Branding vs Marketing
Derek and Tucker discuss the vast difference between Branding and Marketing and how to make sure the two are complimenting each other.
Branding and marketing is what we’re talking about today. It is really a nuanced difference to the broad spectrum of business.
Tucker It’s like they’re hand-in-hand and they should be hand-in-hand for sure. But a lot of the people we deal with don’t really understand the differences.
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Derek So it is not sales versus marketing. I think people that we work with tend to understand the relationship between the sales department and the marketing department and some of the healthy and sometimes the not-so-healthy tensions between the two. This is different. What is the difference between branding and marketing? Are they the same thing? Because they’re not. They’re similar and they work together and oftentimes one or the other isn’t successful unless both of them have been done really well.
Tucker I think of branding and marketing as two peas in a pod, or as Forest Gump would say, peas and carrots. They just go together really nicely. But people tend to focus on one and not the other, which doesn’t make any sense because they are perfect complements.
Derek Pippen and Jordan.
Tucker Sure. Which one is Jordan?
Tucker Damn. If we’re going to dumb it down or simplify it as much as we can, we would say that branding is what you say and how you say it, and marketing is where you say it and when you say it.
Derek Branding is crafting your story. It’s having the means to describe what it is that your organization actually stands for. And marketing is how you communicate that story, where you tell that story, and to whom.
Tucker We’ll get into that. I think we should just dive a little bit into the nuances of each of them. So we’ll start with branding because that’s what we do here.
Derek Because branding starts first in the process.
Tucker Branding is all about identity. It is all about establishing, maintaining, and redeveloping that identity. And identity can be visual or verbal. Think about things like that. It can also be experiential. So we get into the episodes that we talk about. There are a lot of things that go down each of those rabbit holes, but branding from a high level is about identity.
Derek Which also includes values. We just talked in a previous conversation about purpose, mission, and vision. That is a core part of your brand’s identity.
Tucker Think about how you identify what you do, what you stand for, and how that relates to everything else in the world. That’s what we think of identity. And a part of that identity is perception, which is a big word in the branding world. I think of brand as your perception. So perception is really how people in the world think of you. As Marty Neumeier would say, it would be your gut reaction when you see a product that is their brand. Their brand is the gut reaction. And that perception, I think, can be tailored. And that’s what branding really is, is tailoring a perception depending on what the strategy is.
Derek So that’s where the logo comes into play or the design of your materials or the tone and the language of your messaging and all of the, hopefully, emotions that evoke in addition to just an understanding and clarity of what you do for a product or service.
Tucker We did an episode a while ago that talked about how a logo is not a brand. A logo is an asset that gets used to craft a perception. So if you thought that brands are just like your logo and move forward, we did a whole conversation on why that’s not the case. But, yes, you are right. The messaging, the logos, the visuals, and the verbals are all tools that we need to use to craft the overall perception.
Derek We know some great brands that don’t have great logos and we know some brands that have great logos but have a shallow, terrible brand behind them.
Tucker Just think about that as a toolbox. We’re just trying to build out the toolbox to be able to craft that overall perception of the organization or the product or whatever brand that we’re trying to focus on. But the key piece of branding is that it is long-term oriented. It is about building trust. It’s about building loyalty, and it’s about building recognition over time. Most people get into these projects and go, Okay, we’re going to want a 90-day turnaround and we’re going to want to see an impact from this in like three months or whatever. And you come back and say, Well, that’s great, but that’s not how this all works. The crafting of a perception takes time. It’s not quarters, it’s years. We’re trying to build into that perception. I think that sometimes gets lost when you have hungry business people who just want to get this done. They want to do it right now and have it make an impact right away.
Derek The behind-the-scenes process of branding relies heavily on brand strategy and brand development. When we get into the activation part of that, that’s where marketing comes into play. But taking the time to be thoughtful and meaningful in that development is what leads to some brands that we created 15 years,18, or 20 years ago still being used successfully today.
