The substance that makes up your business
As a business, whether you’re just starting out, you’re looking to rebrand or change your business, or you just want to grow and sustain engagement, there are two parts of your business you need to get right: the branding strategy and the marketing strategy.
Unfortunately they are areas that many teams either fail to separate, or completely confuse. The two are closely connected, and arguably, you can’t have one without the other, but recognising their difference is key in allowing you to utilise them effectively.
BRANDING VS MARKETING – THE BASICS
What is a branding strategy?
Branding is the substance that makes up your business. It encompasses your company values, unique selling point, target audience and overall mission statement. Your branding strategy affects your audience’s entire experience with your company, and therefore must be carefully considered at the very inception of the company, product or service.
Ensuring your branding strategy is well-defined means that audiences are clear about what your company is offering, not just in terms of product, but also in terms of value, culture and position. It can also help internal company relationships, by helping to align different departments, identifying opportunities and establishing guidelines for efficient decision-making.
What is a marketing strategy?
So, if we imagine that branding is what your audience is consuming, marketing is the vessel within which you deliver the goods. It deals with how you communicate with your audience, and what you do to get your message out to customers. Marketing, put simply, is the active promotion of your brand. It is goal-driven and requires selecting target audiences, deciding on pricing, distribution, media and public relations, and how campaigns are executed.
Another key difference between branding strategy and marketing strategy is the difference between long and short-term commitment. Branding strategy is a long-term commitment to your audience, and branding should be consistent across all channels and campaigns. Marketing strategy can be more malleable, and might be influenced by time of the year, important news stories or social movements.
HOW TO GET BRANDING RIGHT
Since branding influences the entire way your audience views your product, it is important to get it right.
A good example of a rebrand is LEGO, which when facing decreased sales and what was seen as an outdated brand failing to keep up with the competition for children’s toys, decided to rehaul completely.
LEGO decided to add digital channels to update their brand for the digital age and engage parents and children. With content like movies and LEGO-themed entertainment venues such as the well-known LEGO-land Windsor, the brand extended the fun of the product beyond the toy itself. This real-world engagement of old and potential customers steadily increased sales, bringing it back to the top of the list for Christmas and birthday presents.
An example of branding strategy that just didn’t quite get it right is Twitter’s recent rebrand to X. Following the sale of the giant social media platform to Elon Musk by Jack Dorsey, Musk decided to rebrand the platform from its signature bird logo to an X, with the platform name following suit. ‘Tweets’ are now ‘posts’, with ‘retweets’ becoming ‘reposts’, and with the rebrand, the death of the light-hearted bird theme that users knew and loved for nearly two decades.
The reception to the rebrand has been flat to say the least, with marketing experts branding it as “vague” and Marketing Week saying it was “throwing away brand equity”.
“While the debate rages over distinctiveness and differentiation, no one doubts that a significant – and possibly dominant – aspect of brand equity is derived from a brand’s ability to be recognised by its target market and to come to mind in buying/user situations. When you rebrand you lose all of this and have to rebuild it from scratch. This takes time. This takes money and a host of other resources.
It’s a mistake because the Twitter name and its associated brand were valued at 4.4 billion quid by Brand Finance last year. That made Twitter’s brand worth significantly more than its annual revenues.”
Brand guidelines are essential to ensuring your company mission and your values are reflected in the way your brand is designed. Replicating that over channels can be difficult, but well worth the pay off, when done correctly.
GETTING MARKETING RIGHT
Once you’ve decided on your brand, how you market it is arguably the next most important consideration. One company that has shown a consistently thoughtful marketing strategy has been Nike. Its branding is strong to begin with and themes of inclusivity and activism stand out straight away. On top of this, a simple and recognisable logo, the patented waffle-tread sole and the famous faces we attribute to the brand help to keep Nike relevant to a wide audience.
However, the way Nike has delivered its brand to audiences is what we should really be applauding. The company has embraced controversy and acted as a voice for women in sports and the Black Lives Matter movement. These campaigns divided opinion but ultimately placed Nike in the public eye and increased online sales by 31%, in the case of Colin Kaepernick’s “Stand for Something” campaign.
This strategy works so well as it taps into a younger demographic, who believe that brands should be more vocal in standing for a cause. By attracting a younger demographic, Nike remains relevant in a competitive market.
Using emotive content with a strong message that appeals to us as humans, Nike is able to use key social issues to drive leads to retail, all without linking or pricing a product.
On the other hand, Levi’s, has been running diverse ad campaigns for a long time, yet failed in their recent marketing strategy. After stating they were going to start testing AI-generated models to increase diversity.
The announcement received immediate backlash and was criticised because of removing opportunities from real models from diverse backgrounds. And because they were using AI as a shortcut to diversify the modelling industry while overlooking the humans impacted by it.
Levi’s followed up their statement and clarified that the AI would be used to supplement existing models, rather than replace them. However, by being vague in their original statement and not being prepared for backlash when discussing a sensitive topic, they fell into the trap of negative backlash over what seemed like a positive move.
SO, WHAT NEXT?
Well, it’s easy.
First, get your branding strategy right. Consider what you’re offering to a customer and how you fulfil that. Create a well-defined creative to back this offering and support your mission, your values and your personality.
From there, you have the basis of what you need to create a strong marketing strategy. Take time to understand your audience and what they want and serve them content they’ll be interested in. Always value that, over your return and you’ll be onto a guaranteed winner.
If you think your brand could benefit from having a branding strategy in place and an expert PR team on side, get in touch at email@example.com