Small and medium-sized business (SMB) owners often use branding and marketing interchangeably. But, these are separate concepts despite some overlap. So how does knowing the differences between the two concepts help your marketing campaigns?
Branding is a feeling. It’s what someone experiences and visualizes when using or thinking about a product or service. And marketing is the targeted message a company wants its prospects to know about and act upon. Successful branding and marketing strategies merge to generate revenue and deliver the best ROI.
This piece breaks the branding vs marketing debate down into plain English. Soon, you will know how savvy marketers use each one separately—and together.
The Brand (Noun)
Named brands don’t just happen; they are created. They may have recognizable names, catchy slogans, symbols, familiar designs, or a combination of the above. But a brand is not a single logo, design, product, service, etc. Instead, it’s a combination of all the elements that represent it.
The differences between branding and brands are that one is a noun and the other a verb.
Branding is a process that embraces and shapes all the features and characteristics that make a thing distinct. It promises to deliver on everything it represents, which is something that all successful brands live up to—or they die.
There’s more to say on branding than marketing, as it’s where most of the confusion lies. The following section begins with a clear explanation of successful branding.
Branding and Marketing Success | Luxury Car Brands
Branding is the practice of defining and developing the experiences characterizing your business. BMW is an excellent example of successful branding. The company bases its marketing strategies around a well-respected and long-established brand identity.
When people hear the word BMW, several things come to mind:
- World-class eye-catching luxury cars and motorcycles
- Recognizable black, blue, & white logo
- Highly tailored user experience
- Exceptional craftsmanship
- Ultimate driving experience
- Innovative safety features
- Fast and powerful
- Super reliable
- Status symbol
No single thing in the above list is the BMW brand; it’s a combination of all it represents. And that is the job of branding.
Why Branding Matters to SMB Marketing
Branding matters because the state of the brand affects sales and your bottom line. It is specially important to service businesses that want to escape the price wars.
Unlike product-based companies, it is difficult for consumers to accurately evaluate the difference between multiple companies that provide the same service. Often, price becomes the primary differentiator for the consumer and a lower price gets more customers. This environment can become a self-inflicting loop where similar service providers enter a price war driving down revenue and profits in an effort to maintain or grow marketshare.
Where branding enters the conversation is that it helps you create a differentiator for your service that isn’t its price. Your branding becomes something that people come to know your service and your company for providing. Supporting the brand promise through committed marketing efforts can lead to a company being known for something other than their price point, creating a compelling reason for a consumer to choose your service over the competition, even when it costs more for a similar end product.
A fine case study of this is the Avis “We Try Harder” advertising campaign from the 1960s. Car rentals are a similar service across competitors making price the competing factor. However, the campaign instead highlighted the fact that Avis was behind competitor Hertz in marketshare and inferred that made their customer service better because they couldn’t afford it not to be.
The most common point of failure businesses have with branding is its delivery. To succeed, you must deliver on the promise your brand represents. Often a company builds a brand that is an idealized version of the company they want to be rather than an attainable reality where the right efforts can be put in place to back up the brand promise. Continually failing your brand’s promise is an excellent way to ensure prospective consumers will never trust your business.
Does Your Company Need a Brand Audit?
It’s not unusual for companies to lose their way when it comes to brand identity. At Bold Entity, our team of seasoned experts offers brand audits that check and evaluate your brand’s standing in the marketplace. We look at strengths and weaknesses and provide winning brand strategies that discover what makes you great.
Why Branding is Crucial to SMBs
Small and medium-sized businesses often compete against large corporations for a corner of their industry’s market. Large corporations have several advantages in branding. They have the funds, the research, and recognition to build and shape their brand over the years, decades, even centuries. Consumers recognize the biggest brands on sight and know what to expect with their products and services.
An SMB without strong branding puts consumers on edge. They may even have concerns if your business is legitimate. In order to convert customers and compete with market share against household names, your small business must have strong branding that focuses on your company’s strengths and conveys that concisely to consumers. SMBs looking for a focal point for their branding often begin by discussing the story of how the business was founded, how they are implanted and involved in the community, their friendly and family-like culture, etc.
Larger corporations do not often address these areas in their branding, and doing so can serve as a differentiating factor.
