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Stop Putting Lipstick on a Pig

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It’s pretty crazy how many people don’t understand the difference when we talk about the importance of branding vs. a smart marketing strategy vs. clever advertising. We’ll generally get questions along the lines of “… aren’t those the same thing?”

This seems to be a common misconception; a lot of people use the terms “branding,” “advertising,” and “marketing” interchangeably. We want to make sure everyone who works with us understands the difference. Branding is not advertising, and it’s not marketing, nor is it PR — branding happens BEFORE each of the other ones, which are expressions of the brand, and how people experience it.

Advertising is one way in which a company communicates to the world that, in fact, they do have a product or service to offer. They do so through social media content, print ads, TV spots, events and activations, Instagram influencer partnerships, coupons and offers … the forms are endless these days. But the company’s brand is what ties all of them together into a single, cohesive story and experience.

Ok, now marketing. Think of marketing as the holistic approach to how consumers interact with a product, a person or a service; it is the overall process of generating mass awareness of a brand. Advertising is just one slice of the marketing pie, the others include (but are not limited to) public relations, product pricing and distribution, media planning, sales strategy, customer support and community outreach. More simply, a marketing director owns every single touchpoint a consumer will have with a brand, while advertising tackles one communication objective at a time.

Why does it matter to you?

A strong brand is the foundation for your marketing (and sales) strategy — it’s the toolkit that is given to the marketing director, the ad agency and the PR team, so that every experience or touchpoint they create tells the same story, in the same way. Every print ad and Facebook post, every press article, TV spot and trade show event, it all works in harmony.

The brand is the personality of the company and their products. It’s their promise they make to the world, what people think and feel about the company when they interact with its different touchpoints. Yes, branding is a logo, a color palette, a look and feel, a tone of voice. But it’s also so much more than that. It’s the core set of values a company stands for, the statement it wants to make in the world — it is the company’s identity.

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Branding goes as far as informing the types of employees a company hires, or even how their uniforms look. It defines the tone of voice in your messaging and the types of imagery in your print ads. It will even inform who your audience could or should be, and where you might find them.

Your marketing or advertising campaigns might play on multiple themes, product benefits or seasonal sales topics, but the core of the company should be present throughout. This creates a stronger connection to your customers and lasting trust in who the company is and why someone should continue to spend their money with you vs. your competitors.

At Noise 13, every project — no matter the size or scope — begins with our Discovery and Audit (D&A™) process. Think of it as a (rather intimate) first date: it combines our outsider’s perspective, which we only get to have once, with a deep dive into your brand. By developing an understanding of your brand’s goals, competitive and audience insights, existing assets and perceptions, and more, we uncover invaluable instructions for the growth and development of your brand — just like human DNA. This leads to brand strategy, identity work or any of the visual touchpoints or expression of that brand. Throughout the process, you can count on us to ask the tough questions, speak our minds, and even recommend a new approach if we think it’s right. Because that’s what true partners do.

The Bottom Line?

Remember that branding goes beyond a logo and a business card. Before you can shout from the rooftops what you have to offer, you first have to discover who you are. Until then, your advertising will just be, as they say, “putting lipstick on a pig.”

(Sorry, pigs. You’re actually pretty cute.)

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