The Difference Between Brand and Marketing, and Why It Really F*cking Matters
Lots of new entrepreneurs get these two things mixed up – if you are one of them, don’t feel too bad, because we’ve seen plenty of sophisticated business experts tend to collapse them as well. So here’s your quick and dirty guide to the distinction, and more importantly, why your grasp of the distinction will be a central element to your business’s success or failure.
Here’s the simplest explanation: Brand is the story of your business.
Marketing is all the different ways you share or tell that story: website, social, elevator speech, content, business cards, referrals, etc.
Brand is an idea. Marketing is an activity.
Brand is your reputation. Brand is why people trust you enough to give your their money. Brand is your “know, like, and trust” factor.
Marketing is a conscious effort you make to expand that reputation, to earn the trust that opens wallets, to expand the number of people who know and like you.
Marketing is how you attempt to create your brand, or what you are known for.
Marketing is what you say about you and your business offer.
Brand is what others say and share.
Take this one step further:
Brand is what others say and share about you when you are not in the room.
Marketing is entirely up to you, but brand, by definition, is mostly up to us.
As international brand expert Al Ries puts it so succinctly: “Brand is an offer of help you own in your prospect’s mind.” Marketing is how you put it there.
The Reason Entrepreneurs Tend to Confuse the Two
It’s easy to see why: brand and marketing are intricately linked, a dance between you and other people, between your business and your public, between your conscious creation and what others wind up remembering to say when you’re not there to correct them.
But there’s another reason the two get mixed up that is very much a product of today’s fast-paced sharing culture. And this one distinction you need to get, or it could wind up costing you your investment, your retirement fund, your kids’ college tuition. Money spent on a business that doesn’t succeed is very sad money you don’t want to spend.
Back in the ancient days of 20 years ago (what Winning the Story Wars author Jonas Salk calls the Broadcast Era) your marketing options were largely controlled by others. You had to pay someone something to get a listing somewhere: phone book, flyers, advertisements. And generally, they provided the format or the expertise to produce the desired outcome of message. Now, in the Social era, it’s all you, and it’s all ON you.
The moment you discover a basic idea for your business, you’ll be bombarded with pressure to “share your story,” “get your voice out there,” or “build a community.” You’ll be told to “just put it out there,” “perfection is the enemy of progress,” and “go for the imperfect action!”
I’m not saying that you can’t try things out, or brainstorm with your friends, or that you should wait till everything is perfectly conceived and articulated before you open your mouth. But I am saying: before you get busy marketing, make sure that you’ve done the thinking to create a highly specialized brand with a real UVP (Unique Value Proposition).
Why This Distinction is Vital If Your Business Success Matters to You
Remember our Al Ries quote from above? If “brand is an offer of help you own in your prospect’s mind,” a Supertight Brand (highly niched, focused, and compelling A.F.) is a remarkable offer of help you own in a specific kind of person’s mind.
Marketing – the strategy, the implementation, the creativity, the choice of platforms, the consistency – marketing is hard enough. Effective, irresistible, targeted marketing is even harder.
Now imagine making all these choices when you’re not exactly sure who your offer is for -the ideal client or customer who’s a perfect fit for your remarkable solution. Imagine figuring out marketing when you don’t even know how your remarkable solution compares to others that are similar: in other words, does your solution actually occur as “remarkable?” How will you demonstrate this? Imagine trying to market a remarkable solution to a problem when your solution treats so many problems that you have to find a way to market to ALL of them at once?
There’s nothing wrong with you or with the central concept for your businesses if you haven’t figured all this out yet. But it does mean that you’re still in the design phase – which is perfectly fine. However, if you start “sharing” all your ideas (and everything you’re trying to figure out), you are already in danger of diluting your brand, or making a crappy demand of your future prospects. Trust me, most of them are NOT that psyched to help figure out your transaction, and even less psyched to be asked to pay for the privilege.
You’ll be ready to get started marketing once you have a brand with a definable, exciting, clearly articulated UVP: this happens when your ideal client or customer can say “Brand X is the only place where I can get Y.” Meaning, it truly occurs to this kind of person that you are the only or best place for them to go to get some specific kind of help.
In reality, you may NOT be the only or best place, but as far as he or she is concerned, the “Know/Like/Trust” factor is so high, you’ve won loyalty in this arena. First, create a special world for a certain kind of person to belong, then (and only then!) you can begin to share that world with others.