Tucker Let’s jump to marketing. When I think of marketing, I go back to like marketing 101 that you take in business school. It’s the four P’s of marketing which would be product, price, placement, and promotion. And when you’re dealing with those four P’s, I’m really honing in on the one that everyone thinks of which is promotion. When they say they are trying to market their business, they think they are trying to promote their business. And that’s totally fair. Think about all the different tactics and activities that you’re trying to do within your products and services. This could include things like social media. This could include things like content and sales teams. That’s all promotion-based and that’s great. The marketing teams that we’ve worked with do hone in on that product, that price, the placement, who they are dealing with, why they are dealing with them, and where and how much should they be charging. And there’s just a lot of nuance there. But some of that is critical for thinking about marketing forward. So when we talk about branding, we’re talking about what story we want to tell. Marketing is like that engine in which we’re going to deliver that story. So if you think of the value we create as a business, then that product and the market that we’re going to go after is the way we’re delivering that value. So there are a lot of nuances in this, but I think that they’re important for understanding how you can leverage both of these ideas and both of these styles to really hone in on how you grow as an organization.
Derek I think of branding as the engine and promotion as the gas. Promotion and marketing in general is all about growing awareness. If you have a great brand and great products and great people and great services, but nobody knows about it because you’re the best-kept secret in your industry, you can’t sell your products and services. So you have to promote it.
Tucker There are probably a handful of people that we work with from marketing teams that would slap your hand by saying that marketing is all about awareness because it’s more than that. But you’re trying to simplify it as much as you can. I’m just trying to make sure people aren’t angry.
Derek I think we only have 20 minutes left. We’re not teaching a class. We’re just clarifying.
Tucker When I really honed the differences between the two. If we say that branding is long-term, marketing can absolutely be short-term. We can run a campaign. We can do things right now that can make an impact today, that can make an impact this quarter. That’s easier said than done because there’s a lot that goes into all that. And that’s why marketing is so important, why it drives us every day. Branding is this long-term-oriented future thinking. Who do we want to be? Why do we want to be it? How can we pull people in and draw them into a loyal state? I don’t want to say that branding is more important than marketing because it’s absolutely not. They are absolutely hand in hand, really important together. But when you look at your strategy to do one, we know that it’s more common to think about marketing than it is branding.
Derek I agree. They do go completely hand in hand. If you have a solid brand and you’ve already put in the work, then your focus should be on marketing. But if you don’t have a story and you don’t know what you stand for, then you need to put in the work to make your marketing meaningful and successful.
Tucker We don’t want our clients or our teams that we work with to feel like they’re wasting time and money when they market. That is the absolute goal for our team to say how we help them not waste time marketing. And that comes back with making them look really good. And I don’t mean as in design look really good, but when we do our job really well here and we craft a brand and a story and a message that’s really meaningful and really resonates, it makes all the marketing just payoff so much better. It makes it more effective. It makes it easier to make decisions when you’re marketing. It makes it easier to build out really great content. It makes everything so much easier that I think that gets kind of subdued as well because there are a lot of people, especially in the creative agency world, that feel like what they do is better than what marketers do. But that’s not true at all. I think that they are teammates and that’s the way that we see it here.
Derek I think branding tends to be a once every handful of years initiative as long as you’ve done it. And I think marketing is an ongoing, nonstop, consistent effort.
Tucker Branding should be as well if you’re doing it right. Most of the brands that we’ve worked with that do it really right are evolving over the course of years instead of saying, We’re going to do this in 2015, we’re going to do it again in 2023, and we’re going to do it again in 2030.
Derek The heavy lifting comes upfront.
Tucker So why does this matter? Why do we do it? Why is it important to have both? And what can someone get out of that?
Derek When you have a synergy and a positive working relationship between both branding and marketing, first and foremost, it gives you what we call a brand foundation. It gives you the core, the basis, the strategic foundation that helps everything stand out and resonate and get noticed.
Tucker Think about the assets. I go back to the assets every time to say if you were marketing everything, wouldn’t it be great to be able to look at your toolbox and go, Oh, let’s use these things right now? Because that’s going to resonate with this audience. That leads to having a good foundation for what you say and how you say it. It is going to really lead to success down the road. It’s also going to lead to the second point, which is consistency. We’re going to say the same things. We’re going to be the same person. People are going to start understanding who we are and it’s going to resonate with them over and over and over again until it’s like, Oh, yeah, I know you guys, you guys do this, that’s great. I need that right now.
Derek Somebody smarter than me said the quote that it takes seven times for somebody to hear something the first time, which is a marketing point that a lot of that language needs to be said over and over and over. And even though that message might change a little bit here and there, to have the confidence in being consistent because you know what you do and what you stand for and you believe you have a message that’s going to resonate with somebody, was incredibly helpful.
