Recently the Mayor of Kuala Lumpur announced Kuala Lumpur Tourism Bureau and City Hall‘s plans to boost tourism and travel to the city. And the centre of the attraction was the branding exercise, complete with a logo and tagline.
Wait a minute… Did somebody mention a new logo?… I don’t see any logo there… Anybody seen a logo anywhere?…
For the benefit of those who didn’t quite catch it in the article above, below is the brand new “logo” and “tagline”
Seriously, there are two major issues that we have to address here :-
(1) When we mention logo, we expect to see a visual, not texts… Okay, you can make the text fancy, combine some visual motifs into it, but at the end of the day, we still expect to see a visual as a whole, not words.
(2) When you mention “branding”, it is much more than just coming up with a brand name. Branding is an exercise to develop an identity. Your identity. Your brand is your promise behind your identity, not mere words.
What Is The Difference Between Branding And Advertising?
Comparatively speaking, there are actually three categories to really dwell into when you want to compare between branding and advertising. The third category which is seldom mentioned, and almost never even considered, is promotion.
For the sake of discussion, let’s take a look from a retailer’s point of view. Let’s assume that you are a retailer that sell handbags, your home brand handbags.
Promotion is when you do a special sale, a discounted sale, or even a stock clearance sale. You sell the handbags at a price lower than its retail price. During the promotion period, your sales volume will definitely go up, but your overall profit will drop, as you are actually selling at a reduced price.
The advantage of a promotion is that you get to clear your stock very quickly for the duration of the sale period. Once the sale is over, things will slow down to below the normal level, at least for the next few days or weeks.
The disadvantage, is that you are not only making a smaller profit (maybe even a loss), but the impact of your brand is only on the customers in your immediate surrounding, and the brand retention will probably last for the next two days…
Advertising is when you invest some money and effort to create awareness of your brand. And since you are not selling at a “promotional” price, you are actually not making any loss on the retail front.
Depending on how much you are willing to spend, advertising can be reasonably cheap, all the way to very expensive. Economical media choices include leaflets distribution and posters displayed at high traffic areas. If you are willing to pay a little more, you can have advertise in newspapers and magazines. And if you are willing to go all the way, television advertising and billboards will cost you an arm and a leg.
The advantage will be that potential customers will now start to recognise your brand instead of just your products (handbags). And the effect will actually be much longer, lasting probably two weeks after having last seen your advertisement. Most advertising campaigns consist of a continuous process. Newspaper ads and TV ads are usually published / aired once every few days, just to keep the momentum of the effect going. As for billboards, the effect is there as long as your advertisement is displayed on the billboard, usually lasting six months or a year.
Branding is when you develop your unique identity, and emphasise on the brand rather than the products that actually carry your brand. Your brand is a promise, your promise of a consistency in a set of tangible qualities. For example, your brand may portray stylish, chic, and yet affordable. Or it may brag about the quality of the material used, or the detailed workmanship of the finishing. Whatever your message is, this forms your promise to the customers. Customers expect all those promises when they buy your product (handbags).
Your branding message, once released to the market, will take a pretty long time to establish. But the good news is that once your brand name is established, it will also take a pretty long time for the masses to forget about it too.
A successful brand may take up to two whole years to establish itself in the minds of the consumers. Henceforth, it is safe to say that a branding exercise isn’t a short-term project. It takes a whole lot of commitment, patience, and not to mention money, to elevate your brand to the established status.
Okay, Let’s Skip Advertising And Start Branding
Woah!… Hold your horses!… Branding isn’t as simple as it looks. While branding is the strategic plan, the big picture, it doesn’t work independently. Like it or not, branding is still tightly associated with advertising.
Your brand is your message, your promise to your customers. But this message still has to be conveyed to your customers. This is where advertising come into play. Advertising is your vehicle to convey your brand message to the masses.
The secret here is to strategically make use of the advertising vehicle to convey your brand message across. And after you have done it the first time, you consistently continue to convey more similar messages across. The plan is to let your audience know that you are here to stay for the long-run.
So You’re Saying That Advertising Is Branding, But Branding Isn’t Advertising?
Let’s put it this way – Advertising is a vehicle to carry information. You can use it to carry your brand information, or you can use it to carry your promotion information. You can even use it to carry any other information, whether related or not. In short, advertising can exist independently.
Branding, on the other hand, cannot exist on its own. It needs a vehicle to help spread its message. And that vehicle is advertising.
Branding is the strategy, the masterplan. Advertising is the execution branch, the people who actually carry out the masterplan. Henceforth, branding cannot exist without advertising. Just like a General is pretty much useless if he doesn’t have an army to carry out his battle plans.
Coming Up In The Next Installment
Next week we will explore the costing issue behind a branding exercise. Branding is expensive, no doubt about it. And it comes without a guaranteed Return On Investment (ROI). So is it even worthwhile to finance a branding exercise?
Also, we will explore a powerful secret weapon that you already have to spread your brand message. It works more effectively, spread to a wider audience, and costs mere pennies when compared to traditional media.