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In a recent conversation with a very senior person at a financial institution my colleague was told, “I think private wealth managers will have a hard time seeing the value of branding—they see marketing as a cost center, not a driver of sales.”
How did we go from branding to marketing in one sentence like that?
What is marketing? What is branding? How do they differ?
There is a spectrum of opinions here, but in my view, marketing is actively promoting a product or service. It’s a push tactic. It’s pushing out a message to get sales results: “Buy our product because it’s better than theirs.” (Or because it’s cool, or because this celebrity likes it, or because you have this problem and this thing will fix it, etc.) This is oversimplification, but that’s it in a nutshell.
This is not branding.
Branding should both precede and underlie any marketing effort. Branding is not push, but pull. Branding is the expression of the essential truth or value of an organization, product, or service. It is communication of characteristics, values, and attributes that clarify what this particular brand is and is not.
A brand will help encourage someone to buy a product, and it directly supports whatever sales or marketing activities are in play, but the brand does not explicitly say “buy me.” Instead, it says “This is what I am. This is why I exist. If you agree, if you like me, you can buy me, support me, and recommend me to your friends.”
Marketing may contribute to a brand, but the brand is bigger than any particular marketing effort. The brand is what remains after the marketing has swept through the room. It’s what sticks in your mind associated with a product, service, or organization—whether or not, at that particular moment, you bought or did not buy.
The brand is ultimately what determines if you will become a loyal customer or not. The marketing may convince you to buy a particular Toyota, and maybe it’s the first foreign car you ever owned, but it is the brand that will determine if you will only buy Toyotas for the rest of your life.
The brand is built from many things. Very important among these things is the lived experience of the brand. Did that car deliver on its brand promise of reliability? Did the maker continue to uphold the quality standards that made them what they are? Did the sales guy or the service center mechanic know what they were talking about?
This works the same way for all types of businesses and organizations. All organizations must sell (including nonprofits). How they sell may differ, and everyone in an organization is, with their every action, either constructing or deconstructing the brand. Every thought, every action, every policy, every ad, every marketing promotion has the effect of either inspiring or deterring brand loyalty in whomever is exposed to it. All of this affects sales.
Back to our financial expert. Is marketing a cost center? Poorly researched and executed marketing activities can certainly be a cost center, but well-researched and well-executed marketing is an investment that pays for itself in sales and brand reinforcement.
Is branding a cost center? On the surface, yes, but the return is loyalty. The return is salespeople whose jobs are easier and more effective, employees who stay longer and work harder, customers who become ambassadors and advocates for the organization.
It is the essential foundation for a successful operation. So yes, it’s a cost center, like good employees, financial experts, and business or organizational innovators are. They are cost centers, but what is REALLY costly is not to have them, or to have substandard ones.
Product Marketing and Brand Marketing are two faces of the same coin. And when it comes to marketing, I find this statement indisputable. The distinction between the two is considerably straightforward – products are objects that can be sold for money, while brands are the embodied persona of the companies that sell them. Despite working towards the common goal, i.e., to build an image of an organization in the market, you will often see both the departments in a company knocking horns with each other with regards to what deserves the highlight or I should rather say, the bigger chunk of the budget.
If you’re one of those people who remain confused about what is the difference between the two of them and how each one of them contributes towards the business, I’ve got you covered. Mentioned below are the details of Product Marketing, Brand Marketing and how they are different from each other. Have a look.
Product marketing is all about deciding the product positioning and messaging, launching the product and making sure that the salesperson/customer understands what the product offers. Moreover, it involves understanding the specific audience of the product on a deeper level and consequently developing a messaging that appeals to the audience. In a nutshell, product marketing focuses on every step that people take to deciding whether or not they’ll purchase a product. Without it, your product will not achieve the maximum potential with your target audience.
When it comes to the best product marketing strategy, the advertisement that grabbed a lot of attention is the VW Bus by Volkswagen, which is known for its hippie vibe and the Sound of Silence playing in the background (conveying that the electric cars are silent).
