Posted by: Chris | September 21, 2007

The Line Between Brand(ing) and Marketing


1. Seth Godin quote: “There’s a difference between brands and branding. Brands exist whether you want them to or not…Branding, on the other hand, is a thing you do.” 1
2. Danielle Blumenthal quote: “There are so many differences between branding and marketing. Branding is about living with consistent values, like swimming your laps; marketing is about taking one good shot at the basketball hoop…Branding is value driven…marketing is amoral.” 2
3. My recent concerns about dying brands

Brands are irresistible. A company can claim it does not have a specific branding strategy (which would be crazy-talk), but it would be wrong. That would be like saying, “I don’t have a specific strategy for defining who I am as a person.” You see, it’s going to happen anyway. And everyone else is going to observe the results.

It’s at the point where the line between Blumenthal’s “branding” and “marketing,” and between Godin’s “brand” and “branding” is so thin that I believe some companies begin to drive nails into their own coffins. I’m not speaking of companies like Enron, who commit suicide on national TV. I’m talking about normal companies.

Both Godin and Blumenthal assert (and rightly so) that there is a proactive, moving, active side of the concept of a brand/branding (Godin’s “branding” and Blumenthal’s “marketing”), and a side that simply comes from consistently existing as a focused, defined entity (Godin’s “brand” and Blumenthal’s “branding”). I like the Blumenthal’s description, “swimming your laps.”

Bringing the previous two paragraphs together, the line between the concepts presented by Godin and Blumenthal consists of the paradox of the “action” of existence. Godin’s “brand”/Blumenthal’s “branding” is a result-a result of consistency, of reputation. Godin’s “branding”/Blumenthal’s “marketing” is action which, in part, produces this result. But that line in the middle contributes to the result too-that line represents choice, decision, opportunity, potential. And it has a powerful effect on a brand. Does a company choose to specifically position itself, or does it ignore this choice? Doesn’t matter. Either way, there is an effect. The effect (“result”) becomes and contributes to the foundation of a company’s brand, its unmoving, consistent, presence, and it happens whether a company wants it to or not.

Interestingly, this “line” sometimes runs contrary to a company’s active “branding/marketing.” A company may implement marketing action. It may move. It may shoot at the hoop or shout, to use Blumenthal’s analogies. However, this move may come independent of brand choice, decision, opportunity, potential-the “line” described above. It’s sometimes a knee-jerk reaction to the competition, a stock price, or a gripe session in which you find yourself on the receiving end. It’s something completely separate from the brand. Sometimes, it’s just action for the sake of action, or perhaps it’s just job security. And it has absolutely no positive effect on your brand whatsoever.

The line between “brand” and “branding,” between “branding” and “marketing” is very thin, and very consequential. Acting on it has results. Failing to act on it has results, even if you invoke the excuse, “I didn’t know.” Not realizing it’s there at all has devastating results. Were I to sum it up in a word, I suppose it would be the verb, “initiative.”

1 Seth Godin. Small Is the New Big. Do You Zoom, Inc. 2006
2 Danielle Blumenthal, PhD. Blumenthal on Branding. “Classic Marketing” vs. “Classic Branding”. Posted 4 August 2007. One of the best posts I’ve read on branding. Take a moment to read it.

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