“What is marketing?” If you ask five different people this question, you’ll likely get five different answers. When I was in school, the answer was much more structured and straightforward: We were told that marketing is more or less a set of processes designed to communicate and deliver value to prospective customers. And from that definition, it was derived that marketing is rooted in four core areas: price, promotion, place and product, also known as “the four P's of marketing.” |
In reality, marketing is much less vague and far more nuanced than this. The promotional arena is noisy with multiple messages, consumers are price-sensitive, products are complex, and a company’s intended audience is spread across myriad channels.
But no matter how crowded, convoluted or complicated marketing strategy for the business may get, there is one area that every marketer must first tackle in order to have long-term success: the brand itself. The brand encompasses the intangible promise, lifestyle and mission of a product or company. These intangibles are what allow brands like Nike and Adidas or Uber and Lyft — that offer similar products — to compete for different market segments and be judged on variables other than price. A silver bracelet from Tiffany’s might cost hundreds more than the exact same silver bracelet from an unknown brand, for instance, but because Tiffany's has so carefully developed its brand, consumers will pay a premium just to identify with it.
Focusing on and investing in branding and marketing campaigns, channels and tactics before defining and creating a strong brand is putting the cart before the horse. Great branding moves your ideal customer beyond seeing you as just a practical solution, and into believing you’re the sole offering that will meet their needs.
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