“Branding” and “marketing” are two of those terms that a lot of people tend to use interchangeably – even those who have been in this industry or at the forefront of their own company for many, many years. After all, there may be differences, but they’re slight – regardless of which term you use, you’re still talking about projecting the right impression of the organization you’ve worked so hard to build, towards the right audience, at exactly the right time, right?
Well… not necessarily.
While these two terms are certainly related in many ways, you need both of them for social media marketing services, and your actions in one area will undoubtedly intersect with the other on occasion, they’re still very different concepts and should always be treated as such. Understanding why this is the case and how to leverage both to your advantage, of course, requires you to keep a few key things in mind about both of them
At its core, the term marketing describes a set of activities that communicate the value of your products and services on the target audience you’ve dedicated yourself to serving. If you’re getting ready to launch a great new product in six months, for example, obviously you’d want to kick your marketing efforts into high gear well in advance so that you can get people ready (and excited) when that big day finally arrives.
Branding, on the other hand, is something a bit different. This term refers to all of those materials you create and activities you engage in that underline the promise you’re making to your customers. In addition to telling people what they can expect from your products and services in general, branding is all about outlining exactly how you’re different from your competitors – both in terms of the products you release and how you approach your daily business activities.
Both of these ideas relate back to your larger business needs, they just come at the situation from two (mostly) different angles. Both require you to cut straight to the heart of what makes you you, only one is concerned with your business and one is concerned with your offerings.
To be clear – branding and marketing are always going to be important throughout the lifecycle of your business, just for two (mostly) different sets of reasons.
Your branding efforts are obviously going to be important during those fragile early days of your organization, especially as you try building brand trust. You need to not only let people know that you’ve arrived – you also need to let them know why they should care enough to pay attention.
What do you do, specifically? What is the common theme that unites all of your products and services? How is that different than your competitors? What type of raw value do you want to bring into the lives of your customers as often as possible?
These are the types of questions that your branding efforts should answer, and they should do so as often as possible.
Marketing, on the other hand, has a bit more of a precise focus. If you’re getting ready to launch a new product – as outlined above – you would want your marketing efforts to answer a lot of the questions that people might have before they have a chance to ask them.
What does this product do? How will it make my life better in some way that I don’t have access to right now? Why do I need this product versus a similar one from some other company? These are the types of questions that your marketing materials should answer.
Obviously, there’s going to be a bit of an overlap between these two types of messaging mechanisms – which is why you should create a work plan that allows you to keep them separate in your mind. Whenever you sit down with a tool like Visme (which I founded) to create a new piece of collateral, figure out what it needs to do in terms of your branding or marketing goals. Occasionally, you’ll land on an idea that can live in both of these worlds at the same time. But if it doesn’t, that’s perfectly okay – because these two goals are always equally important at various times.
You could even use something like a flowchart maker to properly communicate both your marketing and your branding goals to your team members while they work. Use the flowchart creator to outline the questions that you’re trying to answer in the moment, then build collateral that addresses those concerns. Not only is this a great way to make sure you create the most consistent messaging possible, but it’ll also go a long way towards keeping everyone on the same page and moving in the same direction at all times.
Obviously, your topic research efforts are going to play a big role in your success to that end, too. The next time you go to a site like Respona to research the types of topics that your audience members are interested in, be sure to note whether this would be a good “branding” idea or a “marketing” idea.
An example of a branding idea might be one that ultimately ties back into the promise that you’ve made to your customers. Apple, for example, has been so successful for so long because their promise was ultimately a simple one – they aim to offer innovative technology that “just works.”
A marketing idea, on the other hand, might be an overview of some type of problem that many people experience which makes your product or service the perfect solution for. That way, you put yourself in an excellent position to essentially accomplish two key goals at the same time. You both let people know that you understand what they’re going through and sympathize with their situation, and that you can help them solve it and meaningfully improve their lives. The fact that your product happens to be the solution is secondary to the goal of showing your target audience members that you both understand them and care about them in equal measure.
So again – despite the fact that “branding” and “marketing” are two totally different terms and should always be treated as such, you really do need both to build the successful organization that you always hoped you’d one day be running. Marketing can’t exist with the rock-solid foundation of branding upon which to build from, and vice versa – even the strongest brand in the world with virtually no competition ultimately won’t help you for very long (for proof of this, look no farther than Kodak or BlackBerry or any of the other “industry titans” that have fallen by the wayside in recent years).
Only by understanding how these two terms are similar and – more importantly – how they’re different will you put yourself in the position to leverage the full power of both of them to your advantage. At that point, these two distinct messaging opportunities will play off of and empower one another. Make absolutely no mistake about it, that is an excellent position for any entrepreneur to be in – regardless of the age of your company or the audience you’re going after.
About the Author
Payman Taei is the founder of Visme, an easy-to-use online tool to create engaging presentations, infographics, and other forms of visual content. He is also the founder of HindSite Interactive, an award-winning Maryland digital agency specializing in website design, user experience and web app development.