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What is the difference between marketing & branding?

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.”

Hold it!

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.”

Branding is strategic.
Marketing is tactical.

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?

Marketing unearths and activates buyers.
Branding makes loyal customers, advocates, even evangelists, out of those who buy.

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 sales people whose jobs are easier and more effective, employees who stay longer and work harder, customers who become ambassadors and advocates for the organization.

Branding is as vital to the success of a business or nonprofit as having financial coherence, having a vision for the future, or having quality employees.

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.

J. Heaton/Creative Director/Tronvig Group/NY

Direct Mail Withstands the Test of Time in Today’s Digital World

Some historical facts:
– Ben Franklin created the first direct mail-order catalog 239 years ago
– Neiman Marcus sold a $1.44M submarine & a $1M diamond necklace from its 2007 direct mail holiday catalog
– Sears Roebuck & Co. sold over 70,000 homes by mail-order from 1908-1940

Today’s facts:
– The average adult in the US receives 40lbs of annual direct mail or 16 pieces per week
– 69% of Americans shop from direct mail catalogs
– Direct mail generates a 31.3% ROI for customer acquisition & 37.5% for customer retention
– 10% more consumers visit a brand’s website in response to direct mail over email
– 48% keep direct mailings for future reference
– 56% believe printed marketing materials are “more trustworthy”
– 2X the number of respondents age 18-34 believe direct mail will never be replaced by
online messaging compared to 20% of those over 55
– Over 30% people read the P.S. 1st
– 20-25% of target customers will return a form
– The average response rate of B2B & B2C consumer mailings: 4.4% direct mail as compared to .12% email
– Citigroup, JPMorganChase, Discover Financial Services – are among the top 5 firms to use direct mail