The Components of a Weak Brand
A weak brand is one that can’t effectively communicate its values. As a result, it has a low profile despite the company’s best efforts to raise it. With a weak brand, neither the marketing team nor customers know quite what it stands for.
To Shape a Brand, Start with Research
Unsure where to start in your rebranding? The answer is research, and it can be done following a simple four-step formula with surveys and analysis. Your survey questions should help identify your company’s strengths, value proposition, and standing in the marketplace compared to competitors.
- Start within your company by surveying your employees about what makes your business unique
- Likewise, survey your customers. Pay special attention to your best clients, the ones you would like to attract more of
- Get in touch with prospects that represent your ideal customer and what they are looking for in a product/service provider
- Organize your insights and compare them to your competitors with a SWOT analysis
If the process of creating and running your own research sounds daunting, consider partnering with a professional SMB branding and marketing agency. Bold Entity has a long history of helping SMBs discover who their brand is and how to best communicate that brand to your ideal customer.
|More Businesses Are Prioritizing Branding
The importance of effective branding is catching on. A recent business-to-business (B2B) report found that 89% of companies now say brand awareness is their top priority .
Branding and Marketing–Which Comes First?
A new company needs to establish its brand strategy before it even starts advertising products or services. That means the messaging and look must be exactly right, and, most important of all, ready to do business. These same rules apply to established companies working on revamping their brand identity.
The 4 Building Blocks to Brand Identity
Establishing a successful brand is not always easy, but it is vital. However, the four-step foundation is straightforward and a great place to start.
#1 Discover your brand: Use this step to ask questions about your company’s core values and what you want your brand to stand for. It’s an excellent opportunity to conduct a competitor review for ideas and how you are different. Consider what makes you unique from your competitors and the express needs of your target audience. Especially target audience needs that are currently being underserved.
#2 Define your brand: Explore your positioning statement to help define the product or service and target audience. Outline key message points, and consider the brand’s architecture and root strategies.
#3 Design your brand: Every brand has a visual appeal as part of the branding strategy. Use the first two steps to design the first draft. The design must represent your unique identity. Be mindful of this as you consider logos, fonts, words, colors, textures, etc., each choice should be thoughtful and reinforce the essence of your brand.
#4 Deliver your brand: This is where the job of marketing starts. Think about what works best to reach and communicate your brand to the target audience. Common deliverables include digital marketing, e.g., videos, websites, social media, and email marketing campaigns. Others are hard copy sales materials, such as brochures, business cards, and so on.
Does Your Existing Branding Need Work?
There’s no such thing as building brand identity and leaving it at that. All companies evolve over time as trends, needs, and expectations change and branding must too. Therefore, you need to monitor your brand identity and adjust it as necessary. Most successful companies audit and review their branding every few years to ensure it still meets the needs of the company and its target audience. Continual monitoring ensures your branding retains its distinct characteristics, market confidence, and consistency.
When Branding and Marketing Meet
Each time your company places a new advertisement or sends out a tweet, you are amplifying your brand. In other words, giving your brand a vehicle to be communicated. Other channels are SEO tactics, creating content like videos, blogs, and podcasts; and communicating with customers or clients. All these activities fall under the umbrella of marketing, but they all should be pollinating methods for your brand.
Branding is the assets that make what your company stands for. Marketing is the tactics by which you communicate, or amplify your brand. This is the crossover between branding and marketing.
The Key Differences Between Marketing and Branding
The differences between marketing and branding are that the former promotes a brand to drive sales. Marketing is your front-line approach to expressing the company’s brand. While branding includes visual assets, it doesn’t ask for anyone to buy anything. What it does that marketing doesn’t is nurture relationships that help build brand loyalty.
|Brand Loyalty & Millennials
According to The Millennial Mind survey, content must be meaningful to win over brand loyalty among Millennials. Of those surveyed, 60% expect consistent experiences when dealing with brands, whether online, in-store, or over the phone .
Branding strategies continually nurture relationships and foster loyalty. So, although branding is a part of marketing and promotions, it’s not used directly to sell. That’s the job of sales. And the stronger your brand, the easier it is to market your products.