Tucker So those two things – having a great foundation for your brand and marketing to work together leads to consistency, which then leads to loyalty, which is really important. Fostering trust and all these great things where marketing efforts are more impactful because the loyal customers see it and buy into it really leads to a competitive advantage. So it’s kind of like a domino effect. If we can build a great foundation with teams and come back to their marketing team and say, Here’s what we’re going to do, and here’s how we’re doing it. And over the course of time, we’re working together to leverage those pieces correctly across the different channels and marketing efforts that you have, leading to consistency, leading to loyalty, ultimately leading to you guys standing out in the marketplace, having a meaningful message and really making competitors jealous wondering how you do that. They’re just like reeling in things. It feels like their marketing is just a machine that they turn on and it works instead of having to spin their wheels every time.
Derek There are two points on loyalty, specifically. One is the way that you describe how those dominos work. It makes the assumption that you’re fulfilling that promise, that you’re doing what you say you’re going to do, and that your products are actually solving your customers’ problems in the way that you promised them. We’re just assuming your products and services are amazing. The other Asterix I want to put on is loyalty is its own silo or type of marketing. There’s a whole type of marketing that’s called loyalty marketing. We’re not getting into that today. That’s its own nuance. That’s its own specialty. I just don’t want to confuse people who are super into marketing to think that we’re talking about that specific specialization.
Tucker I was just talking to someone the other day that goes, You know, marketing is confusing. There are a lot of different terms and nuances between all of them. And I’m like, Oh yeah, it’s crazy. It’s another language in itself. You have all these different things – loyalty, marketing. What we mean by being loyal in the marketplace is not the same as loyalty marketing. There’s a lot that goes into it.
Derek The other thing we’re not getting into today is why or how to measure marketing because that’s a huge, gray, fuzzy, challenging, and confusing conversation.
Tucker To summarize the importance of doing all of this, why this matters, is to build out a marketing strategy as well as a brand strategy that kind of meets in the middle and they have this really great synergy to them. That’s really going to say you can have the greatest messaging in the world, but if no one hears it, it doesn’t matter. On the flip side, you could have the worst message in the world, and if everyone hears it, then it really matters in a negative way. So for us to say we’re just going to say what we say and say it as much as we can, that’s not great. But to say we’re going to say a very tailored thing and not say it to anyone, that’s not great either. For it to work, you have to work together.
Derek When it doesn’t work together, what are some of the symptoms or red flags that people will probably recognize pretty quickly or they’re already thinking about them if they’re listening to this?
Tucker There’s a lot. So I limited it to ten. I don’t want to go through each of them a lot. I think I say that in every other episode, there are a lot of negative reasons that this cannot work, but really it comes down to the things that we talked about that are really benefits.
Derek So it’s just the opposite of all the positives. We just talk.
Tucker But here it’s more specific. So if you’re in an organization and you’re wondering if you have been leveraging your branding efforts and your marketing efforts correctly, here are some of the ten things that would say you are not doing that. So one would be inconsistent messaging. So your campaigns, your marketing materials, everything doesn’t feel like it’s unified. Things feel like they’re coming out of left field. You could guess if it’s from a different brand or not. That’s a problem because if that looks confusing to you, then your customers are 100% confused.
Derek Especially if you’re running several different types of marketing campaigns simultaneously. The potential for that confusion just gets even more frustrating.
Tucker Two is the short-term focus. If you’re looking at your goals from a marketing team or a marketing department, all your goals are short-term focus. Everything is less than six months away. That’s a problem. That means that you have no brand goals really, because your brand goals are actually just marketing goals. When we look at brand goals, we think in the picture of years, and that can really help to say, Okay, over the next 18 months we’re going to try to craft this type of perception. In the next two or three years, we’re going to try to do this. And so there is a lack of future thinking that I think can really hurt people if they’re not focused.
Derek It’s typical for any organization, especially if finances are a challenge or if revenue is totally top of mind, to fall into that short-term-only focus. But while you’re doing that short term, make sure you’re also thinking about what’s next, because as soon as that marketing campaign stops or the ad campaign stops and the awareness stops, the revenue’s going to stop.
