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branding

What Is Branding? How Is It Related To Marketing?

Dear Reader,

What is branding, anyway? It is regularly tossed around by both amateurs and veterans in the marketing and advertising field as if it was some hot, sexy stuff right out of Hollywood and carried with it a glitter of its own. Branding sounds so glamorous, right?

Well, it’s not. In fact, it’s cold and hard, and extremely precious to the minutest details possible. But it would be hard to deny that there is a touch of humanity to the branding concept. Guess what? That makes defining the B-word almost impossible to people who don’t understand it yet.

However, I aim to achieve the impossible in this letter. So let’s get on with it.

A Few Branding Definitions...

The question is tricky, and I would like to start with Cheryl Burgess’ quote from Blue Focus Marketing: “A brand is a reason to choose.” That’s trite and cute, but no novice will probably be able to understand the concept of Branding from that little quote.

Okay, let’s hear what Mr Leo Burnett has to say: “A brand symbol is anything that leaves a mental picture of the brand’s identity.” Ah! Now we got a far more concrete answer this time.

So, a brand is formed with one or more ‘props’ that instantly help a prospect to recall the personality of a company. The symbols can be anything and everything starting from name, term, design, symbol or anything whatsoever—as per the American Marketing Institute.

Fair enough.

Let’s hear what one of my most favourite marketing authors need to say about it.

A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer. Seth Godin

As we can understand from the definitions above, a brand is not tangible in nature. So, don’t think you have a brand just because you paid that Fiverr designer $25 to design a cool logo for your website. Brand is all about perception.

Al Ries says, “A brand is a singular idea or concept that you own inside the mind of a prospect.” In Ze Frank’s words, it’s the “emotional aftertaste” that comes after an experience (even a second-hand one) with a product, service or company. More like the hot iron mark on a steer’s hindquarters. Just remember, the business, and not the customer, is the steer here.

branding marketing

My Perception of Brand (Pun Intended)

If you were to ask me, an insignificant marketing copywriter, I would say:

Your brand, in essence, is akin to a living being: it has an identity and personality, name, culture, vision, emotion and intelligence. Or let’s say, your brand is what your prospect thinks of when he or she hears your brand name.  Your brand name brings back a complete snapshot of everything he thinks he knows about you—both factual (e.g. It comes in a robin’s-egg-blue box), and emotional (e.g. It’s innovative and professional). Your brand name, which lives in reality, activates the essence of your brand, which lives in imagination.

I agree with the remark made by Jeremy Miller of Sticky Branding that branding is forming an emotional connection with your customer. That relationship resides in your customer’s mind.

Mr Shakespeare said, “What’s in a name?” I say EVERYTHING.

Now comes the far more important question. Marketers, adjust your glasses, grab a cup of coffee and pay attention now.

How Branding Relates To Marketing

To answer this question, I will have to start by quoting a TSL Marketing article:

“Successful branding yields benefits such as increased customer loyalty, an improved image, and a relatable identity.”

That being said, let us go over the objectives of marketing once.

Objective  #1. Engage with target audience

Look, let me put this straight for you.

Nobody does business with a robot.

Even when a consumer is buying a product or service from a business, which is essentially an artificial person, they are still buying from a “person”.

And to prove that a business is human, it needs to act human. It needs to engage with its audience like a human.

By staying engaged with your target audience, you effectively humanise your brand and also set yourself up as an ideal person to buy from or do business with.

And who achieve this purpose?

Of course, the marketing team—because it’s the numero uno objective of marketing.

Objective #2. Prove industry leadership

When some random Mr Smith opens shop in your niche, the only way to stand out of the crowd is to get on top of the ladder.

This is the second biggest challenge of marketing—to become the first name in the customer’s mind in a particular industry.

Your marketing process including content marketing, that is, content, blog articles, offers, client communications, and social media engagement, should all focus on setting yourself and your company aside as industry thought leaders because when it comes time to open the wallet, people want to do business with them.

