company’s whole persona through design and language, incorporating its ethos, values, mission, and culture.
Branding, therefore, is the creative work and strategy that goes into cultivating and maintaining this corporate persona.
For something so outwardly visual and omnipresent as a company’s brand identity, it may come as a surprise that good branding comes from internal factors like values and culture. Yet, when you establish a brand identity that fits you and your team like a glove, it naturally radiates throughout your company.
Good branding also helps you attract like-minded clients. For example, a serious-looking brand will likely attract people looking for a serious, no-nonsense service, whereas a more playful brand will likely attract a less straight-laced audience.
What is Marketing
Marketing refers to actions and strategies that get your product or service in front of an audience. Marketing as a whole can effectively be separated into two parts: strategy and advertising.
The advertising part is easy to define. Advertising refers to any kind of promotional activity, and can include creating and running print ads, pay-per-click campaigns, broadcast adverts, and even “long-game” online strategies like content marketing, organic social media, and SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).
But successful advertising just doesn’t happen without a tactical approach. A strong marketing strategy will help you identify target markets; pinpoint the best places and methods to advertise to these groups; and also sets a framework for analysing each campaign’s effectiveness.
That last point is a particularly important part of marketing. All good marketing should be measurable, so you can see in black and white how each campaign performs. Effective marketers will learn from previous campaigns and occasionally carry out experiments to test their hypotheses. This iterative “publish, test, perfect, repeat” approach forms the backbone of continuous marketing improvement.
How Do Branding & Marketing Interact?
Branding is Identity, Marketing is Action
Just as your own personality will naturally influence many parts of your life, your brand’s personality should also significantly influence every facet of your business. Of course, your brand is naturally most visible through its design and marketing materials. But if your brand persona adequately encompasses your internal values and mission, then it will be naturally ingrained within your decision making, your management style, and your collective culture. Your brand should seamlessly envelop all that you do as a company.
Where branding is identity, marketing is action. Marketing is the act of getting your brand under the right people’s noses with attractive, well-targeted messages, and testing out new and interesting ways of appealing to your ideal audience.
Good Branding is Essential to Good Marketing
To market your company effectively, you need to firmly establish your brand first. Branding should set the precedent and the tone for all comms going forward – including promotional activity.
Just as you wouldn’t build a house on shaky foundations, you shouldn’t build a marketing campaign on shaky or nonexistent branding. This isn’t one of those “chicken and the egg” debates – if you want your marketing to be memorable and to resound with the right people, then you must establish your brand first.
We naturally gravitate towards brands that we’re able to connect with personally – even in B2B settings. If you see a part of yourself in a brand or a brand makes you feel like a welcome part of a like-minded group, then that brand is likely to resound with you personally.
So conversely, if we (the buyer) don’t completely gel with a brand’s personality, we’re likely to look elsewhere. When a brand is poorly targeted or generally subpar, there’s a lower chance that people are going to feel drawn in. And the lower your brand’s innate appeal, the poorer any related marketing efforts are going to perform.
Branding is Less Changeable Than Marketing
Branding is inherently more set in stone than marketing. Your brand is an enduring, memorable persona which should stay somewhat consistent so your audience can correctly identify you time and time again. This builds recognisability, loyalty, and trust.
That’s not to say that brands can’t ever change. Brands need very occasional, carefully considered facelifts now and again in order to stay fresh and relevant. But if you tinker with your brand’s appearance too frequently then its recognisability goes out of the window.
Where brands are generally designed for the long-haul, marketing campaigns have a much shorter life cycle. Marketing’s “publish, test, perfect, repeat” cycle is more focused on getting results in the near future, compared to a lasting corporate personality that only changes every few years (if at all). Marketing activities are also inherently more measurable than branding, relying on analytics and performance metrics to indicate whether a particular course of action is working or not.
Therefore, if you can see that a particular type of advertising has stopped working or a lucrative marketing opportunity becomes available, then you can change your marketing strategy on a dime to incorporate those changes. Quick changes to marketing strategy can also be required in response to wider market factors and fickle consumer trends.
This inherent flexibility and measurability makes marketing much more open to experimentation than branding. You can test out new advertising methods, new strategic approaches, and new target audiences with little effect on your overall brand. However if you start messing around with your brand – “testing out” new colour schemes, new fonts, and new logo colourways – you could do lasting damage to your company’s overall recognisability and value.
Positive Brand Awareness Is More Cost-Effective Than Marketing
Though marketing campaigns do wonders for visibility – it’s ultimately good branding that gets your audience to open their wallets. Just look at the success of brands like Apple or Nike. Their products seem to constantly be in demand, with people flocking to buy iPhones and Air Jordans without either company necessarily having to rely on constant in-your-face advertising campaigns. Their brand awareness is just that high.
Once a brand is well-known enough, simply maintaining that brand awareness can be much more valuable and cost-effective than funding a constant stream of marketing campaigns.
Branding is a Shortcut to Understanding
Many global brands use seemingly simple logos, wordmarks, and jingles to great effect, imbuing even the most basic shapes and visual cues with tangible commercial meaning. For example, when many of us see those familiar golden arches on a red background, our minds will instantly jump to McDonalds. In this way, even the most simplistic of branding can trigger an almost pavlovian mental shortcut to a well known brand.
We’ve mentioned some rather large brands in this article, but the theory holds true for smaller brands too. Well-designed and consistently applied visual brand marks are a shortcut to understanding and memorability, regardless of a company’s size or budget. Logos, wordmarks, and colour palettes can all add an effortlessly memorable dimension to external comms – not just advertising.
One point worth highlighting is that the simpler the brand look, the more easily recognisable it becomes; and the more recognisable your brand is, the easier it is for your audience to stay loyal to you.
To sum up, the state of a brand affects everything about a company’s marketability. We’d argue that you shouldn’t do any marketing or advertising without first crafting a solid brand. You can advertise without establishing a brand, but we doubt it would be a cost-effective investment in your lasting visibility. It may earn you some fleeting visbility, but if you want customers coming back to you time and time again, you’re going to have to establish some kind of corporate personality.
Branding is what drives connection, connection drives engagement with your marketing materials, and that engagement is what drives sales.
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