Branding has become a buzz word, and like most buzz words it has lost it's meaning. It has been used with so many different associations that most people don't really know what they are talking about when they are talking about branding. This becomes abundantly clear every time someone asks me what we do at 6foot4. I usually try to give a short answer as most people are asking only to be polite, but when I use the word branding the conversation quickly shifts to marketing, search engine optimization and social networking. Each of those topics are important and we do touch on each in various capacities when working with clients but they are not Branding.
Know Who You Are
The most basic explanation of branding and marketing is that branding is a internal process and marketing is predominately external. By internal I mean that your brand is more or less shaped by the culture or the personality of your organization. For sake of explanation think of a single person as having a brand. Let's use me for an example. The brand of Clayton Borah is the collective perception of ever person that has every had any exposure to me. Anyone I've met, anyone that's read a blog I've written, anyone that has heard a story about me from someone else, etc. Those interactions or touch points could be considered marketing but who I am as a person determines what those interactions look like.
If I didn't know what kind of person I was and changed personalities all the time then the interactions people had with me would be incredibly inconsistent and confusing for them. Because I do know who I am, and am trying to understand the person I'm trying to be those interactions are done purposefully and consistently. This is an attempt at letting others know who I am. This process of discovering who I am and deciding to embrace those attributes is the basic principles of branding. Individuals grow and change throughout our lives and make conscious efforts to change who we are if people don't like us, but at some point we should get tired of trying to please everyone and we embrace who we are and others are drawn to us because we exude more confidence and consistency in our personality. No one should desire to live in a constant state of drama. Though as I'm sure we've all seen on Jerry Springer some people do, but they are viewed as a novelty or entertainment. They are not viewed as dependable or valuable members of society.
This is the same for organizations and businesses. The branding process begins with discovering who you are as an organization. It can be a challenge to come to a consensus if there are many controlling voices in the organization but it must be done. Knowing who you are and making a commitment to acting/communicating in accordance with who you are is organizational branding.
This is where a branding firm can be helpful. They can help you through the discovery process and the process of understanding the implications of your newly defined or clarified identity. As you can see this is an internal process. Some external research may be conducted but this is only for the purpose of better understanding how the organization is perceived. Think of it like a good friend that tells you when you've made a mistake or points out an area where you can improve. We can use this information to see if who we are is getting across to those that interact with us.
Share Who You Are
Marketing on the other hand is mostly external. Marketing is the process of sharing your organizations personality with an audience. This includes things like the price of products, the location of any stores, your written materials, your website, your customer service, and much more. Fundamentally it is anything that communicates attributes of who you are but how this is done often changes based on research and data performed by the marketing agency.
This is where the relationship between branding and marketing begins to get more confusing. Your identity directly impacts your marketing and is often hard to distinguish between the two, and is why many branding firms do some marketing and design. For example, your logo is the mark that represents your identity or personality. It should be designed to communicate the attributes you've defined as part your organizations culture and not include attributes you don't want to communicate. Without the designer fully knowing who you are, your logo will be less effective. It makes sense that a firm that helps you discover and define who you are would also want to help you communicate that identity though some initial marketing materials, but they may not have the capacity to meet all your marketing needs going into the future.
Marketing plans are shaped using research and data with a plan to communicate over time, various media, and geographic areas. Any marketing firm should first endeavor to fully understand your identity so their marketing efforts work towards the brand that inevitably results from who you are. This is why 6foot4 often takes on more of a marketing role with our clients after the branding process has been completed. When you get to know an organization so well, it is hard to trust that someone else will take good care of them. Though marketing is not our core competency and we really thrive on branding.
Clear as Mud
I hope the differences between branding and marketing are a little more clear for you now, and I hope you'll join with us in helping others understand. If more people understand the differences we all can be better equipped at discussing the concepts and putting them into practice. Branding and Marketing work hand in hand but they are fundamentally different.
Can you think of a instance in your organization where having worked through your branding could have made a marketing effort more successful?