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Save Money On Marketing By Branding Correctly

How do you build a brand that resonates with audiences? We spoke to dozens of executives, marketers, and brand strategists to figure out what separates a company's brand from its marketing or advertising efforts, along with how to measure successful branding and find "brand-market" fit.



 
“If this business were to be split up, I would be glad to take the brands, trademarks and goodwill and you could have all the bricks and mortar - and I would fare better than you.” – John Stuart, Former Chairman of Quaker Oats (1974)
 
A lot of companies make the mistake of throwing too much money at marketing without thinking enough about their brand. While paid media campaigns or billboard ads might attract attention, they won't retain it or convert as many customers if your brand isn't built with purpose. A company with a consistent, strong perception amongst audiences will always outperform competitors with the same marketing spend. That also means the same company can attain similar results as them while spending less.
 
This insight goes against a rather common misconception that building a brand is synonymous with simply spending more on marketing. Instead, this idea highlights how if you build your brand correctly, you won't have to market as much.
 
Before we submerge ourselves deeper into this concept, let's step back to establish common ground. It's both important to understand what a brand actually embodies, and how it differs from mere marketing material. We'll then dive into important metrics that help identify the strength of brands, and how it translates to savings on marketing costs.

What makes up a great brand?

“Authentic brands don't emerge from marketing cubicles or advertising agencies. They emanate from everything the company does.” – Howard Schultz, Former CEO & Chairman of Starbucks
 
A brand is effectively what a company does, and how it makes you feel. It's the impression you get when a company’s name is said in passing, and how a company acts to further their mission. It's not bought, nor is it a defined marketing strategy. It's indeed made up of and defined by numerous intangibles–– the emotions, attitudes, and viewpoints––that are evoked by a company. Demonstratively, it's the reason an environmentally conscious consumer might buy their winter jacket at Patagonia as opposed to a more fashionable choice at Ralph Lauren.
 
A great brand emulates the values of its core consumers. Former Trader Joe’s President, Doug Rauch, once said: “Our model customer would be an unemployed school teacher.” This notion drives everything the company does, from its packaging to its price. And thus, its brand has become the embodiment of price-sensitive, no-frills shoppers.

What the experts had to say

To further understand what creates a strong, consistent brand, we spoke to dozens of professional marketers, growth managers, and executives. Interestingly, more than half believed that visuals and what they convey were the most important factor for how a company is perceived; in fact, five times more marketers said visuals matter more than the copy (or voice) a company uses.
 
Though, Noah Dentzel, Co-Founder & CEO of Nomad, was quick to point out that visuals are still just one small aspect of branding. He believes a brand is something that permeates through every aspect of a business, from product to the return shipping process.
 
This points to an interesting anecdote that acclaimed writer Seth Godin once put into a concise saying: “If Nike announced that they were opening a hotel, you’d have a pretty good guess about what it would be like. But if Hyatt announced that they were going to start making shoes, you would have no idea whatsoever what those shoes would be like. That’s because Nike owns a brand and Hyatt simply owns real estate.” Nike is not just synonymous with sportswear, but also excellence and the pursuit of greatness. It’s easy to see how those traits translate into things that may not be shoe-related.
 
Brand strategist Kim Wensel, though, says many companies struggle to create a brand that is not just a reflection of their own preferences. She told us too many businesses define their brand based on their own taste, even if they aren't the ideal customer for what they're selling. Ultimately, she believes you should reverse engineer the thought process. Don’t just build the brand you want to see; think about what type of brand your ideal customers would want to see.
 
In the long-run, customers aligned with a brand's personality and mission will continue to be loyal even as competition rises or the economy takes a turn. Solidifying this trust with audiences is what ultimately helps companies increase return sales, minimize churn, and create organic "talk value."

The Brand Identity Prism

The figure below, dubbed the ‘brand identity prism’ by J.N. Kapferer, outlines the makeup of a great brand. It begins with the physical self and the personality—both of which are set by the brand. Through these sources, the brand is able to communicate to and attract who its ‘receivers’ are (its target audience or power user).
 
Rather than state these traits explicitly, the brand communicates its values and ethos through intermediaries as well, such as the relationship it constructs with its recipients and the set of values it carries day in and day out.
 
Here is what the brand identity prism might look like for an established brand such as Ralph Lauren:
 

Branding is not marketing

A common misconception is that a company's marketing strategy is indeed its brand, when in fact it's not.
 
Marketing is an ever-changing strategy focused on getting people engaged. Branding, on the other hand, is what keeps a customer coming back after they’ve seen the billboards and banner ads. You may have multiple marketing campaigns running at the same time, but you should only ever have one central brand. Marketing is persuasion, while branding is telling an entire story.
 
Importantly, marketing might drive sales in the short-term, but it won’t sustain those sales in the long-run. Ad budgets can ebb and flow; a company’s social media page may shift its content production every season. Yet, branding is consistent. It is the part of a company’s marketing strategy that establishes the values and culture that should be communicated through marketing itself. Marketing comes at a financial cost, while branding should not.

Great branding can lower marketing costs

When companies get branding right early on, they can spend less on advertising and marketing because they're able to establish advocates and ambassadors on the ground. They pass down their identity, culture, and values to their products, and then to their customer base. All this then translates into less spending on persuasion and engagement because those who meet the brand and share its purpose are hooked from day one.
 
Furthermore, customers won’t always trust advertisements or marketing strategies, but they will trust a compelling, strong brand. That’s because it takes time and a continued effort to build that perception amongst an audience. While marketing may help drive immediate ROI, faithful branding is focused on the long-run and thus best represents itself by increasing metrics like customer Lifetime Value (LTV).
 
Amongst the dozens of marketers we spoke with, the most frequent and important metric used by companies to help guide their brand development was return visitors, or repeat customers.
 
Content Marketing Specialist Steve Habazin has a few others he’s always thinking about as well: search intent, time spent on the website, and preferences within focus groups. Malte Scholz, Head of Product and Co-Founder at Airfocus, says he too looks at session length, and would add bounce rate and conversion rate to metrics that are helpful on providing direction around branding efforts. Better brands will score higher on these, all else equal. Furthermore, Tyler Butler of 11Eleven suggests brands should even look internally and survey employees on what they believe their brand stands for, and how that might differ from what leadership believes to be true.
 
In these ways, great branding can play a critical role in helping both decrease the cost of continuous marketing and advertisements to a specific target audience, while also working to increase the value of each customer over time through an earned sense of trust. Getting "brand-market" fit right early on can help companies build moats that may not be related to the product or service. In short, when done right, a company's brand can be just as, if not more, valuable than what the company is selling.
 

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