It may sound like a no brainer that marketing is important, but it’s actually one of our greatest challenges as brand strategists. Which is . . . once we’ve completed a deep and thorough brand strategy with a company, if they don’t have an effective and customized marketing strategy to implement, and the time and resources necessary, then the brand work is all for not.

The Difference Between Branding and Marketing

There is also some measure of confusion as to what branding truly is, as many see it as synonymous with marketing. It’s true that there is some overlap between branding and marketing, but there are more differences than overlap.

So to offer some clarity, there are a few ways of looking at the two that may help to deepen our understanding of the distinction.

  • Branding is everything that comes before marketing, marketing comes after the brand process.
  • Branding is an internal process, marketing is external.
  • Branding defines who you are, marketing conveys who you are.
  • Branding is building a foundation; marketing is building a structure complete with an effectively eye-catching sign.

If you build a structure with a shaky foundation your building will eventually crumble. And if you build an amazing foundation, but don’t know how to build your structure on the foundation you’ve wasted your time and effort. The foundation of a building informs the structure, and it gives it stability and longevity. The same problem would exist if you were to build a strong foundation, and then a cheap and flimsy building.

We have encountered this many times in our brand strategy work—clients with an amazing brand in place, but lacking the resources and/or a customized marketing strategy that is specific for their brand. So, they have an awesome brand, a beautiful website and social media platforms, their teams have a clear understanding of who they are, they have alignment of brand and strategy, but no one knows they exist because their marketing is falling short.

So often the tendency is to cookie cutter the process by writing some grandiose sounding copy and following the latest marketing trends—sometimes this works, more often it doesn’t.

One-Third, Two-Thirds Guideline

The companies that get it right are the ones that understand both sides of the equation and apply significant effort to both branding and marketing. The one-third, two-thirds guideline is our recommended formula to success: one third effort on the brand, two thirds effort on marketing. This guideline ensures that both will eventually reach a point where branding and marketing work together in concert so that their marketing will take off and they achieve the results they’re after.

What Does The Overlap Look Like

One of the first things we do in a brand strategy process is to help people understand what business they are in. This may sound obvious, but it’s not. For example, you may say that Starbucks is in the business of selling coffee, but Starbucks doesn’t see it that way. They see themselves in the business of providing experiences. Lowes doesn’t see themselves in the business of selling hardware. They see themselves in the business of helping people have homes they feel good about.

Understanding what business we are in informs the marketing strategy, and this is part of the overlap. So, while we as a brand strategy company do not necessarily create marketing strategies, our clients come away from the brand strategy process with a fairly clear idea of the direction their marketing needs to go in.

So too, with understanding your audience, which is part of the brand process. As you come to know your audience more deeply, you understand their sensibilities and values. If your audience is cultural creatives in the boomer spectrum, you might be able to rely on targeted advertising. But if your audience is Gen Xers with a focus on fitness, then you know they won’t respond to push marketing so well and you’ll need to rely more heavily on content marketing.

These understandings inform marketing strategy, but do not represent an actual marketing strategy. And the skill set for developing and implementing an effective marketing strategy is not entirely the same as that of creating a compelling and engaging brand strategy. This is the key to why so few companies rock it on both levels.

The genius of Steve Jobs is that he was one of the rare few that had a true talent for both brand and marketing strategy. He knew it was critically important to carry the tone and personality of the Apple brand through to every aspect of the company. And, he was also an excellent showman and knew how to dazzle the media and create buzz.

Formula to Success

The one-third / two-thirds guideline is a simple and powerful way to move a company from ineffective marketing, to marketing that enables companies to achieve their goals and realize their dreams. It’s also a recognition that there are two distinct skillsets and talent pools required for this formula to fire on all cylinders.

Our greatest achievement occurs, not just when we complete an amazing brand strategy for a company, but rather when we complete an amazing brand strategy and they have the resources, skills and talent in place to put the brand strategy to work, as that is when we see a company take off and truly make a difference.

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