What can we learn from Apple Nike, and Virgin? We can see the difference between branding and marketing, and why we need both.
It’s only a few weeks into the New Year and I’ve found myself answering this question a few times: what’s the difference between branding and marketing?
There’s a simple distinction I make. Branding is strategic and constant. Marketing is tactical and temporary. A brand strategy should determine the marketing strategy.
Branding: Apple, Nike, Virgin
Three of the world’s most loved brands are clear about what they will always do. Apple will always help people create things and enjoy the creations of others. Nike will always make shoes and celebrate the athlete. Virgin will always seek to disrupt existing industries.
Their marketing strategies are different. Apple’s marketing strategies (note that they are plural) will focus on how to sell the new iPhone, watch, or version of Final Cut.
Apple markets these products through things like advertising, packaging, and promotion through the App Store.
Nike sponsors athletes and celebrates them through very clever advertising. Richard Branson takes part in elaborate stunts to get the media’s attention.
Their marketing is effective because their brands are strong.
What do you think of when you think of Apple, Nike, and Virgin? Here’s what I think of:
Apple — a brand that empowers people to create things.
Nike — everything you need is inside you or Just Do It.
Virgin — rebellious, cheeky.
Now think of Microsoft, adidas, and United Airlines. It’s a lot harder isn’t? Their brands lack simplicity and clarity. They are weaker.
Values underpin brands
The reason the Apple, Nike, and Virgin brands are clear is because they come from a strong base in values. Their marketing reflects these values. All the great brands have a strong values base that defines them and their communication.
In his book, The Story Wars, Jonah Sachs defines some core values that brands can hold and lays this down into archetypes. A sample:
Values: Playfulness, Justice, Simplicity
Jester brands: Ben & Jerry’s, the Yes Men, GEICO, The Muppets
Values: Beauty, Richness, Uniqueness
Muse brands: Lego, IKEA, Etsy, Apple (modern day)
Values: Justice, Uniqueness, Truth
Rebel brands: Apple (early days), Occupy Wall Street, Harley-Davidson, Virgin
These archetypes are a bit crude, but they do offer an idea about why these brands are so strong.
When Steve Jobs returned to Apple he saw that the company had lost its way. In this short video he essentially reboots the brand. Note that he begins his talk by saying “marketing is about values”. He should have said “branding is about values” — that’s what his talk is about.
Values shouldn’t change
Jobs makes a compelling point: values shouldn’t change. At the core of a brand strategy there must be a set of values that define what the brand is. There could be as little as one or two, or as many as five.
The organization might switch direction, add more products, or start new campaigns, but the values shouldn’t change. A brand strategy based on values helps directors, partners, and staff make business and marketing decisions. It’s why you don’t see good environmental organizations partnering with polluters.
Branding defines marketing
Every year Apple releases a new phone. Every year the phone reinforces a core value of the company: simplicity. But the phone changes. It gets bigger; or it gets a better camera; it’s always faster. Their marketing is different because the product has changed.
Despite the new features of the phones, Apple’s marketing material still reflects this core value. The website, the announcements, the packaging, and the products themselves focus on simplicity.
Advertising as branding, not marketing
Advertising is sometimes mistaken as marketing. It’s not always the case. Nike is a classic example of advertising that’s branding. Nike’s advertisements are notable for their absence of the product. Its strategy is to tell a bigger story about the strength that’s already inside us and what we can achieve.
There’s no better way to understand Nike’s approach by looking at its TV commercials. It’s “Courage” spot is commonly held up as an example of its best work, but I think another ad is just as good. It’s called, “Find Your Greatness”.
No shoes. No features. No hard sell.
Branding is strategic and constant; Marketing is temporary and tactical
If you’re thinking about your marketing, ask yourself this question first: do we have a values-based brand strategy in place?
You need both.