The most common marketing failure (in my humble opinion of course) for businesses both big and small is the failure to understand the difference between branding and advertising. While both are a part of marketing and are done with the express purpose of increasing revenues, they do so in different ways, and can make each other less effective. Let’s take a look at branding and advertising, and how keeping advertisement out of your branding can strengthen your marketing strategy.
Branding has everything to do with identity, and it’s a lot more complicated than we typically pretend when we’re writing about the newest marketing fads on the internet; who are you and what kind of business are you? What’s your name, and why should I remember it? How does it make me feel? The answers to these questions should only be tangentially related to your products and services, because your brand is what makes your business a person, and people are more than large, sophisticated vending machines, they need a personality. Let’s take a look at the major contributing factors to your brand identity.
Logo and Name– Your logo is usually the first thing people see, and it works essentially like a visual representation of your name. “Brand Recognition” usually refers to people recognizing your logo or your company name, but brand-building is much larger than that, because most of the focus is on what people will think of when they hear or see your name.
Atmosphere – Think of Starbucks, what does it make you think of? Wood paneled décor, yellow lighting, and the smell of coffee, right? What about McDonalds? Bright colors, play areas, and a relatively harmless looking clown. Think about what you want your customers to think of and consider your décor. How does it make people feel? If you don’t like the view from your windows, get a wall mural that gives them the one you want, customize everything and make your business’ face one that people will come back to.
Community Outreach – What does your business do in its free time? Does it lay on the couch and watch TV, or buy fancy yachts and party all night, or volunteer at the homeless shelter? That’s not to say you need to literally go volunteering, but it means you should think about the image your company projects outside the professional realm. Do you donate to any causes? Do you sell fair trade goods or use particularly energy conscious equipment? Let people know what you care about.
Work Environment – You might be surprised to see this up here, but think about companies like Foxconn or Walmart and you’ll find that most of the negative brand associations for these companies are related to their abysmal worker conditions. On the other end of the spectrum DreamWorks, Costco, and Whole Foods are famous for their employee-friendly policies and happy workers.
Advertising is about communicating what you have to offer through sales, coupons, radio and TV ads, and large prints, and it’s approaching potential customers on a completely different level than branding. Your customer’s relationship with your company begins and ends with your brand, but what keep your profitable is, of course, sales. The ideal customer comes to your business to buy specifically because they want to support your brand, not just because they want a product. Advertisement is soliciting a meeting between your customer and your company, and the difference between someone who knows your brand and one who doesn’t is like the difference between asking a stranger on the street to go to coffee with you, and asking a friend.
Branding in Advertising versus Advertising in Branding
The most apt way that I can think to represent this is through a personal relationship. Your brand is you, the customer is your friend, and your product is a cup of coffee. If you call up your friend, and you ask them to come over and hang out with you because you have a cup of coffee you’d like them to purchase, they’d assume you were at best sleazy and desperate for company, or at worst trying to involve them in a pyramid scheme, because you’re clearly placing your product and profit before your relationship. If instead you asked them to come over and have a cup of coffee because you wanted to see them, you’re making your relationship more important than the product, and suddenly coming across as a real person without ulterior motives.
Chris Garrett is marketing writer who blogs about aesthetics in marketing, brand building, and advertising for Mega