Once you are an industry leader, not only will your competitors but also prospects will follow you. They will listen to what you have to say. They will buy everything you say. They will follow you like little-lost puppies (well, maybe not so but still somewhat).

But for that to happen...

Your business needs to come to the front bench of the class.

You need to speak up a lot more than you already do.

You need to be present every day, even when it rains heavily.

Be proactive and participate in every event you can.

That’s when you get that much-coveted attention from both your class teacher and that special blue-eyed blonde you like.

Understood?

Objective #3. Building a loyal following

I didn’t use the word “leads” or “traffic”.

Do you think it sounds too harsh to your prospects?

Suppose, you go over to your favourite cafe, and the waiter standing beside you flatly shouts out to the barista, “Hey Mack, another existing customer arrived. Generate as much revenue from him as possible.” Would you visit that cafe again? I guess no.

That is exactly why I hate business terminology.

Forget about building a pile of leads.

Start building a community.

You don’t need customers. You need loyal supporters of the WHY of your business as suggested by Simon Sinek.

And I hate repeating it. It’s again a part of marketing.

Now speaking of supporters—and loyalty—we have finally reached to the most important objective of marketing.

Objective #4. Establish a brand that your target audience “falls in love” with.

If you have read so far, you are in for a treat.

Because I am finally going to answer one of the most baffling marketing questions now.

Is branding actually marketing? Yes, a resounding yes.

You see, marketing aims towards determining and laying the foundation of your business brand.

But actually, the whole process of marketing is in essence brand building.

Yes, that’s right.

It’s not just the one of the objectives of marketing. It is the ONLY objective of marketing.

Whether you market a product or a whole company, you are essentially moving towards entrenching the brand of the business.

Let me tell you from my own experience and from what most marketing folks will tell you, the very first step is to define the end goal, that is, the brand to be established.

Who are we as a company?

What keywords do people search to find our products/service?

Who are our buyer personas?

What makes us different?

How do we convey our expertise through content and graphics?

What value are we providing?

What makes customers buy from us? What makes them return?

Then, all forms of marketing get executed to make the brand a ‘reality’ in the mind of the customers.

A complete paradox this article has been, hasn’t it? Reality-imagination, beginning-end, branding-marketing...whew!

Your takeaway of the letter:

The brand is the perception someone holds in their head about you, a product, a service, an organisation, a cause, or an idea.  Brand building is the deliberate and skilful application of effort to create the desired perception in someone else’s mind. That’s the first and last goal of marketing.

How marketing does that?

Moving the prospect through various stages to converting them into customers, and finally, into brand evangelists. It starts with Branding, and it ends with Branding. This one sentence pretty much sums it all up.

That’s the reason why David Packard of Hewlett-Packard fame once ironically observed that “marketing is too important to be left to the marketing people.” Because a brand is almost...forever. Many a company became giants and many withered away—all because of one word: branding.

By the way, if you are still confused about what branding is, just go by what David Meerman Scott says:

“Branding is what lazy and ineffective marketing people do to occupy their time and look busy.”

Can’t argue with that.

As ever,
Ron C
Founder, CopyeWriting

P. S. Take the How Strong Is Your Brand Personality? Test here and see where you stand in the Branding game.

Does The Secret Sauce Of B2B Content Marketing Still Elude You?

Because there is no secret sauce in content marketing, my dear friend. Look at my straight face here. I am not joking at all.

In fact, I am going to reveal a profound truth that might have been eluding you for a while.

Digital marketers and entrepreneurs: prick up your ears, as I am going to sprout the century’s most enlightening...

Oh wait! Let me start with a verified truth here.

In life, we tend to chase our tails at times ... in an illusion of the presence of some invisible magical power around us. We like to think or let’s say, we WANT to think in luck—which I totally believe in—that nothing is in our hands. But in reality, a lot remains in our hands. Seldom do we realize that the power is within us.

