This is a great question. Most people hear branding talked about rather incoherently within marketing, advertising and/or PR conversations. Truthfully, these kinds of conversations muddle the waters of both the differences and relationships.
So what is branding’s true place in the world? Where does it fit? As I sit here sipping on a 10.5% Founders Imperial Stout (don’t worry, it’s 6:54 p.m.), I’m beyond excited to jump into this topic.
Branding is an Organization’s Communications Innermost Framework and Compass
Question, what area do you think owns branding?
- A couple of the above
- All of the above
Spoiler: Branding is Owned by No One
The answer is none of the above options.
Branding isn’t owned by marketing, advertising or PR, although unfortunately all of those areas try to usurp branding’s glory under their own umbrella.
Branding is the Intentional Cultivation of an Organization’s Identity
It’s no secret that branding is the intentional creation of an organization’s identity.
An identity is composed of the drivers and visionaries behind it. It’s also composed of the organization’s story and how that story is communicated fundamentally across the six senses of branding:
- What’s seen
- What’s heard
- What’s tasted
- What’s touched
- What’s smelled
- What’s thought and felt
These are the fundamental areas that an organization needs to formally establish for consistency and properly story delivery over all platforms. What’s seen is simple—the visual identity and what’s written in copy. What’s heard—the sounds, voices and audiographic character. So forth and so on.
By the end of the branding process, you have a living, breathing brand that touches all senses intentionally.
Without these things set in stone, anybody trying to marketing, advertise or do PR for the brand will just be making it up as they go. The result of that? Inconsistent and confused.
Branding is the Framework Marketing, Advertising and PR Relies On for Decision-Making
When the marketing department goes to write and design an eBook, where do they turn for graphics, colors, fonts and voice? They rely on the visual identity of the brand that’s been established and documented, or else they’re left making it up.
When the advertising department is putting together a radio spot, where do they turn for how that ad should sound and what message it should convey? They rely on the parameters established by the brand. Without it, they’re making it up as they go.
When the PR department brainstorms story ideas, media events and potential partnerships, where do they get inspired? Without a brand clearly communicating who and what the brand is, and who it interacts with, they’re left making it up.
The Bottom Line—
Imagine all of these departments are left making it up as they go. I hate to say it, but we don’t live in a world where marketing, advertising and PR departments typically play nice. The result? A brand that’s getting pulled in three very separate directions at all times. Without that brand, they rely on their own creativity, which isn’t standardized across departments.
Branding Guides All Departments
More on this concept in a minute.
Branding—true branding—sits at the core of an organization. It has active and constant influence over all marketing, advertising and PR efforts. It is the root and compass that guides all of these efforts. It answers the questions of what to say and how to say it—visually and audio-wise.
Branding Shouldn’t Be Contained to a “Department”
Our argument here at Top Hat IMC is that marketing, advertising and PR should exist under one roof. They should be lead by someone versed in all.
Long story short, most organizations need all three utilized in a consistent thrust to get them to their goals. The labels of each individual department turn every interdepartmental project into a pissing contest, which misses the point. It doesn’t matter if it’s marketing, advertising or PR—it just matters if the organization is reaching its goals.
Anyway, in most all organizations this isn’t the case. Marketing, advertising and PR are their own departments (or some kind of compilation). The temptation is to treat branding like an individual department as well. Departments have some authority, but not totally free-reign.
Think about it—marketing only has ownership over their area. Advertising the same. PR the same. HR the same. Etc. Etc.
Branding Should Stretch Horizontally
My good friend Helma von Zadow put it this way—branding should stretch horizontally.
Meaning, branding shouldn’t just touch what’s considered to be “in its department.” Branding should influence everything from marketing to advertising to PR to customer service to sales to store architecture to dress code. It should be the compass assisting with decision-making of all sorts, and everything dealing with communication, in the organization.
Everything I just mentioned above has to do with communication and thus should be guided by branding. Customer service? The customer service reps have scripts, tones of voice and lines to say. The waiting music on the phone line has a particular sound. Those should be intentionally influenced.
Sales? They have tactics and methods to attracting and converting new leads. They have materials they use. They have email scripts. Those need intentionally influenced.
Branding—in Perfect Theory—Came First
Last, but not least, I’ll leave you with this thought.
Image a new organization. A glorious start-up with an amazing product.
Can they start marketing without an identity? Can they start advertising without an identity? The answer is a plain and simple no. They can’t do any of these things without some form of a brand to work off of.
From the beginning, branding comes before marketing, advertising and PR. It exists before those concepts in the journey of an organization from idea to outrageous success.
Marketing, Advertising and/or PR Are Definitely Necessary and Can’t Be Ignored
All this talk about how branding exists separately, and how it came first, might have you thinking I’m saying not to do marketing, advertising and/or PR. I’m not saying that at all.
I’m saying that all of these things should rely on the formalized brand standards created by branding to do their work best.
The right mixture of those things—united in a consistent effort under a fully integrated plan—is necessary. That marketing communications force is what takes a brand forward. All of these forces are powerful vehicles that get an organization from point a to point b.
Any questions we can answer for you? Drop us a line below, or send it to us.