Branding vs. Marketing: Which Matters More?
There is a lot of content out there right now comparing branding vs. marketing as though organizations should choose to allocate resources toward one or the other. The reality is that branding is a crucial component of marketing.
Without a compelling and cohesive brand identity, marketing efforts can be unfocused and produce limited results. To put it simply, marketing cannot exist without branding and branding can enhance marketing ROI.
What is Brand Marketing?
Brand marketing is the process of using marketing techniques to grow awareness of a company’s overall identity, rather than highlighting specific services or products. With a brand-first marketing approach, customers learn to identify a brand by its imagery, slogan, colors, or other aspects of identity.
The products or services offered by a company add to the customer’s experience of the brand rather than being the focus point. For example, Starbucks is an internationally recognized brand signified by its iconic green brand mark. The coffee giant sells many different beverages, but doesn’t rely on any of them in particular to drive its brand awareness.
Why Branding is Important
A brand can be as important of an asset to an organization as its flagship product or service. It gives your business a memorable identity to support marketing and advertising, encourages customer engagement, and serves as a rallying point for your employees and loyal customers.
You can probably think of a few organizations that lack strong branding identities (or, maybe not, if their branding is weak). These companies often have very basic graphics or text-only logos, distribute content with disjointed imagery and colors, and rely on their products or services to speak for themselves.
The next time you are driving or walking through the main shopping area of your city, look from shop to shop to see which places have taken care to establish a brand identity and which have not. Consider how you feel inside of a Dunkin’ compared to how you feel inside of your favorite local roaster. These exercises will demonstrate the importance of establishing a strong brand identity.
What is Brand Loyalty?
It is common for people who like a product or service to continue giving business to the same brand in an attempt to repeat their satisfaction. This process, called brand loyalty, encourages customers to continue engaging with the same brand rather than its competitors.
One of the benefits of developing a distinctive brand is it will make it easy for your customers to support the company through repeat visits, social media engagements, and even by wearing branded merchandise.
Brand loyalty can be further encouraged with comprehensive audience research and development. Understanding what your target audience needs, how they prefer to consume information, and how your brand can address both of those aspects for them will lead to increased brand loyalty.
Eventually, brand loyalists can turn into brand advocates, and help spread your brand message proactively without even being asked!
The Branding Process
There are two approaches to branding: creating a new identity from scratch, and refreshing an existing one (rebranding). Creating a new brand identity is meant for organizations just starting out, or those that have been in business for some time, but never prioritized building a brand.
Rebranding is the process of reevaluating, updating, or changing an existing brand mark. Some reasons an organization might consider rebranding include:
- Updating outdated imagery
- Simplifying ornate graphics
- Upgrading a too-simple brand mark
- Reacting to societal changes
- A change in offered services or products
Both creating a new brand identity and rebranding are approached in similar ways and result in a complete brand package.
What’s Included in a Branding Package
Branding packages include logo imagery, appearance examples, typographic combinations, custom graphics, and a color palette.
Logo imagery is broken down into a main logo, a horizontal logo, a brand mark, and a logotype. Each of these pieces can be used separately to form a cohesive brand identity across touchpoints.
In all, a brand identity development package should include the following:
- Design elements
- Style Guide
- Brand voice and vocabulary
- Mission determined by your brand values
- Clearly defined target audience demographics
How to Develop a Brand Identity
Developing a brand takes research and several iterations. The visual brand itself should be developed based on established company values, visual preferences, and industry relevance.
The process of developing a brand identity happens in two main stages:
Branding Stage One: Research
Ideally, all design choices are rooted in research. Sufficient research will ensure that creative choices resonate with the intended audience.
This stage can be broken down into the following steps:
- Competitive research
- Analysis should include a positioning matrix, direct competitor analysis, and industry-specific research.
- Internal evaluation
- Take an in-depth look at internal organizational values, missions, current branding opportunities, strengths, and weaknesses.
- Audience development
- Your brand identity should be both the brand you hope to present and an icon that resonates with your target audience. Developing ideal customer profiles (ICPs) will help generate ideas and creative assets that work synergistically to create leads.
Branding Stage Two: Execution
The second stage of developing a brand identity involves crafting a comprehensive branding strategy and bringing your brand to life. This stage focuses on translating the insights gained from research into tangible branding elements and marketing initiatives.
Key elements of stage two include:
- Brand positioning strategy
- Brand positioning determines where your brand stands among competitors – how it is unique, and what the key value propositions and messaging should be.
- Visual identity development
- This is the process of aligning on the visual elements of a brand, including the logo, color palette, typography, and style guides.
- Brand voice and messaging
- Defining the tone, style, and voice your brand will use in all communication channels. Messaging should be consistent and compelling to reinforce the brand’s values and resonate with the intended audience.
- Brand guidelines
- This is a comprehensive guide that outlines the correct way to implement branding elements. Brand guidelines include rules for logo usage, color codes, and typography combinations and use cases. Brand guidelines should be made available to both internal team members and external partners.
Marketing A New Brand
Whether it’s a new brand or a rebrand, a launch will follow the two branding stages. The official launch of your new brand identity should include a promotional plan that outlines the channels and tactics used to create awareness.
Promotion plans can include events, digital marketing campaigns, social media campaigns, email marketing blasts, and traditional advertising, if appropriate. It’s also essential to weave in thought leadership-based content marketing, to make a strong impact in your industry conversations online.
Promoting a new brand will result in a surge of traffic, so be sure to outline benchmarks for measuring launch impact.
Ongoing Brand Management
Brand management is the marketing and maintenance that is involved in the application of a brand. A digital marketing agency will develop systems for ongoing brand management, including continuous monitoring of the market, updates to ideal customer profiles, and messaging strategies.
Remember, it doesn’t make sense to think of digital awareness generators as branding vs. marketing, but rather you should understand how the two complement on another.
Contact us to learn more about how our branding service can help your company stand out among competitors.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is branding vs. marketing?
Branding is about creating a unique brand identity, while marketing is about promoting and selling products or services. Branding is a part of marketing, but marketing includes a wider range of activities beyond just creating a brand identity.
What types of companies need branding?
All types of businesses benefit from comprehensive brand identity development. Examples of organizations that rely on branding are nonprofit organizations, service-based businesses, startups, and hospitality and tourism destinations.
What is included in a digital marketing agency branding package?
A digital marketing agency should include the following in a branding package: competitive research, internal evaluation, audience development, brand positioning, visual identity development, brand voice and messaging strategies, and brand guidelines. Some digital agencies will offer marketing services to support the launch of a brand and ongoing maintenance of its execution.