Branding First or Marketing First? And 5 Ways to Fix It.

Have you ever heard someone interchangeably flip between the words “branding” and “marketing” in the same breath? Or what about those who say, “it’s a brand”, when talking about their business, when you suspect they really mean their logo or website?

As an entrepreneur or business owner or a startup, it is difficult to know the difference between “marketing” and “branding” SO it would be even harder to know which one goes first, or which one drives the other.

In today’s market, it is essential to clearly define who you are…

… beyond your logo, website, and products. The clearer you are about what you stand for and how to emotionally connect with customers, the more loyal your customers will be. This is an important piece: branding.

It’s also important to know how to deliver your message over channels, advertising, podcasts, video, and social media. Welcome to marketing.

Branding (and a brand strategy) is at the core of your marketing strategy, so branding should come first. Even if you are a start up, it is essential to define who you are as a brand - before you begin to devise your specific marketing methods, tools, strategies, and tactics.

But what if you’re years into running a business and have never done a brand strategy? Or you might be saying, “Tom, I’ve been making sales without branding, why do I need one now?”

Two words: increasingly competitive.

The world is becoming highly competitive, customers are demanding more from us than simply buying products, and product differences are easily duplicated. So those sales you’re making today will slowly deteriorate if you don’t do something strategic.

There is one thing that makes you different… sets you apart from all the rest… and no one can take that away from you.

Who You Are. (Or what your business stands for.)

You can post a million tweets; record hundreds of YouTube videos; network like a rockstar; use all the marketing tools, strategies, and tactics but if you don’t FIRST know what your message is, then you’ve put the cart before the horse.

And spent a ton of money on a rudderless boat.

But it’s not too late to install that rudder and get to where you’re going faster. You can go through the process of uncovering your brand and align your marketing towards a common strategy. Make marketing an asset and be effective with your marketing spend.

Here’s a few steps to get that rudder installed:

  1. Put a hold on any large marketing spend you have planned (eg. websites, advertising, printing). Stop the bleeding.​
  2. Write down your core principles and values. Spend time thinking about why you have the beliefs you do.
  3. Write down how you make emotional connections with existing customers. (eg. through experiences, in-person conversations, moments of delight)
  4. Write down what makes you different from your competition. Be specific and fact based.
  5. Determine your key message or what you stand for in a concise way. Aim for one or two sentences.

Now, go back to your marketing and ask yourself if your answers from questions 2 to 5 are clearly integrated in every tweet, post, ad, brochure, and website page. It’s time to get who you are out into the world. Your customers will appreciate you for it.