When most think of the term ‘Branding’ they often associate it with the function of Marketing or in some cases a traditional branding iron and a cattle ranch. When they think of the term brand, generally an image or a symbol such as a logo, or a tagline come to mind. In fact, none of these associations are truly accurate. This is one of the most confused issues in business today, but knowing the difference can translate to exponential growth in your industry.
Marketing is the act of communicating or disseminating the message you want your audience to perceive as your brand. Marketing is about ‘getting a message to market’ using a plethora of creative vehicles to leverage it locally, nationally and/or worldwide (e.g., electronic or print advertisements, PR, websites, networking, collateral pieces, videos, social media posts, blogs, etc.).
Branding, on the other hand, is the process of first identifying and defining what your value position and promise stands for (the message) and then aligning to it within every facet of the business so that you are walking the talk and enabled to deliver on your promise every day.
In other words think of ‘Branding’ as the conscious act of assigning specific meaning to something. Have you done that for your business as of today? Do your employees fully understand it and know how to exemplify it in their actions and behaviors?
You can think of your brand value position as affirming a specific set of perceptions you’ve identified and commit to deliver on. When your message isn’t clearly defined with consistent, supporting processes in place that reflect and affirm it, then your marketing dollars will squander your valuable budgets in the process. This happens when your brand doesn’t “walk your brand talk,” meaning your marketing is saying one thing (making a perceptual promise) and the experience is other than what is perceived.
The process of building your brand’s DNA starts at the internal level of the business (e.g. how your employees/culture cultivates the message and ultimately serves the client), not in a marketing advertisement. It is a function of identifying your brand’s DNA so that you can then build on those detailed attributes that make you distinctive.
So consider stopping your marketing, at least for now, and start branding. Your challenge: Make a conscious effort to get crystal clear on assigning the meaning you want to convey to your customers and train and empower your staff to deliver it relentlessly.
To show up in a brand-conscious way that builds and sustains your brand, three key characteristics must overlay your Brand’s DNA: Consistency, Distinctiveness, and Engagement.
Brand consistency is showing up the same way every time, walking the talk and being true to your brand promise. Why is ‘consistency’ so important to sustaining your successful brand? What it boils down to is one simple word: Trust.
Starbucks, Harley Davidson, Apple, and Google becoming brand “rituals” was possible because of their relentless focus on the consistency of their brands’ deliverables, visuals, and experiences. Think about how you show up consistently ‘on-brand’ within the many facets of your business…from how you answer the phone, to what customers see, hear, taste, touch, smell and intuit must be congruent with your brand’s promise, day in and day out.
What is the one word you ‘own’ in the mind’s eye of your market that distinguishes your brand from others? This is one of the hardest questions to answer if you haven’t done the work to discover your own Brand DNA. But it can also be one of the most insightful and thought-provoking exercises in building branded perceptions around that one word.
Brand distinction means you stand out uniquely and unequivocally different than your competition both internally and externally while being congruent with your Brand Promise.
FedEx literally owns “overnight” in the shipping industry. What makes FedEx so distinctive in their industry is their “unrelenting commitment” to deliver overnight requests. UPS, DHL, or USPS are harder to categorize.
Engaging brands enlist, equip, and empower prospects through traditional and emerging tools (i.e., email, chat, social media, etc.), which build and sustain community advocacy for the brand.
So, Stop Marketing, (for now) and Start Branding!
Build the perception/brand you want to become ingrained in the minds of your stakeholders (customers/employees/vendors, etc.), and assign meaning to your brand in a conscious, strategic and holistic way.