The magic lies within you as a content marketer.

It’s not by chance that a slight 1 percent of internet entrepreneurs have 100K+ Twitter followers while the rest have a mere hundred. It’s amazing how that little, privileged segment of entrepreneurs are being talked about in almost every other blog in that particular niche. The community admires them, “worships” them and eats out of their palms—even if some of them are selling $2000 ecourses. (Quite a BIG sum, right? Is it worth it? That’s another topic.)

b2b content marketing

First, can you tell me what’s separates these ‘special’ people from the pack?

Can you guess?

It’s the Power of their Brand.

Are you wondering, “Huh! Why are we talking of Branding now?”

Have patience. Let me explain. (Taking a long sip from my coffee mug.)

Come to think about it...

What’s driving that solid brand in the first place? I mean, how do you think these entrepreneurs created one for God’s sake?

Yes, you guessed it correctly, my friend.

By the Power of Grayskull! (I am kidding.)

It’s through their Awesome Content Quality.

Go through each of their blog posts, their reports, their infographics or sometimes even their landing pages.

You will see that they give so much value. Whether through the interactive quizzes, colourful graphs and geeky informative charts, they give, give, GIVE!

CMI’s Chief Content Adviser Robert Rose says, “If we’re truly focused on delivering value through content — value that is separate and distinct from our product or service — then the experience becomes ‘enhanced.’ This enhancement is what will be additive to the customer’s perception of what that brand provides.”

So true. I fully agree. Thumbs up.

Awesome Content Marketing Begets Unbeatable Brands. Click To Tweet

Only with the right content marketing strategy can you build a solid, time-tested brand for your B2B business. A Brand that stands out and shines in its own industry niche. But optimizing for such a content marketing campaign with the highest return potential requires ... umm ... ATTENTION.

I agree with 4 aspects of a great content marketing strategy as suggested by Talia Wolf:

The content: Map the content people actually want and need. Why should people read your article vs. someone else’s? What will you be saying that is new and different?

The influencers: Next, map out influencers who would be interested in this article. You can collect quotes from them, mention them, or simply add them to a list of people you’re going to tweet to or reach out to via email when the article is ready. The more personal you get with them, the more likely they are to share the article.

The media: Map out websites and publishers that would be interested in your article. Many publishers feature articles they find interesting or syndicate content. Reach out to them and let them know you’re writing a specific article they may be interested in. Reaching out beforehand will give you an indication if they’d like to see certain information in that article for them to share it or syndicate it.

The promotion: Writing the content is only 20% of the job. The other 80% is promotion. Don’t just rely on sharing it a couple of times on Twitter and LinkedIn. Have a list of all the sites, communities, and platforms you’re going to promote on.

If we tend to these four factors regularly in your content marketing campaign, you can rest assured that you business graphs—whichever you prefer—will go up.

BUT, BUT, BUT...

There’s one another crucial aspect of a perfect content marketing strategy that we are missing here. Perhaps, that’s the reason why your card house is crumbling down again and again. Or maybe, you are not being able to reap the results you want.

Normally, as soon as we start talking about content marketing, the following objectives begin popping up in our mind from nowhere—it’s become so cliché these days, seriously:

Generate traffic and visibility in social networks

Yes, this one is indeed important. I believe, if nobody gets to see my content, it’s no use creating it. Then...

Improve SEO positioning

Ah, how can we ever forget about the search engine robots, right? With all the hype of automation going on around us, we may as well become robots ourselves. But that’s best kept for another letter.

Promotion of a product or service

Your content needs to sell. Everyone says so. That includes me as well. He he. However, we are still not talking about one particular objective of content marketing.

Getting loyal subscribers

Nopes, this is not the one we are talking about. Yes, getting LOADS of subscribers has never made any marketer unhappy. But guess what, this is still not the one.

Add to this...

