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Marketing has been a business buzzword for as long as any of us can remember. Branding, while a little more recent in its birth, has rapidly gained ground on its marketing big brother in popularity. It’s hard not to find these terms thrown around in a blog post or on social media, but assumptions are being made by authors that everyone knows the difference between the two. What do these terms really mean? Do you need both?
Whether you realize it or not, you already have an established brand. Your brand is the manifestation of your beliefs as a leader, shown through your products, experiences and interactions. Your brand is not just part of your business, it is your business. Your brand is how your audience connects with your business, their experience, what they FEEL. More concretely, your brand can manifest itself in your logo, your website, your storefront, your customer service, and all the little things in between.
A brand is not just limited to businesses, every person has a personal brand. You show it by the clothes you wear, the car you drive, how you treat others, the work you do… the personal branding list simply does not end. Whether you are connecting personally or with your business, your audience takes all of this information and compiles a picture of who you are.
The perception your audience builds of you is your brand. The good news is that if you don’t like it, you can change it. You can build a conscious brand and guide your audience so they get to see your intention and the best parts of you and your business. The key to intentional branding is just that, you have to have intention behind your choices and action. Another key ingredient integrity – today’s audience won’t stand behind a fraud. Just ask Tiger Woods who used to be branded as the “golden boy”. When he fell from grace because people found out who he really was, his audience was devastated because his brand did not align with the real person behind it.
Part of building a conscious brand is being a good storyteller. Through the ages, as humans, we flock to a good story, whether it was the Greek orators, the Renaissance bards or today’s gossip on social media – people love a story. So when you are building your brand, you want to think about the story you are telling about yourself and your company.
The flip side of branding is marketing. Marketing, while often and incorrectly substituted for branding, is not only about who you are, but how you get your story out there. Think flyers, Facebook, Brochures, Networking, Pay-Per-Click Campaigns, Billboards, P.R., etc. Branding is the story and marketing is making sure that the story gets out there and connects with an audience.
The key with marketing is to start with your customer, and not with you. Marketing is all about meeting your audience where they are so that you provide REAL value. Well, there are other ways to market; you can bombard and bully your audience, but this strategy won’t help you build relationships or get repeat customers?
Marketing is more than just advertising. It can include advertising, but it does not stop there and is only limited by your imagination. Marketing uses targeted data, analytics and carefully crafted campaigns to know where your audience spends their time and how to most cost-efficiently reach them.
Coming Together –
Now that we have a clear picture of branding and marketing, the question we come back to is: Do you need both? I like to think about branding and marketing like spaghetti and meatballs. You can have them separate, but they are awkward on their own and they really need to be paired up. The truth is, you can have a beautiful, well crafted brand and not market or market to the wrong audience. And you can also market without an intentional brand, but by doing so you are risking your message falling short, creating confusion, and disconnecting from your audience.
Branding and marketing lift each other up so well that you’ll be hard pressed to find a better combination. Too many businesses today want to jump right into their marketing plan without taking the time to understand who they are, who they want to connect with, and the impact they want to make. When you take the time to build a conscious brand of intention, your message and marketing channels become easier to define. You stop wasting time and resources in the wrong places and connect with the right audience for you and your business with thrive.