Clients. They’re why your business exists. Their needs create the demand for your goods and services. Their money exchanged for your goods and services allows you to turn a profit. The continued demand and revenue stream depend on attracting new and cultivating loyal clients. To successfully do that, you need more than advertising, more than marketing…you need branding.
Defining Our Terms
A lot of people, even people in the marketing industry, use the terms “advertising,” “marketing” and “branding” interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing.
In 2007, the American Marketing Association adopted its current definition of marketing: “the activity, set of instructions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”
Advertising, on the other hand, is the actual communication to the target audience about the “offerings that have value.” That communication can take place over a number of channels and methods—billboards, TV and radio commercials, flyers, direct mailings, email blasts, web banners, pay-per-click ads, etc.
Together, the marketing process and the advertising communications help to promote a brand: “what your company stands for and what it is known for […] the promise your company makes to the world.” *
Branding is Priority #1
While it may seem that marketing and advertising develop a brand, it’s really the other way around. A brand must be established first. According to Gail Guge, managing partner of Wilkin Guge Marketing in Ontario, CA, “If you’re spending money to advertise and market without being connected to a brand position, you might as well pile the money up and burn it.”
Why is branding the first order of business? Because it defines everything else:
- Your target audience
- Your marketing strategies
- The appropriate advertising channels
Branding is the act of establishing your company’s personality, defining the way in which you will distinguish your goods and services from those of your competitors. Your brand is the foundation on which all your company’s mission and corporate culture are based.
How to Brand Your Company
Because branding is so important to your company’s success, you want to do it right. Unfortunately, there is no fool-proof formula for branding. It’s a process that requires reflection about your business, forward thinking about where you see your business and what you want to accomplish in the future and creativity to generate the imagery and keywords you want associated with your business. Branding is a process that requires getting the best minds in the room, thinking outside the box, a willingness to take risks and the courage to make a decision so you can get your company “out there.”
* Business Week, June 9, 2008, A Practical Guide to Branding