by Tony Fannin, President, BE Branded
I’ve been noticing an interesting strategy unfolding over the last few months. Google seems to believe in brand marketing. I know that’s heresy for some, but it’s really smart business by Google. Before, they were the poster child of word-of-mouth, much like Starbucks. They were also the evangelists who preached a web-only advertising strategy and many drank the Kool-Aid.
Google has embarked on a mass media campaign, integrating online and offline tactics, such as direct mail and TV spots, in marketing Droid, and even on Google.com. In the overall scheme of things, they are, and have been, engaged in a brand marketing strategy. I’m not criticizing them, far from it. I give them much credit for doing what was needed in their situation. What smart companies understand is that sales needs marketing and branding. Without it, you will hit a wall since you’re only selling to the “choir” or you’ve relegated yourself to commodity status. Sales without marketing makes it hard to win. Marketing without branding makes it that more difficult. Which is easier to market, a brand called Apple or a brand called Vaio? Does Aflac out-sell their competitors in the supplemental employee insurance arena because they put real power behind their marketing effort or do their competitors’ sales lag way behind because they don’t invest nearly the amount into marketing that Aflac does?
One interesting comment I’ve read, from Steve Groenier, VP-marketing for Google, was about the YouTube platform: “You have to look at this beyond simply driving direct sales; it’s more of a branding campaign.” To Google, brand advertising is a worth while investment. They’ve invested in it themselves with a Super Bowl ad this year. Starbucks is a regular in the New York Times every week with full page print ads. And E-bay sends out millions of postcards every other month letting you know they are still the best place to sell your stuff.
This is not an either or proposition (online or offline). It’s really about understanding you need branding to give momentum to your marketing and you need marketing to accelerate your sales cycle. Branding is accomplished in many formats, from street teams to image campaigns to online “how-to” shows giving you tips on bedazzling your T-shirts. Brand marketing makes all of the other functions of marketing easier by giving it credibility. People are afraid of trying something they’ve never heard of before. If they are familiar with the brand and know a little something about it, customers are more likely to buy on a trial basis. Brand lessens the risk of the unknown.
Brand marketing is the foundation on which you can build a great success story for any product or service. Hey, if Google and Starbucks can do it, why not you? Your sales force will thank you.