“Brand” is one of those words that is either overly misused or completely misunderstood. In either case, it’s not going to do you any favors until you know what it is, why you need it, and how to use it.
So, what the bleep is a brand, and how do I get one that will make me successful?
A small business owner recently contacted me saying they were looking for “marketing”, which is a common occurrence. So I told them what I always tell people who ask that question: “We don’t offer marketing services; we build brands for service businesses”. To which they quickly replied, “No no no, that is what we need! We want to invest in marketing to get more clients, but we don’t know what to say, so we need help with our brand and message!”
So is this a conversation about branding or marketing?
How do small business owners like the one I spoke to know which service they ought to be shopping for and investing in?
I can tell you this is an article about branding, but it is also going to mention marketing, because you can’t discuss one without the other. Let’s get to it!
Branding vs. Marketing: A Long-Winded but Essential Overview
Branding and marketing are such big, elusive concepts that encompass so many overlapping aspects, it’s hard to nail down exactly where one stops and the other begins. Despite all the information via blogs, podcasts, and books about branding and marketing, it feels like most entrepreneurs and freelancers I encounter are still unclear on what exactly a brand is, how it’s different from marketing, and how the two must support each other to increase sales.
The two efforts work together to produce the best results, and neither is fully effective when it is not supported by the other.
Most people focus on the definition of a brand: it’s your mission, why you’re different, what people think about you, what people say about you, and what’s in your collection of all your materials and customer touchpoints. This last piece is the simplest explanation of a brand, but in my opinion, it’s the least useful for your business.
Let’s define “brand” not in a vacuum, but rather in relation to its partner and BFF: marketing.
Think of your brand as the foundation of a house. The sturdier the foundation, the stronger the house you build will be. Put down a weak foundation, and your house will fall over. Put down a strong foundation but no house… and you’re homeless.
Just like marketing and branding, you need both. And the more you go all in on both, the stronger and more enjoyable living in the house will be.
In addition (taking a Marie Kondo-approach to the house analogy), you only want to fill your home with things that add value or bring joy. Otherwise, it becomes cluttered, ineffective, and convoluted to the point where people cannot see your original design or intention.
Why Marketing Can’t Exist Without Branding, and Vice Versa
Most people go straight to marketing. They hire a marketing company, bypassing the branding element because they need sales now, and branding feels like a “nice to have”.
I get the sentiment, but that’s like when people call me and say, “I really just need sales now, so I’m going to build a passive income product and sell it” – as if that’s the “quick” solution. (“Good luck with that!” says everyone who has ever successfully built a passive income product. I digress.)
It’s the same with marketing without a brand. Try to market a business with no clear voice, focus, message, or reason you’re better than everyone else (besides that you care more, yuck!), and you’ll spend a bunch of time and money to get zero results and then think that this whole “marketing thing” doesn’t work.
But the same is true for building a brand without planning to go all in on your marketing.
Marketing can be as simple as calling up everyone you know and telling them about your brand. That’s not the most efficient method of marketing, but when you need sales and you have a list of people that know, like and trust you, that’s the easiest way to get them.
And if you don’t have a list of people like that, then your only job should be to work with people to develop that list as soon as possible.
Branding takes a bit more work and insight into who you’re trying to serve, how you want them to see you, and how you’d like them to relate your business to their needs. It’s not about creating a brand that’s different just for the sake of being different.
It means getting to the heart of what makes you awesome, why people have wanted to hire you in the past, and why they should want to hire you in the future. And then, you’ll take that and turn it into a noticeable, memorable, shareable brand that can carry your marketing from point to point and make all the right connections.
And once you nail your brand message, it can and should direct all your marketing efforts so that your brand will be consistent in every aspect of your business.
Not everyone turns out to have a brand as contrarian as “Worstofall Design” like my company, and that is 100% completely and totally okay and does not mean you can’t have wild success. I teach people how to build a brand that stands out from the crowd in my online Bootcamps. Some outcomes are crazier than others, and you should never build a brand with the express and only goal of being different and sacrifice authenticity and truth in the process!
Being specific and focused is most important. And upon that strong foundation you can take your brand message, repeat it, and double down on it all the time. Find ways for people to see your specific and focused brand message and interact with it over and over again, consistently. It doesn’t have to be crazy, in your face, out of this world different – especially if that’s not you. But it does need to be seen by your people over and over again.
Or else you’ll be living on a concrete slab with no roof.
If you want branding to work for you, don’t just dip a toe in. Commit to it with all you’ve got – eat, sleep, breathe, and live your brand, and that will make other people want a piece. Even if you’re in an industry that you believe does branding a certain way, you are not looking at the huge opportunity right in front of you to create an impact that will continue to build value in your business.
If you want to take a different approach to your business’ brand opportunities so you can have more freedom in your life, the first step is knowing what your goal price is.