Any business owner quickly discovers that making your product stand out from competitors is difficult. Whether it means having the highest-quality product, undercutting prices, or creating an emotional link with customers (the only one that works reliably these days!), companies consistently strive to promote themselves, using a wide range of tactics. These tactics are what we call marketing.
One of the tactics you use in marketing is branding. Branding is the promise you make your customer that you need to live out across all of the touchpoints where a customer might encounter you. It includes your name, logo, and visual identity, but it goes further than that, allowing your customers to trust in what they can expect from your products/services, staff, and anyone and anything else related to your brand. It’s about how you want your brand to be perceived.
Simply put, branding is tactical, and marketing is strategic.
In this module, we’ll take you through marketing, branding, and the basics you need to know to be good at both. By the end of this module, you will be able to:
Marketing is the sum total of specific activities and strategies a business embarks on to encourage people and other businesses to buy, and continue buying, its products and services. Every business can benefit from marketing if they can find the mix of approaches and tactics that suit them, their budget, and their offering to their customers.
Marketing includes understanding your customer so well that your product or service fits them perfectly and sells itself. You need to have a conversation with your potential customers so that you recognize their hopes and dreams. From that, you can get ideas that can be turned into products or services.
This key difference is important to understand: “forming a relationship” happens every time a person connects with your brand, and “building a relationship” takes place through repeated conversations. These repeated conversations build lasting relationships.
The goal of a business is to create a tailored mix of approaches and tactics that suit it, its budget, its offering, and its target customers. Marketing enables customers to buy products by fulfilling the following roles:
Let’s take a look at those.
Marketing lets people know about brands and products. Customers can’t buy something they don’t know about – so the first essential role of marketing is to raise awareness of an offering among the target group that is most likely to buy it.
Marketing tells people when, where, and how to buy products. Once a person knows about a product, they need some basic information before they will buy it. A brand’s marketing strategy should always include information that enables customers to make a purchase easily.
Marketing makes people want a product. Once someone knows a product exists, they need to be convinced that it is worth their time, money, and effort to obtain it. Marketing strives to create an emotional connection between person and product or brand.
The value of a product consists of more than just its price – it also includes the time and effort someone needs to put in to purchase it. If someone needs to drive for ten minutes and stand in line for ten minutes and make an effort to pick up the product after work, then your product costs them money, time, and effort, right? It had better be worth it to them!
Marketing makes people love brands and products. A customer is much more likely to buy a product that makes them feel great from a brand that shares their values and entertains them. Many established brands focus their marketing efforts on building and improving sentiment – just think of how passionate Apple, adidas or Coca-Cola fans are about their favourite brands and what an impact this can have on their success.
The role of marketing is to inform, entice, educate, excite and persuade people to buy services or products. Marketing aims to influence the perceptions of people in favour of the brand and its offering, with the ultimate goal of getting them to make a purchase (and then continue to purchase in future). It does this through two complementary approaches:
1. Factual: This approach appeals to the intellect, relying on clear facts, features, and rational arguments that indicate why a product is a good choice. For example: “This solar heater saves you 60% on your monthly electricity bill.”
2. Emotional: This approach relies on tapping into people’s feelings, aspirations, hopes, fears and dreams to encourage them towards emotive, impulse purchases. For example: “This solar heater could be your contribution to saving the environment and protecting the planet we live on.”
Factual approaches focus on the features of the product – its tangible aspects. Emotional approaches focus on benefits – the intangible benefit to the reader that goes beyond features. A 75-inch TV screen is a feature. Having a TV so big that you feel like you’re in the movie is a benefit. Good marketing draws on both.
Let’s unpack that a little.
One of the most important concepts for marketers to internalise is that people don’t buy products – they buy what the product can do for them, how it makes them feel, or what it says about them. For example, nobody buys a hammer because they want to own a hammer. They are buying the ability to repair a broken appliance, enjoy some hobby DIY, or appear capable. A Tag Heuer wristwatch doesn’t do anything a Casio couldn’t, but it makes them feel like a person who values masculinity, innovation, and precision.
Marketing is about showing your potential customers how your offering can make them awesome, successful, and better than they were.Think about what these quotes tell you:
People don’t just “buy” a product. They “buy” the concept of what that product will do for them, or help them do for themselves. People who are overweight don’t join a franchise diet centre to eat pre-packaged micro-meals. They “buy” the concept of a new, thin, happy and successful self. (Welborn-Nichols)
If a young man tells his date she’s intelligent, looks lovely, and is a great conversationalist, he’s saying the right things to the right person and that’s marketing. If the young man tells his date how handsome, smart and successful he is – that’s advertising. If someone else tells the young woman how handsome, smart and successful her date is – that’s public relations (SH Simmons).
Since the first commercial endeavours, businesses and salespeople have worked hard to make their products stand out from their competitors. Companies use a wide range of tactics to promote themselves. Think of all the time, effort, and expense that go into creating just one marketing campaign. When you consider that the average urban dweller is exposed to thousands of marketing messages a day, you can understand the importance of standing out and effectively communicating with your customer.
This is where marketing strategy comes in.
When creating a marketing strategy, the first step is to determine what needs to be achieved and why. This kicks off the process of idea generation: coming up with the resonant idea or clever concept around which the campaign will be built. Once this is clear, the marketer chooses the right creative approach and channel mix to express the idea or concept. Campaigns require a mix of analytical and creative thinking, underpinned by research and insights about your target market.
A resonant idea is one that will connect emotionally with your audience – an honest, research-based idea that shows that you understand and care about your audience and helps them really care about you in return.
For example, imagine a restaurant that finds a considerable slowdown over the winter months. Its objective is to increase winter revenues by 20%. Having done some research, the restaurant finds that people are more resistant to dining out in winter due to the bad weather, but tend to get bored eating at home every night.
It comes up with a “winter warmer” campaign that pairs winter-appropriate food with interesting talks about art and culture, throwing in a 20% discount on the menu to encourage customers. With the idea in place, the restaurant commissions a series of visual adverts and posters that emphasise the cosy atmosphere in the restaurant, and post these on websites and social platforms where customers are likely to see them.