Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Branding vs Advertising misconception

Hands up who thinks running an ad in the papers or on TV is considered doing branding.

Now hands up who is surprised when I say advertising is just the tip of the iceberg and branding encompasses so many more things such as strategic planning, brand identity development, packaging, design, alignment of entire company staff with corporate identity, pre- and post-purchase customer service etc.

I’d safely most of you raising your hands that second time think you know the difference between the two but actually you don’t, because your ad agencies throw in a bit of packaging and design services for free, and you happily accept it as a good deal.

Perhaps the conversations we’ve been having in the magazine and on this blog are premature because the issue is not about building bigger and better local brands to take worldwide – the issue is that we mistake branding for advertising and thus will not be able to ever build those brands.

Branding is about the intangibles (service, image etc.) as much as it is about the tangibles (ad campaign, packaging) and all that contributes to you handing that $6.00 over for a Java Chip Frappuccino at Starbucks.

I had the privilege of meeting with the guys from Landor Associates recently and Sydney-based MD Michael Graham shared with me about the future of marketing. He says the concept of ROI in marketing is a financial one and is currently way overrated. It should be paired with the measurement of intangibles, which also means quantifying all touchpoints in the entire customer journey.

Michael Graham, Joseph Mcglennon and Frank Vial

Your brand should be your value creating tool, he says. Marketing is value creation and the current accounting system is incapable of managing that.

But marketing can be accountable and intangibles can be measured so systems have to be put into place to help us better understand that the investments we are making outside of just advertising can in fact bring us the Holy Grail of marketing – ROI.

Food for thought.

NB. This happened to be the same topic Marketing's inaugural Hong Kong edition ran as the cover story in March. While the article is currently not available online, if you want to have a peek, send me an email at


Allan Tan said...

In a similar vein, don't let so-called "branding" agencies pull the wool over your eyes. We all know that whatever it is that makes Coke and Nike great can't be bottled and sold, yet branding agencies will have you believing otherwise. For a fee, of course.

Rennie the Soh said...

Hey Debbie,

Many corporations unfortunately still subscribe to the notion that Branding = Advertising. I happen to currently work for one and it that's what makes my job as a marketing professional as hard as hell. Everytime we run a campaign the bosses expect to see a ROI (i.e. sales figures to rocket) but unfortunately it doesn't work that way.

I totally agree with Michael Graham's thoughts on branding and I hope my bosses are reading this!

Having said that, I second allan's opinion that branding 'can't be bottled and sold' as it involves many different components coming together to serve a single purpose. To date I don't believe any single 'agency' can claim to be able to offer all these different components under one roof.