Branding vs. Marketing: 5 Strategies to Increase Sales and Enhance the Company’s Brand Spirit
Marketing – the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.
Business owners and executives not only despise the dark art of marketing, but often shun the idea at their own peril. Most corporate leaders rather focus on the financials, operations or anything within the business that keeps them away from the marketing team running around the company screaming about the need to “build the brand” – why? – because most people don’t truly understand the branding process.
The reality is that marketing and branding are not the same; they are invariably linked, but very much different. Marketing drives sells through various methods – print, television, radio, outdoor advertising and etc.
Branding however is a focus on creating a unique space in the consumer’s mind. Yes, advertising is the vehicle to carry the message, but the brand message is what establishes a significant and different presence in the marketplace that attracts and retains customers.
Here are some important tips that any small business owner or marketing executive can easily leverage:
Focus on Core Strengths
McDonald’s and many other restaurant companies have recently been in the press as they implement plans to refocus on their core products. For Mickey D’s that’s simply a good hamburger and fries – not oatmeal, wraps, salads and the multitude of items they allowed to clog up their menu over the years.
Naturally they observed a shift in consumer behavior towards more healthier food options, so they responded, but in doing so alienated the customer base.
Now McDonald’s is reevaluating the strategy and finding ways to provide the same popular items in healthier ways – but in reality, someone wanting burgers, fries and coke most likely are not the healthiest eaters. Don’t try to be all things to everyone.
Communicate Directly to Customers
Over the past 10 years, Carl’s Jr., a fast food company based in western and southwestern United States progressively had more boobs than burgers in their national commercials. Famously the former CEO greenlighted a Superbowl commercial that NFL officials subsequently banned from airing.
Recently they published a highly reviewed video advertisement on You Tube that quickly went viral – even gaining some coverage on national news programs. The ad disavowed the sexist and provocative campaigns of the past decade and promised a renewed commitment to simply providing customers with good food just “like they have done since 1956”.
Carl’s Jr. video was an overnight success that revealed the power in speaking directly to customers in a thoughtful way. Be accountable to your customers and they will reward you with more sales.
Acknowledge Mistakes Quickly
I was only six years old when a major crisis hit my home – Coca-Cola introduced “New Coke” – unfortunately my grandmother was never quite the same.
The hyper competition of the 1980’s had a negative impact on Coke’s bottom line and they were losing market share to diet soft drinks and non-cola beverages. After conducting numerous blind taste tests, Coke learned that customers preferred the sweeter taste of Pepsi, so they subsequently launched a new cola to gain sales.
Customer reactions were not simply negative, but in some cases hostile, my grandmother never allowed Coke in the house again. Within three months, Coke reintroduced the original formula as “Coca-Cola Classic” and publicly apologized to frustrated customers – higher sales followed.
Build Customer Loyalty
Some years ago, I pulled up to Chick-fil-A during a monsoon, so naturally the drive-thru was overflowing. I decided to brave the storm and run in to satisfy my desire for some crack nuggets, oops I mean chicken nuggets. To my surprise, the store manager with a fully open umbrella met me in the parking lot, at that moment they converted me from a customer to a raving fan.
Discounts, sales and giveaways don’t build loyal customers; they attract value shoppers. If you want a loyal customer base that will serve as brand ambassadors, then you must discover ways to earn more than their business – you’ll have to earn trust.
Recruit and Retain Dedicated Employees
Companies are not abstract objects floating through the marketplace – they are made up of people with ideas, thoughts and conscience. Owners and executives must inspire employees to invest more than physical time in their jobs, help workers to be open about giving a piece of their spirit to the company. When employees are dedicated, they focus on more than selling, they begin to enhance the overall brand in the customer’s mind through quality service, empathy and value delivery.