Attn: Professionals that have ever used the words Branding or Marketing

Written by Troy Gallo about Industry Insights on 5.5.2021

There’s a common misconception that Branding and Marketing are the same things, especially when the subject of advertising arises. To better exemplify the contrast, Branding and Marketing are as similar as an artisanal bakery is equal to a Wonderbread factory. For decades, companies have been duped by slick-talking advertising execs into camouflaging their Marketing tactics as Branding goals. Calling their new logo and tagline a “re-branding” while their true brand gets internally, and externally, tarnished. And now as we emerge from COVID-19 constraints, companies that have only produced ad campaigns are now trying to produce foundational branding connections. Spoiler alert: they can’t.

But before we get into that, let’s talk through a simple way to explain the difference between Branding and Marketing using the book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

For this example, both approaches have the same goal: Make you buy the book.

Witch making potion in a cauldron

Branding Approach:

Follow this magical tale of boy wizard Harry Potter’s adventures during his second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Journey along with Harry as he encounters ornery trees, flying cars, talking spiders, and deadly warnings written in blood.

  • With the Branding solution, you get a comprehensive overview of why this book is worth buying. You get context and detail with a hint of feeling and emphasis. You get the essence of the story’s foundation as well as the characters that are built from it. You could read this approach and explain the story to anyone without having to even read the book. That’s what Branding wants to accomplish: Help you understand and believe the story.

Marketing Approach:

Something evil has returned to Hogwarts.

  • Now, with the Marketing solution, you get a simple and concise reason why this book is worth buying. You get creativity and brevity with a touch of purpose and intrigue. When you read the Marketing pitch which is based on the book’s branding messages, you can sell the allure of the book without having to mention a character. That’s what Marketing wants to accomplish: Help you covet and seek the story.

Could you sell a book by telling the entire story? Sure. Should you? Absolutely not. That’s where marketing comes in. It reads the book, determines what’s sellable, and then goes to work. For Branding and Marketing to best work together, your marketing tactics must originate from your brand strategies. When that happens, your marketing executions speak directly to a core value and support the unique positioning of the book.

But what happens when Marketing objectives get put in front of Branding values? When selling is your only strategy? What happens when the circumstances are adjusted, and brand change is forced into your boardroom?

That takes us to our current reality of COVID-19. This global pandemic rocked the world, not to mention advertising, to its core and transformed the budgets and projections for every company, and rendered the business world unconscious. Essential vs. non-essential quickly became successful vs. unsuccessful and for brands that were deemed unessential, it was gut-check time.

All of the sudden, businesses were forced to find their brand voice and start telling their customers why they should believe in their company – some in ways that compromised a brand’s foundation. If their brand was intact, this message connected with consumers. But for those that spent their budget promoting their product, and now the pandemic was forcing them to promote their purpose. How can you speak a language you’ve never had to? How can you show compassion when you’ve only cared about capital? Then, you add the anxiety consumers are feeling due to the social unrest in our country. Do you think they want another advertisement about your new upgrade experiences?

Hands holding a light bulb

In our current social climate, companies need to have opinions yet be open to adapt. They need to show their cards and express their stances on issues that they’ve never even thought of before. When an automaker says “We’re here for you” on a billboard (which ran on the busiest freeway in Silicon Valley), they’re making a strong push for brand connection. And for a car company that usually only promotes the latest and greatest, that message doesn’t connect. When companies are forced to find their why, they struggle. Their messages are empty and rudderless because the offerings, the sales, and the discounts have been removed leaving only your brand. If your brand includes elements of empathy, understanding, and commonality, then “We’re here for you” makes sense. But if your brand is built on exploration, efficiency, and value, messages like that feel forced – because they were.

So, what’s this mean for advertising? We believe it to be simple: Branding must lead the way for Marketing. Your customer communications must start from “why,” not “what.” While Marketing is competing in a race to the bottom, lowering their prices to get butts in the seats and heads in the beds, Branding is in a rapid rise to the top, communicating heart and inspiring trust. So, instead of simply selling a service, or an upgrade, sell your brand. Put people before the product and showcase the human truths baked into your brand.

Because to the consumer, your product is replaceable – your brand is not. Your service is duplicative – your brand is not. Your offerings are interchangeable – your brand is not. That means establishing trust with your customers. Not just caring about their business, but about their well-being. Customers are listening to what companies are saying more than ever, so it’s imperative that your story is saying the right thing, and that means producing communications that are both personal and promotional.

At Braintrust, we specialize in creating ideal brand narratives. We excel in locating the voice for both Branding and Marketing purposes. We create the story and then show companies how to sell it. If needed, we’ll develop the materials needed to sell it as well. Whether it’s Branding or Marketing, Braintrust offers solutions to succeed in both.

“Branding is the book. Marketing is the movie. And movies are always better when based on a true story.”