As the CEO of a branding agency, I’m often asked about the ROI of branding. “What are the real-world business benefits of investing in my brand?” clients wonder. “How is branding going to positively impact my bottom line?”
I’ve written extensively on this subject, but one of the biggest takeaways is that a strong brand makes your marketing initiatives exponentially more efficient and effective, yielding compounded returns over a longer period of time.
The inclination to put too much stock in short-term marketing activations at the cost of long-term brand-building is a trend that’s put the sustainability of more than a few major brands in jeopardy. More on that later.
But exactly how can a strong brand impact your marketing? To answer this question, it’s best to start at the beginning. The difference between branding and marketing is something not everyone understands. Even fewer could clearly explain the distinction if you put them on the spot.
So, what do we mean when we talk about branding and marketing? Let’s start with some practical definitions.
Branding vs. Marketing: What’s the Difference?
Every industry expert worth his or her salt has taken a stab at defining branding at some point in their career. The fact that no two answers are ever quite the same says something about the discipline itself. Here are a handful of worthy attempts at defining brands and branding that I’ve come across over the years:
“A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or company. A brand is not what you say it is– it’s what they say it is.” – Marty Neumeier
“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.” – Jeff Bezos
“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” – Seth Godin
“Brand is the promise, the big idea, the expectations that reside in each customer’s mind about a product, service or company. Branding is about making an emotional connection.” – Alina Wheeler
“Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business.” – Steve Forbes
At my agency, we define brands as perceptions. Your brand is how your company is perceived by those who experience it. Specifically, they are the perceptions of your employees, your investors, your board, the media, and, perhaps most importantly, your customers. Branding, then, is the act of shaping these perceptions.
As a general rule, definitions of marketing tend not to be as esoteric as those of branding. People are more likely to have a working understanding of marketing simply because it is more practically defined.
“Marketing refers to activities undertaken by a company to promote the buying or selling of a product or service. Marketing includes advertising, selling, and delivering products to consumers or other businesses.” – Investopedia
“Marketing is the process of getting people interested in your company’s product or service.” – HubSpot
“Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, …read more
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