Courtesy of Flickr user Alan Levine

Courtesy of Flickr user Alan Levine

Which comes first — marketing or branding?

Does marketing create the brand, or branding create the market? Both. They are symbiotic. They work with each other, but that doesn’t mean they are the same thing.

Marketing is tactical. Marketing is product or service oriented. It lets your audience know what you have to offer and what the investment is. It is often “push” oriented. It’s purpose is sales. It says, “buy me.”

Branding is strategic. Branding says, “Here’s who I am. Here’s what I stand for. These are my values. This is why I’m here. I’d love your support. If you like me, I hope you tell your friends.” Branding is more “pull.” It’s the long-term relationship. You might have a rough patch or two, but the commitment is there.

Think of an organization you connect with once in a while because it offers you a good value. You like the product or service. You take advantage of the good deals it offers. You stay connected to make sure you don’t miss out on any opportunities. But, if you can find a better deal somewhere else, you’ll take it. That’s marketing.

Now, think about an organization you’ve been involved with for a long time, as a volunteer, a donor, or a customer. You love this organization. You love what it stands for. You love how you feel when you connect with it. You love the product or service. Oh, yes, you’ve been disappointed sometimes, but in the long run, that doesn’t matter unless it really messes up. You tell everyone what a great organization it is.  You’re loyal. This is what a strong brand creates.

The brand is embedded in the authentic identity of the organization. It represents the comprehensive experience you have with it — its character, its values, its actions. When you are connected to a brand, it becomes an extension of who you are in the world.

If your brand could speak, what would it say?
This takes some digging, soul searching and critical thinking. Branding happens in big and small ways, from large organizational announcements to a single phone interaction. What is your brand saying to your audience?

Your brand shows up in its placement, its persona and its promise. As an example, take my brand:

Placement (positioning): Speak From Your Authentic Voice™ This is my trademark. It’s essential you speak from your authentic voice to be powerful and compelling. This is something I believe and value deeply and positions my brand. You must bring your truth out into the world and that’s an inside-out job. Your Authentic Voice™ is also an automatic differentiator because no one else can be you.

Persona (personality): Arms raised and smiling — Ta Da! My brand’s personality is about joy and celebration. You might have to do some work to unearth your message, but there will be joy involved!

Promise: Become an Irresistible Force for Your Cause. By doing the work to speak from your authentic voice and enjoying yourself along the way, you’ll learn how to be an irresistible force for your cause. What will that mean for you? Whatever you determine it needs to mean, based on what you offer and your desired outcome.

Once you’ve honed your brand, it will draw to you those people who will be best served by your organization. It will set the foundation for an authentic long-term relationship that benefits you and your customers, clients, donors and volunteers.

Your brand is your promise. It is who you say you are and how you deliver on your promise. It’s how you treat people. It’s the difference you make in the world. And if, on occasion, you don’t fail to live up to your brand, it’s how you make good because that is also part of your brand.

When you know your brand, your marketing falls into place. All those activities like advertising, public relations, social media, content marketing, community relations, sales . . . once you know what you stand for, these are much easier to create.

So, if your brand could speak, what would it say? I’d be happy to support you. You can reach me at