Understand the difference between branding and marketing

Any business owner or executive will tell you 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.

Chris Ciunci is the founder and managing partner for marketing firm TribalVision, with offices in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Reach him at [email protected].

And when organizations do invest in branding, it is often around design-driven creative endeavors an external ad agency devises. While important, these creative efforts are merely symbols of your brand and only touch the surface.

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 strategic thought, genuine passion, and consistent, exceptional implementation.

Branding and marketing – a symbiotic relationship

Organizations 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 endeavors that little money remains to market the organization to drive new business.

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. These organizations neglect the fact 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 moves onto the next project when completed. There is no completion date for a brand. Every action and decision from the day you open your doors is a part of it.

Marketing, on the other hand, is how you communicate your brand in an effort to grow. It is the campaigns, tools, tactics, and channels used to make sure 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. These initiatives can be quantified in a way branding cannot but are no less or more important.

Marketing becomes much easier if what is actually being marketed is unique, genuine, and differentiated in the marketplace. 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 important the more earned media rises in influence.

Powerful marketing and branding can make you the envy of an industry. No one will purchase your offering without marketing, but your marketing will be more successful if you have a strong brand. As soon as you have a brand that wows and a strategic marketing plan to communicate that brand, you’ll be on your way to dramatic growth.