Written by Evan Promise
I’ve been delaying writing about this for months now, but the shock I just got this morning, necessitated this post.
I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised that a lot of us mix all three up, because most of us do not know any better anyway. If not for the series of courses I took within the last two years, I may have still been making the same erroneous assumption.
Most African companies usually mix any two out of those three, or even all three and lump it all under Marketing. That’s not right. Maybe valid and obtainable in most places, but that doesn’t make it right, and in fact, it’s the reason most marketing departments are not operating at near 100% efficiency because their efforts are spread out.
The fields look almost similar; hence companies try to save costs by putting it all together. It doesn’t even help that most marketing guys happen to know a little bit about branding/advertising and even further push the narrative that the fields are one and the same when they’re not.
I should know because even though I’m now niching down to branding, I started from marketing, and I can also body sales/advertising if push comes to shove.
But this is a mistake you’ll never find in global agencies or multinational corporations. They recognize that the system is more of a matrix structure (and not classic unlike people erroneously believe), hence they always separate the departments to allow them to be more efficient in their various spheres.
To understand the differences, you need to first understand what branding is actually.
There are so many ways you can define branding and all are correct, once they factor in two very important points – PERCEPTION and DIFFERENTIATION.
Branding seeks to dictate or control what a specific audience thinks of the brand and it does that by creating or highlighting a Point of Difference (which sets the brand apart from others).
In essence, a brand is a promise – of an experience, a feeling, or a good memory. But besides saying it, you have to also live and deliver on that promise. You buy Coca-Cola because the brand promises the drink will quench your thirst and make you happy (or take away sadness).
Marketing covers ways, channels, strategies, and elements, through which that specific target audience is convinced to buy the promise (or idea) that the brand is selling and also buy the products or services attached to it.
Coca-Cola engages so many channels to pass across the message that the drink is a thirst-quencher and a happiness catalyst. It spends heavily on video ads, billboards, activations, and event sponsorships to get you to buy into that.
Sales cover the actual exchange of the products or services for money/profit.
Coca-Cola ensures that when you are eventually ready to buy, you would find the product at the nearest store close to you. They maintain the price at an optimum level to keep it affordable and also competitive. At the same time, they incentivize the distributors to buy more and more crates and make sure the drink goes everywhere.
Branding sets the promise of value (which the company is supposed to deliver) and ensures everyone within the company is in tune with that.
Marketing finds the best way to get across to you and convince you that you need that value and that the company’s product/service will deliver that promised value.
Sales close in on you and make sure you’ll get that product whenever you decide to buy, and would also attempt to make you buy more of the product than you initially wanted to.
That’s the simplest way to explain the differences…and I hope it’s clear now. I’ll go further to even show how these departments operate in a standard organization.
BRANDING (BRAND, EVENTS, & PR IN SOME AGENCIES)
The branding department usually interfaces more with the marketing department, because the latter is very instrumental in getting their work out.
But just like I highlighted above, if you’re saying something and your customers are NOT seeing it in the services you’re offering, then you are wasting valuable resources.
That’s why a proper branding department interfaces with all departments that oversee any brand touchpoint. A brand touchpoint is any point where the customer gets to meet with the brand. You come across a Coca-Cola video or advert, it’s a touchpoint. You visit their website. it’s a touchpoint. You go to the store to buy the drink, it’s a touchpoint. You meet their drivers or vehicle on the road, it’s a touchpoint.
The branding department interfaces with the production department to ensure proper quality is maintained. It interfaces with the HR department to ensure the employees behave or act as they should (company culture) and that they are also feeling the brand promise as well.
It interfaces with the events and PR department to ensure that the brand is properly represented as it should out there. It interfaces with the customer care department to ensure they relate with the customer in line with the provisions of the brand (CX). It interfaces with the CSR department to ensure the company only undertakes projects that project the brand promise.
It interfaces with the management too, to ensure that the employees are treated right and that the company itself lives the promise they profess. Finally, it bonds with the marketing department as it is a core partner.
MARKETING (MARKETING & ADVERTISING OR MARKETING, MEDIA & COMMUNICATIONS IN SOME AGENCIES)
The marketing department’s sole function is to put out the brand promise and properly sell both the value and the product/service which is the vehicle through which the company delivers that value.
Marketing studies the Brand’s target audience and identifies key information that will aid in convincing them. It looks for where to find that audience and positions itself properly. It then proceeds to use the right words, the right marketing collaterals, and the right platforms to drive demand for the product.
Traditional advertising, digital marketing, media and communications, video adverts, radio/tv and newspapers, social media, and marketing campaigns all fall under marketing. It’s the job of the marketing department to win more people and make them loyal to the brand. They have to bond closely with the branding department to achieve that.
Marketing is a lot closer to Branding than it is to Sales.
SALES (SALES & DISTRIBUTION IN SOME AGENCIES)
Sales are the ones that bring in the money. They leverage the good work done by the branding and marketing department, to increase the unit sales of the product/service. They identify where the customer is likely to go when he/she finally wants to buy the product and they make sure the product is found there.
They come up with promo ideas and incentives to make the customer buy more units of the product and stay loyal to the brand/company. They also hunt for major gatekeepers (distributors) who they have to incentivize in some way to promote sales of their product over that of the competitor.
Sales make sure that a customer who buys whatever the marketing department tells them, does not leave any particular touchpoint without exchanging money for the product. The department may not necessarily bond or interface with the marketing department, but they need the branding and the marketing department to be efficient…for them to bring in the results.
… because they can’t sell, if people do not demand the product.
I’ve written much already. I hope by now, you must have understood the difference between the three.
Evan Promise is the Co-Founder and Creative Team Lead at Kopykart Solutions. He helps companies find the right words and strategy, connect better with their audience, and drive better sales.