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Posted: June 09, 2010

Marketing vs. brand—made easy

They're not the same thing

Neil McKenzie

Brand is usually associated with the marketing world. For some the definition of brand means your logo or logo type. Today brand has come to encompass much more than marketing to include your product or service, the quality you provide, how you treat your customers and the total experience provided by your company. It goes across all business functions and is determined by your employees, customers, suppliers and stakeholders.

Effective marketing activities are key in developing your brand but they are not the same as your brand. Marketing activities are things you do, brand is how you or your products are known or perceived in the marketplace. I'm always amused when someone says "We do branding" - to me branding is something you do with a piece of hot iron to the backside of a cow. Remember, others tell you what your brand is.

While working with my Artrepreneurship students at the Center For Innovation, I found that more often than not that a good visual can explain a concept much better than pages of text. If you understand what brand is then the strategies behind your marketing activities become much clearer.

I ran across a great visual to explain marketing versus brand. I have also seen it in text form and decided to modify it for people in the creative sector. I first started with free clip art to create the visual before I stopped and thought to myself, "What in the heck are you doing?" (See my article Support your local creative enterprises) .

I enlisted the help of Brandon Roth, one of my talented students, to create the graphics. He is a young and talented entrepreneur who runs a graphics design studio while pursuing a degree in fine art. (You can find out more about him on his webpage Rothworks).

Okay, here it is. I hope it explains the difference between marketing and brand, makes you smile and say, "Now I get it!"

I look forward to having you as a regular reader, and if you have some comments or ideas, please drop me a line.
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Neil McKenzie is an author, educator and consultant to artists and arts organizations in the areas of business and marketing planning.  His recently published book, The Artist’s Business and Marketing ToolBox, was written to take the mystery out of business for artists and other creative professionals. He has more than 30 years experience as a management consultant and corporate marketing executive working with hundreds of organizations including some of the world’s top brands. Neil is a visiting professor at the Center for Innovation at Metropolitan State University of Denver, where he developed and teaches Artrepreneurship; and at University College at the University of Denver, where he teaches the graduate course, Marketing for the Arts.  He is a frequent guest lecturer to artists and organizations in the creative sector and writes about the creative economy including several articles for Americans for the Arts, a national arts organization.  Neil can be reached at 720-339-3160, or






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Readers Respond

I like your article, but the branding pdf isn't viewable - rats! Maybe you could email it to me - Thanks smile By Karrie DiSanto on 2012 05 02
"Everyone is talking about you." So the question is: What are you doing to get people talking about you? There are a lot of choices available and how you choose can mean the difference between a forgettable experience and an experience special enough to mention to others. I encourage potential clients to recognize the opportunity that the variety arts offer in creating that special experience. A nine foot tall Uncle Sam, a Giant Parade Puppet, the 14 foot tall solar powered Bubble Tower can all increase the WOW factor and get folks talking about you. By Events Submit on 2010 06 12
Neil, I agree that brand is determined by those that interact with a person or company. If a company doesn't effectively manage its brand then eventually there will be a disconnect between marketing and customer perception. When a company tries to position itself as a Nordstrom but acts like and treats customers as if it's a Walmart there will be a failure of that company. Brand, as you stated, is about the end-to-end customer experience, which is completely in the control of the company and should be supported/managed at the highest level and not just by marketing. Marketing teams should research and position the company based on competition, company resources and executive commitment, but the entire company must continuously execute on that brand positioning. I would contend that most companies don't even know where their brand is positioned or there is a disconnect between where they think their brand is positioned and where it actully is in the marketplace. By Michelle Mink on 2010 06 09
Neil, I found your article, well, intriguing I guess. We are one of those companies that say, "we do branding". Actually, we say, we help you build your brand. I would argue that developing your brand and what your brand is (or what is becoming)are one in the same. It is kind of like a Maslow theory of what we want our brand to be vs. what others say our brand is. It is all development, all perception. When I speak to a prospect that says, so you are printers, I try to correct them and say, we are print marketers. The difference is that we develop print marketing materials specifically to help our clients (mostly franchises) build their client base by keeping their brand intact via the wishes of corporate first. Then we help promote their brand as they perceive it (logo, services, messaging, graphics, etc.) through print marketing (direct mail, in store marketing materials, collateral materials that support event marketing efforts and so on). It is an "activity" as you say in developing your brand, but it is in the development of their print marketing that we are helping to shape that "perceived" outlook in the marketplace. The experience at the store level of course is their part. In closing I guess I am not trying to argue vs. clarifying that my belief is that most marketers understand the nuances and the entirety of what branding means even if they say, "we do branding." Ed Collins By Ed Collins on 2010 06 09
Agreed, Neil! I explain to clients that your brand is your reputation -- the expectation I have of what I will FEEL about working/being with you. Same for companies as for people -- your "brand" is how I will assign you value (or not). After something has developed a brand, things like logos, colors, icons, etc reinforce the perception. Imagine if you just saw the Apple logo. If you knew nothing about the values, beliefs, ideas of Apple (the company) would the logo mean anything? Thanks for starting a great conversation! Lida By Lida Citroen on 2010 06 09

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