It seems that ever since digital marketing became a force in the universe, marketers who work in that realm have worked hard at redefining branding to suit their vested interests.
Many of these marketers have little experience in traditional branding and are reflective (in my opinion) of a pendulum swung disproportionately in one direction. A plethora of ‘online marketing experts’ are trying (and succeeding) in convincing businesses to invest significant time, money and intellectual capital in a broad capture that sweeps up just about anyone passing through, then justify the cost with their ‘engagement’ numbers.
The true meaning and power of branding has been lost in the chase. And, unless your content is developed by a someone who truly understands your brand, your brand and marketing strategies, and who can also write well, engage and resonate with your specific audiences (and know the differences), and understand which combination of communication tools are right for you business and how to effectively use them, you could very well waste your money, dilute your hard-earned efforts, and end up with a ‘hollow’ brand – one with little substance to support it – or a brand that does not reflect your business.
There’s obviously a place for engagement and content-based marketing – it’s a necessary part of the marketing mix. But it’s just that – a part – one of many tools in the communications toolbox, each with a specific job and a supporting role. (It goes along with the misguided thinking that a logo, a website and a brochure is branding versus an identity and communication tools – but that’s for another conversation). Placing the bulk of your marketing budget in a single ill-defined tool is not going to build and sustain your brand.
And it’s frequently not the most effective tool. Content writers are the puppy mills of the marketing world. They often know little about brand strategy, differentiation, or the competitive sphere of the client. In trying to maximize engagement with a broad reach, businesses are often not actually engaging in an authentic and sustainable way directly with either the audiences who purchase or influence the purchase of their products and services. The fact is, their results are not what they’re made out to be and the lead-time to achieve any ROI of value is long, arduous and hard to gain back.
Sales, marketing and branding are intrinsically entwined. Too often, however, businesses make the mistake of confusing the flow. Many companies, particularly B2B, get caught up in sales driving marketing, or confusing the two, and brand is misunderstood and thus overlooked. Many of them feel that sales got them where they are and so, “Why change?” Others, particularly start-ups and growing businesses opt to have marketing drive their brand. Such is the case with digital content. Brand needs to drive marketing, which in turn will drive sales. And ensuring that your brand isn’t lost in all of that requires ongoing central management. Without it, designers, content people, web developers, PR folks and everyone else – none of whom really understand brand – put their own stamp and spin on what they’re doing, or regurgitate the same information, and you’re left wondering how you could have invested so much for so little.
Branding is tricky business. It requires experience and expertise to define, build and manage. It needs substance and focus, and more than just a single communications tool. And the bottom line is that branding is all about your interests and those you care about. Redefining it to suit a business model only helps many digital marketers to help themselves.