MindFire Communications, Inc.
Branding vs. marketing
August 13, 2012 | Lynn Manternach, Ph.D.

What’s the difference between branding and marketing?

The answer is more than just a matter of semantics. Ultimately, it’s a matter of your bottom line.

Marketing is focused and single-minded. Branding is big-picture.

A marketing campaign’s effectiveness is measured in months, but a brand’s strength is calculated in years or even decades.

Marketing begins with the customer. Branding begins at home.

The most successful companies – regardless of size – focus on both branding and marketing. The combination is powerful.

Developing your brand has to come first.

It’s tempting to jump right into marketing. After all, your ultimate goal is sales and marketing is the strategy used to optimize for sales.

If your strategy is based only on the quality of your product and service, you are at a serious disadvantage. Competitors can offer the same or perhaps a superior product and service. If you have not taken the time to develop your brand, you will be forced to compete on price. That is rarely a viable long-term strategy.

Building awareness is important. Consumers need to understand how your product or service solves their problems. You need to figure out how to connect with your consumer, and the sooner you can figure that out, the sooner the cash flows. But at some point, the consumer will look past the hype to see if the brand truly matters to them.

Your brand lives in the hearts and minds of your customers and your prospects. It’s what they think when they hear or see your name. Your brand is based on a wide range of experiences and perceptions, some of which you can control and some of which you can’t control.

The battle for customers intensifies day by day. Consumers have more control now than they ever have before, and they’re a lot more demanding than they used to be. Consumer expectations for brands continue to rise.

The ways consumers interact with and assess products and services has changed dramatically over the past few years. Consumers are increasingly tuning out marketing and advertising and are digging deeper to better understand the brand behind the product or service.

If you invest the time and effort into understanding your brand, the ways it connects with consumers on an emotional level and how to effectively communicate it across the customer experience, you are much more likely to see a return on your marketing strategies. The more emotion consumers have invested in your brand, the more likely they are to buy from you.

According to Havas Media, most people would not care if 70% of brands ceased to exist. Brands that engage with consumers, showing their personality and sharing their values, are among the 30% that would be missed.

With every business that succeeds financially while engaging with consumers on an emotional level by being fun, helpful, fair and human, the tolerance consumers have for traditional, boring and impersonal brands drops a bit more.

Some brands may seem better suited to an engaging and personality-driven brand than others. But those in industries that are typically more serious and reserved have the best opportunity to stand out from their peers with a little personality.

Your brand is your promise to consumers. Your brand allows consumers to anticipate future behavior because it is built on consistent behavior. In fact, the more consistent the behavior has been in the past, the more quickly the brand can convince consumers they "understand” what your brand is all about. Once consumers feel they understand a brand, they know what they can anticipate for a brand experience.

You need to deliver a consistently on-target brand experience across all consumer touch points, such as web, phone, email, print, etc. Then you need to reach out to and engage with consumers in ways that make sense to them. Because, ultimately, this isn’t about the brand or the product – it’s about the consumer.

This column originally appeared in the Corridor Business Journal.

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