Tucker I think that when I say goals and try to think of gains in some kind of capacity, it can’t all be leading back to revenue because then you’re not really crafting a goal that’s reachable across every single thing that you do. When we look at brand and marketing goals, it can’t just be trying to hit this revenue in three months, this revenue in six months, this revenue in 18 months. That’s not going to help drive any kind of inspiration from your team. That’s just going to feel like if we don’t hit those numbers, we’re screwed. And so there’s a lack of inspiration that can happen if your goals aren’t realistic. And they’re not only financial.
Derek Which is another reason why there’s tension between the sales team and the marketing team. Because they work differently.
Tucker That happens a lot. The third one is an emphasis on features, not values. So when we deal with brands that are all marketing, no brand, they have a lack of emotion. That is the best way to say it. They are all features. Land on their website – it’s all features. It can be a flip side too. You could be all values, no features, and that’s a problem as well. When you land on their site, you’re asking, what do they even do? They keep talking about things. That’s what we would call too squishy. Like things are getting too squishy here. We’re not hard-hitting enough. But when you emphasize features, not values, you can pretty much lean into the fact that you guys aren’t really driving brand growth. You’re just driving marketing growth. And that’s okay too. It’s just a matter of how you see it.
Derek We often see this in companies that are commoditized or have been kind of forced into, or maybe they’ve done it purposely, taking it into a pricing competition instead of a brand competition. They’re competing on price and not on emotion.
Tucker There’s also a great test for this. If you want to just do a test, if you’re a marketing leader, start asking your clients what you stand for. And if they say your product, or they say your service, then that means that you’re selling on features versus values.
Derek And hopefully, they say they crush it on service, they take care of me, and customer service is outstanding. I hope that that’s the case. But if the first thing they say is, Oh my God, they are a great value. They’re the cheapest and fastest out there.
Tucker For example, if you’re a professional football team and someone goes, Oh, what do you stand for? And then they say, Football. That’s like, Okay, well we’re obviously all features, all product, no value.
Derek Then what’s the difference between your team and the other team?
Tucker Exactly. We do that with products, and we can use the knee brace example that we pull up over and over again. We stand for braces – what do you think that means?
Derek And then what happens if that’s the case?
Tucker So, four would be they lack emotional connection. So if you can’t drive anybody to feel something with your marketing, then that’s probably an issue with you guys to connect emotionally. And that means you’re not really leveraging any kind of brand assets in any good way.
Derek The best brands, and the best marketing in storytelling terms, we would say your customer has an an external problem and an internal problem. The external problem is they can’t figure out where to watch football on Sunday. That’s a very tactical, solvable thing. So if you sell TVs or you’re a sports bar or you’re the team itself, you can solve that problem pretty easily. But that problem is causing that customer an internal problem, which is an emotional problem. If you can get to speaking to them and connecting with them at that level, then you truly have a brand and successful marketing.
Tucker That’s why when I go back to what marketing is and it’s about product and price and placement and all those promotion things, that’s where you go, Well, maybe we just need a better product for this. That’s a domino for sure. So it’s something to think about when you’re saying that one. It’s just a tactical problem that we’re trying to solve. We can solve that with marketing. No problem. Number five is when you lack market distinction. So differentiation is really important for a lot of different things. And we had a whole conversation, it might even be the very first conversation of this podcast, on distinction versus differentiation. So you should go listen to that if you haven’t. But if you lack market distinction, if people can’t tell the difference between you and another person while looking at you or reading your website or looking at your billboards or whatever, then that’s a problem because then you’re not distinct in the market, you’re not easily recognizable, you’re not memorable.
Derek I don’t know if that’s the most common, but it could be, which might be why we led this whole podcast off with that conversation to begin with. Helping people stand out from the crowd of competition is critical. And if you’re getting lost in that and people don’t clearly know the difference between you and them, that’s a big red flag.
Tucker Six is difficulty in expansion. So when you’re trying to expand into new markets and you’re finding it very challenging, it’s probably because you lack the foundational assets that you need to correctly lead into that. So if you’re trying to go into a market and you can’t seem to connect with anybody there and you can’t seem to understand anybody there and it just doesn’t resonate, then it’s probably your brand. It’s probably not your marketing. You’re probably in the right places, just not saying the right thing.
