In working with clients on updating, re-working and building brands, I’ve noticed there is still some confusion on the difference between branding and marketing.
I have an analogy that can help.
Definition of branding
There are many definitions out there for what a brand, or branding, is. Wikipedia says that a brand is a name, term, design, symbol or other feature that distinguishes one seller’s product from those of others. And the word “brand” derives from the Old Norse “brandr” meaning “to burn” – recalling the practice of producers burning their mark (or brand) onto their products. But I think this article does a much better job of summing it up.
“Put simply, your “brand” is what your prospect thinks of when he or she hears your brand name.”
Picture your brand as a person
If I can generalize a bit, I’d like to demonstrate that a brand is like a body. Bones, organs, tissue, nervous system, skin … the whole deal.
The bones are the set of beliefs, or values. What you want your brand to stand for over time. A solid foundation.
Your brand positioning – your bragging rights to something – can be the internal organs, nervous system, etc.
The visual elements like your logo, colors, fonts, etc. all add up to the skin, hair, facial features, personality and voice.
Brand represents your company. The way he looks, talks, his beliefs and personality. In this example, he’s a nice guy. Buttoned up, helpful and very well spoken. Not too flashy, but a little quirky. Green is kinda his thing.
Now that Brand has been developed, he’s ready to start communicating and providing value.
Definition of marketing
The American Marketing Association most recently defined Marketing as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”
Marketing is like playing with paper dolls
I’ve always loved playing with paper dolls. It was super easy to switch outfits for the next adventure, or make your own origami-like avant-garde number. The doll stays the same, but you can change the clothes and accessories.
Marketing and marketing strategies can be looked at like Brand’s outfits and accessories. Is Brand going to a cocktail party? He’ll need to dress up a little differently to work with that audience, but he’s knowledgable and provides the same message. He’s still Brand. Then later he’s going to a sporting event. So we put him in a team t-shirt and some kicks. Again, he’s still the same inside and communicating the same messages, he’s just fitting in and appealing to the audience he’s with. Going for a bike ride? Season change? Different marketing strategies. Where Brand goes is up to you. But please don’t try to make Brand be everything to everyone. Once his closet starts to overflow, his appearance, voice and value will become diluted.
Ways to keep the closet clean:
Brand influences marketing
The brand should always influence marketing. Does the marketing strategy fit the values, position and personality of the brand? Or is the marketing plan trying to take the brand in a different direction? This is an interesting example of a new marketing direction for IHOP. They tried to appeal to a younger crowd on Twitter and ended up taking their brand to an uncomfortable place.
People can tell when you are not being authentic
If Brand is super casual and you put him in a tux, people around him will be able to tell. Let your brand be who it’s going to be and own it. Allow Brand to be the best brand ever! Skittles is a great example of an authentic brand that encourages people to “taste the rainbow” on their website, social media and TV commercials. Everything they do looks, feels and sounds the same.
Brands are living
Brands are living things and can change over time. That’s a good thing as brands need to remain relevant. But get clear about the company’s threshold for change. Is Brand a trend follower? A trend setter? Classic? This is a great article about how Levi’s (founded in 1853) has managed to be a classic brand that scales across lifestyle and gender with a diverse customer base.
Branding and marketing strategies are complex, not to mention how products, services and technology also play a role. This analogy is not meant to oversimplify anything. It’s meant to show the relationship between branding and marketing and how they are not the same thing. The brand should always influence the marketing strategies. And marketing strategies should always help build brand equity.
No matter what Brand is wearing, you should still be able to recognize him. His personality, presence, voice and values should shine through.