Building A Solid, Unbreakable Brand

Seen it and already know how powerful it can be. In fact, all of the above can be accomplished if you manage to succeed at this one only.

(Courtesy to the $2000+ courses! No offence to those entrepreneurs. I know a few and I can tell you, they are a bunch of the most hardworking people on this planet. But frankly speaking, not all those courses are worth it. However, they sell like hotcakes. Brand, my friend, that’s called a Brand. And in case you are wondering, oh, I am damn jealous, you know.)

If you listen to Talia’s advice, you will achieve all of these objectives. However...

I believe we are missing ONE IMPORTANT INGREDIENT from the content success matrix.

Let me add this one.

Want to know about the most consequential, earth-shattering secret sauce to your content marketing strategy?

“Hey, you said there’s no secret sauce at the beginning of this article!”

Well, I lied. Straight face. Can’t I?

The secret sauce of your B2B content marketing strategy is ... wait for it ...

Branding First. Content Second. Click To Tweet

You probably didn’t get it, right? I can see it in your blank face.

Let me say it again ... in a simpler way.

You don’t do content marketing first in order to build a brand as a result.

You focus on branding first for a perfect content marketing campaign.

I think, this has been aptly brought out by Jillian Hillard, director of brand marketing, small appliances, at Electrolux, commented:

“For brands, it’s no longer a question of how you can use content to enhance the consumer’s perception of the brand, it’s a necessity. Content is the gateway into a brand’s soul.” 

You build a brand by focusing on BRANDING at all times. You cannot be telling your copywriter, “Hey, get me an article about the latest industry statistics.” And then, you daydream how it will increase the brand score of your business.

You create branded content to create a brand.

Savvy?

Stop reading right now, and give it a long thought.

Doesn’t that really make sense?

Unfortunately, this is where most marketers and entrepreneurs falter. They lack the right content marketing strategy to start with. Needless to say, it doesn’t fetch you the expected results.

3 Main Essentials Of Branded Content Marketing

branded b2b content marketing

Your B2B content must demonstrate your brand values and principles.

Content marketing is not advertising—bold and direct. As a content marketer, you need to bring forth the essence of your brand in a subtler manner.

Your B2B content must achieve the business priorities.

Are you trying to find new customers? Retain existing customers? Cross-sell? All three? Are you a direct-seller with ecommerce sales goals? Whatever your marketing goals are, your B2B content marketing strategy must cater to your business goals ... always.

Your B2B content must serve your customer needs and desires—a challenge for most businesses.

We live in a selfish world, and as humans, businesses too care about their self-interests. You need to go further. Traditional research, customer surveys or lengthy pitches from sales professionals might not cut it anymore.

Understand what moves your customers, their needs, their desires and their fears. Create content not to advertise your business, but to cater to their personal lives. Make it ‘shareworthy’!

It is the secret sauce that’s been lacking in your B2B content marketing strategy.

Give them more than they expect from you.

Give ‘em value, my friend.

As ever,
Ron C
Copy-e-Writing

Branding: What It Is and Why It Is Important

“You do branding? That’s like graphic design, right? Like, logos and websites?” – about 30 people we shall not name.

One common misconception about branding is that it is the same as design. And while design is the visual representative of your brand, it is only an element of your branding. Lately the word “branding” is viewed more like buzzword than a staple part of starting a business.

However, branding is a significant part of your business development. It should be highly prioritized when starting a new company. Your branding will influence how your company does against competitors when it enters the marketplace.

What is branding?

Branding is the practice of creating a name, symbols, or designs that represent who you are, why you are, and how your target audience should perceive you. Its purpose is to differentiate your company from its competitors and clearly display the promises that you make to your customers.

The branding process includes research that helps develop a strategy of how to present your brand to your target audience. This research is then used to create assets that support your brand promise and appeal to your customers.

Doing brand research.

Brand research helps define exactly what you intend the brand to be. It is an essential step that should be done prior to developing any elements to market to your customers. This research ensures that the assets you create attract the most qualified buyer for your products and services.

