Branding versus marketing: Is there a difference?

I want to backtrack a little bit and go through why and how I got started in the marketing space. Before I was in marketing, I was a teacher and an educator in the public school systems, private school systems, and was a soccer coach for 20 plus years in competitive soccer.

Moving into marketing was a bit by mistake but I've always had this creative edge. I was a music major in college. I spent some time playing music and performing. When I started to get back into the business world I realized I had the capability to understand creative concepts.

I, then, found myself in social media and website building. I found that to be an outlet for my creativity and I really didn't know what I was doing until I walked more into the steps of trying to promote ideas and promote content. That's really where I fell in love with content marketing.

Jumping  through to the last 8 to 10 years, I've noticed that the content marketing route has gotten very confusing and very blurry because I think we don't know whether we're actually marketing or branding.

After hearing Gary Vaynerchuk, a very famous business owner and marketer himself, discuss this in-depth, it started to make sense to me. Branding and marketing are very different.

So let's say I purchase a pair of Nike shoes. Most of the time people have a need or urge to buy a pair of shoes. Most will know instinctively what brand they want to wear (especially if you are roughly 12-25yrs of age!)

In this case, if I choose to buy a pair of Nike shoes it is based most on branding. In other words,  the purchase was influenced by the brand. I didn't land on a landing page, I didn't answer an email marketing ad, I didn't click on a Google ad or a YouTube ad. It just came from the fact that I had complete trust and complete respect for the Nike brand.

This is the difference between branding and marketing. It comes into play when we exchange time  and investments in these activities to make a business grow.

Is there an ROI in branding and marketing?

Marketing definitely has its complete variable. We can look at data and look at entry points and the accumulation of a transaction. What I am afraid has happened in the marketing space is that we focused a lot on the transactional pieces as marketers and agencies are very guilty of this.

In terms of a practice, we focus a lot on things like landing page development and funnel stages or how a buyer is going through buying transactions. These are tactics that are really heavy into the sales process and we try to make those transactions predictable because a lot of our assumptions aren't necessarily true data points unless they're tested through data.

So we could romanticise marketing itself and the transaction pieces because we want to be able to prove the ROI and have a replicate of a process that gets influenced by either the content or the messaging in place that we can match to the buyers journey and the buyers triggers.

But I don't necessarily think that provides full value to a business because after the marketing pieces are in place and after I buy my Nike shoes because I got them on sale through a special discount or I happen to find a sale that was too good of a deal to pass up - am I really going to go back and purchase another brand sale of Nike shoes?

What about the next time I need a new Sports branded replica jersey or training apparel? Am I going to think of Nike or am I going to go shopping for the best deal?

Are we then not encouraging a market that focuses on price rather than understanding quality and brand loyalty? Which company grows more - you tell me? Unless you own the market in pricing like Amazon or Walmart.

So I think the big difference that I see is differentiating whether we are defining our creative activities in branding or are we going to be moving to marketing and sales?

This does not mean that we can't put out ads but we have to know where we are advertising and why? Advertising and putting out Facebook ads or Google ads or YouTube ads does not have to tie to a purchase transaction. We can definitely create and enhance the brand through an ad placement.

The big difference is to focus on how we separate our activities and the intent. That is why strategy is extremely important because each one of these activities is an investment in the ad spend of the company.

We are looking to focus the right amount of spend for the right amount of effort. It is very important to tie this to a business metric and a business goal.

If you're not involved in some type of digital marketing activity, the cost of attention that you might be paying could be overpriced

If we don't have a branding activity for a long-term plan your marketshare can begin to decline and other competitors will squeeze you out of your positioning.