UoPeople's MBA - what it teaches about branding, marketing, and advertising
© J. Francois Barnard – November 10, 2021
My son is a branding strategist, and we had several discussions about this topic. He completed a four-year degree at the Vega School of Brand Leadership in Pretoria, South Africa. He is currently applying his academic knowledge in the marketplace and showed me how many conflicting views exist about branding and how some people view marketing and advertising.
That made me think about what I have learned about marketing, branding, and advertising during my BSBA studies and the marketing course I completed a few months ago when I started my MBA at UoPeople. When looking back at the classes I followed, most of the focus was on marketing, and less focus was on branding and advertising. And quite understandably so. The BSBA and MBA programs do not focus on branding, marketing and advertising alone, and these are smaller subsections of the larger business management picture.
When researching this topic, I found as many opinions as websites. I saw what my son found - some do not even differentiate between branding and marketing.
The Business Owner's Playbook on The Hartford website calls branding, marketing, and advertising "tools" you use to promote your business. I see some truth in the statement but I think there is more to it.
Peter Gasca says on Inc.com that marketing is how you see yourself, advertising describes your actions, and branding is how others see you.
My apologies, Mr Gasca, but I cannot agree with you.
When talking about "brands", some textbooks refer to products. Unilever is a brand owner with a host of brands in its stable, and the same can be said of Coca-Cola, General Motors and Ford. We see mega-brands owning sub-brands, and yes, that is where the perception of a brand being a product comes in.
Branding is about identity. When looking at my business brand, the viewer should identify me and what I stand for, portraying my core value system.
Let us go a level deeper.
My core value system is not something I change like underpants. It is an unchanging, rock-solid belief system, and it will always remain. I can write my vision and mission statements based on this core value system.
Once we have this solid foundation, we can build a business brand on top of it.
The business brand should incorporate the core value system, but it is not the core value system itself. You can rebrand from time to time, but changing your core value system? Never!
With an established business brand in place, you can build product brands on top of it. Some products have long life cycles - like Coca-Cola, Sunlight dishwashing liquid, or Marmite. Kodak and Blackberry were strong brands at the time but almost vanished when technology caught up with them, and their life cycles were cut short.
Marketing is the strategy of building strong brands. Where a brand is a noun, marketing is a verb. It is how you are going to take action.
When you market a product, you usually start with market research. You put effort into finding out who your target market is, who your competitors are, and how you should approach your brand building.
Just as your branding should incorporate your core value system, your marketing should also include it. Your marketing strategies never contradict your business brand and your core value system. Instead, it supports and strengthens it.
Marketing is more focused on the product and less focused on the price. Yes, price is important, but you first build your brand and show the consumers and other stakeholders that you produce quality solutions.
Marketing creates a void for your product in the market, and it tells the market why the product exists and what solution it offers.
While the above is ongoing, your logistics team develops the supply chain and ensures that the products reach consumers timeously and freely. They base their actions on the same core value system - everything they do supports and builds the business brand. Never underestimate the value of a smooth-running supply chain.
Advertising is what your resellers do, and they tell the consumers where to find this hot, new product and at what price. Advertising is competitive, loud, in your face, provocative and even irritating. It is also creative, luring, and beautiful. But it never contradicts your core value system. Instead, it supports it.
Advertising attracts consumers to specific distribution points, and your logistics team monitors the supply chain to ensure a steady flow of products to the outlets.
Branding, marketing, and advertising are not the same thing. There are distinct differences between them, and understanding these is crucial for any entrepreneur. The focus is never money. Instead, the focus is communicating your business brand, which displays your core value system. Money follows where good values lead.