Business Marketing Tactics & Brand Strategy

Which Comes First–Branding or Marketing?

November 2016

If you’re already doing marketing, do you really need branding? Really, what’s the point? Everyone knows that marketing, or marketing tactics, are the vehicles that get the word out, get exposure for your organization, and ultimately, make the sale. There’s advertising (print, TV, digital) that reaches a large audience. Then direct mail, where you can drill a little deeper into your message. Email obviously is the preferred method of “direct” marketing because of its low cost and ability to track responses—it’s become the wonder tactic. And don’t forget about social media. To say this tactic is explosive and has completely changed the game is an understatement. So if you have all the above in place, in a relatively well organized strategy, and it all visually looks, feels and sounds the same, how much more is there? Short answer: a lot.

Marketing tactics are just that—tactics. They are the methods we use to get in front of our audience to gain their attention and encourage them to take action. Within the tactics themselves is the message, along with a call to action. Then, of course, there’s the collateral: brochures, sales slicks, pamphlets, etc. While represented millions of ways across different organizations, the basic formula is standard. But have you ever thought of what happens before the tactic gets created? Where did that messaging come from? Why is it written in that tone? How were the “differentiators” decided? How were the colors and fonts chosen? This is where branding comes in.

Branding precedes all of your marketing efforts. Marketing is the activity for communicating information and offers, but branding is how you want people to feel about your organization after seeing or reading one of those tactics. Though the imagery and messaging is key in helping elicit a response, those pieces are only the front line. Your branding starts well before the marketing even begins.

Your brand archetype, brand promise and value proposition all inform how your brand will come to life—how it looks, it sounds and how customers and prospects experience it. All that information is taken into account before any marketing campaign, program or tactic is created. Without knowing and understanding the elements that create your brand and help differentiate it in the marketplace, you run the risk of developing messaging and campaigns that are ineffective. Worse yet, if the campaigns don’t accurately represent who you are as an organization externally, it will have a negative impact on the internal team, and ultimately, the entire brand.

Understanding your brand intimately, what drives and what differentiates it, will help you translate it into creating stellar marketing tactics. The tactics though are just the icing on the cake. The brand is your organization’s heart and soul. Make sure you treat it with the care it deserves.

Eileen Weinberg

Eileen Weinberg

Director, Brand & Analyst Strategy
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