Branding: It’s the Muscle in Marketing

Published by: Srini Chari

“In the end there is no brand until the clients recognize it after it has been marketed.” So said a dear friend as we debated start-up priorities. To him, branding appears to be fluff and of no consequence to a start-up. But even friends as smart as this one can be wrong. In this case, my friend has confused brand image with the branding process.

He’s absolutely right that brand image exists solely in customer minds, the result of repeated experiences with the brand, and marketing is generally key to building brand awareness, if not brand preference.

But there can be no effective marketing until you’ve laid the strategic base for it with branding.

Marketing consists of techniques and tactics that drive sales. Branding is the business strategy that grows out of the art of differentiating your business, your product or service in a compelling way. It’s the strategic process that gives direction to marketing and makes differentiation actionable. Without differentiation you’re just a commodity with no choice but to sell on price.

“Think Different” epitomizes the branding strategy that enabled a computer hardware company to turn its reputation around by differentiating it from dozens of competitors. Establishing a brand image as an innovator and supporting that with one innovative product after the other turned Apple’s business around beginning in 1997. The ad slogan would be no more than clever words without the brand strategy behind it.

Blue Ribbon Sports was just another athletic shoe company until it developed the branding strategy that made it the company we know of as Nike today. Nike was the Greek goddess of victory, and that was the image the company used to differentiate its products – first, by naming its first shoe design Nike, then changing the company name to Nike and, soon after, beginning to sponsor professional athletes. Marketing led to the great “Just Do It” ad slogan in 1988 and the rest is history.

Cadabra, one of the early online bookstores, designed a strategy of diversification, choosing to symbolize its vision with the name of the world’s largest river, Amazon, and then living up to that name to become the country’s largest retailer.

So, think different – just do it – become the biggest, the best or both by differentiating your business with the right brand strategy and then implementing this with effective marketing.

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