The two types of research that you should do when building a brand are:

Market Research

Market research is the process of finding information about the competitive market you are entering. You should know who your competitors are, what they offer, how much they are charging, and what unique benefit you can offer to your customers that they cannot. This helps define your company’s value proposition.

Customer Research

Customer research is the process of finding information about people who are currently purchasing products and services similar to yours. When doing product research you should determine what customers are looking for in a product, what they are not receiving from the current provider, and how they will value what you offer.

Developing your branding.

Your company’s branding includes a complex set of assets that collectively establish a relationship with your customers and defines your values. These assets should be deliberate and consistent.

The following assets are part of your branding:

Brand Message

Your brand message is the value that you offer to your customers. This is what makes people relate to your brand and influences them to buy from and follow you.

Brand Tone

Your brand tone is the tone of voice that you want to use when communicating with your customers. It is a representation of your brand’s message. The tone used for your branding will influence how your target audience thinks of and interacts with your brand.

Brand Name

Your brand’s name is the first thing a potential customer hears in reference to your company. It should be strategically developed to clearly define what you do and who you do it for. A customer should not have to guess what your company is about when hearing your name.

Color Palette

Understanding how colour affects emotion allows you to capitalize on the emotional elements of sales. Color is one of the first things that your brain perceives. It will influence the customer’s reaction to your product or service before they learn any detailed information about it. The colours for your brand must be consistent with how you want your customer to feel when they see your brand.

Typography

Typography is the art of arranging type. The fonts you use when branding your company will heavily influence how your message will be perceived. They must be consistent with the tone of your brand.

Logo

A logo is a symbol used to visually represent your products and services. It should incorporate all of your branding elements. Your logo should be a clear, distinct symbol of your brand.

Brand Collateral

Brand collateral is the media, usually printed, that you use to promote your brand. Business cards, flyers, direct mailers, and product labels are all brand collateral. These are used to strengthen your brand’s message and tone and generate customer leads.

Website

Your website is your strongest marketing tool of all. It incorporates all elements of your branding to generate a stronger brand presence in your industry. It is your global voice as it is the most accessible asset you will have worldwide.

Why branding is important?

Branding is important because it makes your brand relatable to your customers. It also creates credibility for your company. Your branding will influence the success your company has in its target market.

It takes 5-7 impressions for your brand to become recognizable to the customer (Action Card). If your branding is inconsistent, even a little, your brand value and message may become lost in your marketing. This will make it harder to produce brand loyalty.

Having strong branding allows the customer to build a connection with you that they can trust. 90% of purchases are made subconsciously (ISPO News). Once you have secured a place in the customers’ mind, it is easier to close a sale.

The colours that you choose for your branding significantly impact your brand recognition. A staple colour increases brand recognition by 80% (University of Loyola).

The strength of your branding plays a huge role when trying to secure funding for your company. 82% of investors see brand strength as an important factor when deciding on an investment (Reuters).

How strong is your branding?

If you did the necessary research prior to starting your brand development, your branding should be generating sales and producing customer loyalty. However, if you are like many entrepreneurs starting, you may have overlooked a step or two. Don’t worry, it’s never too late to rebrand.

Branding is something that has to be monitored actively to ensure that it is effective. Just like the customer, it evolves and you must evolve with it. Well-known companies like Coke-a-Cola and Starbucks have all re-branded at some point or another when their branding no longer reflected their direction or reached their valued customers.

Invest in researching, defining, and developing your brand. Full-service agencies ensure consistency within your development and design processes. They are capable of creating all of the elements seamlessly while being able to monitor the impact that it has on your sales. Because they help create your strategy, they understand your goals and are able to help your brand pivot without losing the company’s core values.

In conclusion, great branding leads to loyalty and sales. Don’t sell yourself short.

To your business success,

Ron C. 
Owner-Manager, Copy-e-Writing

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