We’re often approached by companies who aren’t quite sure whether they should be running brand or product marketing. Often, our answer is: both! Brand marketing and product or service marketing perform very different roles in a company’s overall brand strategy, but when done well, they work together seamlessly to create a brand experience customers can trust.
Let’s start with a basic analogy we use when helping a company create or improve its brand: a brand is like a person. It has a personality. It has strengths and weaknesses. It has goals. It has a voice. Now, this person also makes things. But you can see right away that it’s one thing to talk about the person herself, and another entirely to talk about what she makes.
You can also see that a brand is evaluated based on criteria that, while overlapping, are largely separate. You’ll evaluate a person first and foremost based on what it’s like to spend time with them. Is she fun? Is she funny? Trustworthy? Down-to-earth? Whereas you’ll judge something they make based mostly on whether it meets your needs.
Because the criteria we use to evaluate brands versus products are so different, the way we market them needs to be different too. When we’re marketing a product, solution, or service, the campaign will need to be based on how that product, solution, or service performs. There are as many ways to accomplish this as there are products to market—it can be comparative, it can be demonstrative, it can metaphorical or concrete. But it has to talk about what the product does, and how well.
Brand campaigns need to do another thing entirely. They need to put you in a certain mood. What mood that is depends on what the brand personality is. Harley-Davidson wants you to feel something much different than Volvo does. The success of a brand campaign will be whether or not consumers begin to associate certain feelings with the brand. The success of a product campaign will be a measure of whether or not it nudges consumers along in their buyer’s journey.
Now let’s talk about the overlap. While it’s true that the first objective of a brand campaign is emotional, while that of a product campaign is practical, good brand strategy takes both of these into account. You can imagine someone who loves your company and sings your praises online. That’s great. But what if they don’t buy your products? Not as great. You can also imagine someone who buys your products but never engages with your brand in any other way.
When both campaigns are in concert, however, you’re demonstrating value and creating an emotional relationship with the buyer. And that means you’ll not only drive sales today but you’ll also secure future sales by driving loyalty and engagement.
Never undermine the power of familiarity. While shopping, if your customer recognizes your brand by its packages/colours/images of a brand that they recognize, they’re more likely to grab that product than the sea of others that are surrounding it. Why? Because it’s eye-catching and familiar. Brand Marketing is ideal for uniquely positioning yourself in a crowded space, especially if there are too many competitors involved.
When a customer experiences an exceptional service after purchasing product//service, they might end up becoming your brand loyalist and pick your product/service time and again. And by seeing your promotional campaign over media or digital channels, they will reorganize their association with the brand and feel more happy and confident about their purchase decision making.
The organization often faces tough competitions from the existing players as well as new start-ups wherein they are offering a similar product/service in the market, and target audience/market is also similar. However, with the help of brand marketing, you can carve a distinguished identity in the market, which highlights the unique selling propositions and product’s differentiating factors.
When it comes to deciding what works best for your business, there is no specific answer. It all depends on the company. But the older an organization is, with well-defined products or competition, the more likely they are to depend on brand awareness. On the other hand, for start-ups, it is necessary to work on product awareness. However, some companies fall in between these two extremes. Some start-ups come with certain products/services that already have a lot of competition in the market, so they need to work on differentiating themselves from those that already exist. For them, brand marketing is as necessary as product marketing. Also, older companies might have to work on product marketing to define their new product.
By now, you must be aware of the fact that both—Product Marketing and Brand Marketing—should co-exist for a well-rounded marketing strategy. There should be a complete balance of both, wherein the personality of your company and the value you offer users is present no matter what type of campaign you run.
For those of you still wondering how to take their company’s marketing strategy to the next level–I have a suggestion: apply now for the Executive PG Program in Management—a 12-month program—and specialise in brand and product marketing strategies and management. If you wish to know more about it, you can click here to see the complete details of the program. Moreover, if you think that there are some points that I have missed in the blog, do let me know by commenting in the comment box. You can also share your feedback about the comment box. Looking forward to hearing from you!