Brand marketing: The essence of marketing

Apr 18, 2024
Brand Thought Leadership

This is the first of five articles in a series entitled “Debunking brand myths,” from the CMA's Brand Council. The series explores the importance and influence of marketing and brand myths in today's business world. It encompasses the following topics: The essence of brand marketing, taking ownership of brand, brand architecture, the value of a brand, and the uniqueness of a brand. Various perspectives are offered to stimulate the reappraisal of the marketing function in the industry, and the ideas shared aim to help marketers and business leaders build profitable brands for growth.

In the industry, there is confusion about what marketing is.

Is marketing primarily focused on brands or products? Is product marketing synonymous with brand marketing? The answers have a significant impact on business outcomes.

Consider this: Marketing is the strategic creation of value through brands. Value is defined by consumers and results in financial success.

“Product marketing” may be an empty concept, which is trying to express the idea of “product selling” or “product promotion.” Products are transitory. They serve as vehicles for delivering brand value. Products evolve and eventually become obsolete, being replaced by newer offerings that better deliver the brand's promise and value.

Unlike products, brands endure over time.

Brand marketing is a key strategic function that influences various aspects of business decisions. It affects product design, brand positioning, portfolio strategy, pricing, research and development, distribution, and consumer persuasion.

Focusing only on promoting products instead of building brand value can have negative effects on the business. When marketers only focus on "product marketing," they tend to prioritize advertising and promotion and ignore other important aspects of business strategy and profitability.

What leads to the oversimplification of brand marketing into product marketing?

Regrettably, many high-ranking executives lack a comprehensive understanding of marketing, due to inadequate training in this area. This deficiency can lead to the oversight of crucial marketing insights when formulating and promoting business strategies.

Rethinking brand marketing

When it comes to rethinking brand marketing and product marketing, three misconceptions should be avoided:

1. Seeing "brand marketing" as merely "tactics”

Brand marketing is at the core of business strategy. It’s about creating value that consumers are willing to pay a premium for. It’s about creating a brand promise that separates a business from generic products.

However, the term “brand marketing” is frequently misunderstood as being solely related to tactical activity, leading to significant negative outcomes. This misconception can result in missed opportunities and the oversight of consumer insight in decision-making processes, hindering companies from fully capitalizing on the profit potential of their target market. It also contributes to the inability to establish a pricing strategy that enables higher gross margins. Further, this thinking can lead to a narrow innovation strategy, focused on product enhancements instead of building brand distinctiveness.

2. Interpreting "brand marketing" as "marketing spend"

One of the most detrimental beliefs is that marketing revolves solely around communication and ad campaigns. While persuasion through communication plays a crucial role within marketing, it does not define the entirety of the function.

When the term "marketing spend" is used to express “advertising and promotion expense,” it leads to misinterpreting the marketing function as only one of its tactics.

Words have power.

When this misinterpretation becomes a common occurrence, the expectations from business leaders about marketing roles shrink down to promotional activities. It is the path to removing business strategy from marketing roles. Oftentimes, this results in marketers being brought in at later stages to promote a product or service after critical strategic decisions have been finalized, such as product design, pricing strategies, and competitive positioning.

Therefore, marketers are often relegated to less strategic roles. The solution to this situation starts by recognizing that marketing encompasses more than communication and promotion, and then comes redefining the scope of marketing roles accordingly.

3. Postponing brand marketing until a product has scaled up

Many startups delay brand marketing and focus primarily on product development, resulting in high-quality products which lack clear benefits for target customers.

Business success is not only about making great products but about creating a strong brand promise.

The assumption that it is an effective business decision to prioritize product marketing over brand marketing often results in missed profit opportunities and reduced returns on investment. And this is because product selling stems from brand strategy, not the reverse.

Starting with a valued brand benefit and aligning products and services accordingly fosters strategic agility and reduces the risk of selling quality products that may not have market fit.

When the focus is solely on the product and the brand strategy is added later, it may require a substantial investment for course correction and expanding beyond the original product in order to satisfy what consumers really want.

A better path forward for startups is embracing brand strategy from the start. In other words, brand promise first, and products second. This means discovering what is valuable for consumers, creating a brand promise for that desire, and then fulfilling the promise with a mix of products, services and experiences.

Closing thoughts

This is an invitation for business leaders to invest in rethinking and reappraising brand marketing.

To sum it up, here are some suggestions:

  1. Challenge your assumptions about brands and marketing.
  2. Consider the possibilities of redefining brand marketing as a strategic business function rather than a set of promotional tools.
  3. Rethink the staffing of these functions with strategic marketing talent.

Stay tuned for the next article in the series, Beyond ownership: Embracing collective influence in brand building.

Peter Rodriguez, CMO & Founder of Brand Igniter® Inc.

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Peter Rodriguez

CMO & Founder Brand Igniter Inc.




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