Derek Exactly. And this is where you would say, stop wasting money on marketing. Make sure the foundation is right because you’re just pouring gas back into the car analogy, into an engine that’s not quite functioning yet.
Tucker Seven is negative public perception. And I say public perception but it could be private perception. It’s basically negative perception when you face criticism, backlash, things that are happening in the world, and somebody looks at you and goes, Wow, you guys are way out of touch with what’s going on. It’s probably because your brand doesn’t really evoke the right values, emotions, and things that should be attracting and resonating with customers.
Derek Sometimes this happens because somebody says something wrong, or does something offensive, but sometimes that negative public perception simply happens because you haven’t done a good enough job of articulating who you are, what you do, who you stand for, and telling that story. And people are making it up themselves and that can go sideways.
Tucker Which kind of leads us to our next one, which is competitive vulnerability. When you feel competitive pressures, that can be a problem. But when you have a lot of competitors in a marketplace, your brand becomes your best friend because that sets you apart. It makes sure that your customers understand what you are about versus everybody else. It really helps you become less vulnerable to competitors in your marketplace.
Derek This jumps into the next one, the second to the last one, which is the pricing conversation. If you’re in that competitive situation and you are more expensive or you find out that you were chosen for the RFP over a competitor and your price was actually higher, that’s not a red flag. Then you’re doing it really successfully.
Tucker I think we had another conversation. This is going to be all the time now, but we’ve had a conversation about premium pricing and how you can leverage pricing when your brand is at a premium level. Everyone wants to charge a premium price, but only some can and have the right to do it. How can you have that right to win from a premium price standpoint? The last one is limited word-of-mouth marketing. So you might have a great product, but people just don’t really resonate deeply with it. A strong brand typically encourages people to identify with your brand. So when we talk about identity, way back at the top of this episode, we talked about how it’s all about perception. But think about what identity means to somebody. When I identify with something, I put that as a part of myself. So I am willing to tell people that I wear this product or I use this product, and that’s a reflection on me as a person. So when people are willing to use your product to identify themselves or are willing to identify with your product, then we’re finding that they’re willing to tell people about it. They’re really proud when other people get to use it because then they feel like they’re setting that trend. They want people to be like, Wow, that’s really cool. I wish I did that. The whole goal of word-of-mouth marketing is to let it grow on its own.
Derek Our colleague April would refer to these as enthusiast brands. When they’re brands that connect with people and create what we would call brand advocates and brand loyalists, and they start doing the marketing for you, then you know you’ve done it right. And if you aren’t getting referrals in any way, shape, or form, then that’s probably because people don’t know what you do in a meaningful and authentic way.
Tucker So to address all the ten issues that we just went through, people should be thinking about the way that they’re investing in their marketing and they should think about the way that they’re investing in their brand development. When we talk about refining a brand, refining its strategy, and saying, Are we doing that right now? It’s as simple as saying we need a strategy for how our brand is going to be perceived and how we want to be thought of within this marketplace. When you ask if you are currently doing that today, it could become very clear to say we do have the assets, we do not have the assets, or we are not doing the things we need to do.
Derek We do this for ourselves all the time. We step back and say we need to market to this audience, we need to go talk to them. These are some people who should know about us and that we have the right to win with. Then our next question is, do we have the right story already written and crafted based on the work that we’ve done to determine what we do and what we stand for? Do we have that in place so that we can go tell that story?
Tucker Think about a painter looking at a whatever, and he’s saying, Okay, before I start painting this thing, I need to know if I have all the brushes I need. Do I have all the paints?
Derek I love the toolbox.
Tucker So there’s just a lot of things in there when you look at going after an initiative. You don’t build them on the fly. You’re supposed to build them with meaning and intention and then use them to build out that greater perception within the marketplace.
Derek To be consistent, to then be effective.
Derek Perfect. I hope that clears it up. Branding versus marketing.
Tucker I think that I’m pretty proud of us staying within time. That’s the big time for us. And we don’t always do it, but it’s good.
Derek But if there’s something else you’d like us to talk about, except loyalty marketing, I’m not ready to have that conversation yet, let us know.
Tucker We’re not the people to talk about that.
Derek Sussner is a branding firm specializing in helping companies make a meaningful mark, guiding marketing leaders working to make their brand communicate better, stand out, and engage audiences to grow their business. For more, visit Sussner.com
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