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Branding is Just a Fancy Name for Promotion, Right?

Branding is more than that. Brand management has a special role within the larger context of promotion. Some promotion activities may have a branding component, whereas others may not. In simple terms, branding deals with a product’s reputation. This encompasses those promotion activities that are intended to distinguish a brand from its competitors by communicating to consumers what the brand stands for. For media “products,” this Digital Marketing Training communication can occur at several levels.

◆ On-air promos

◆ Advertising

◆ Public relations/publicity

◆ Product usage

In many cases, these levels can overlap to form an integrated marketing campaign (IMC). All of these communication tools will be discussed in detail. What is important to remember here is that, despite the use of all of these marketing tools, promoting isn’t always branding. For example, for a retailer, promoting discount pricing or coupons may stimulate short-term product sales but may do nothing for the brand’s enduring reputation. In fact, some promotion activities may even hurt a brand’s long-term performance. Imagine if Mercedes Benz developed an inexpensive compact car for middle-income families and offered huge factory rebates. It would change the way one views the entire Mercedes Benz image. Promotion tools such as advertising and publicity would surely generate some dealer traffic, but what about the long-term consequences? In forthcoming months and years, will these types of promotion activities undermine the Mercedes brand? When affluent car buyers look for a prestigious luxury car, will they have second thoughts about this once-proud brand?

The same situation can occur with the marketing and promotion of media brands. For example, a program’s rating success may be more the result of clever program scheduling or transitory promotion hype rather than genuine audience preference for the program. Does a “watch and win” contest generates audience sampling or merely short-lived audience “traffic” that disappears as soon as the contest ends? After the sweeps, will the program sustain its high ratings or sink like a rock? Effective media branding strategies are designed for the long run and make use of promotion techniques that will nurture audience loyalty. A conscious tours media brand manager needs to look at his or her promotion efforts and ask a couple of important questions.

◆ does this particular promotion effort enhance the long-term reputation of my brand?

◆ does this promotion effort offer enduring reasons why my brand is superior to my competition?

Another common distinction between promotion and branding is that branding focuses more on the consumer, rather than on the product. Expanding on the idea is an often-overlooked description of what marketing professionals really do for a living. In the final analysis, successful marketers are not in the business of selling products but in the business of selling solutions to people’s problems. These marketers ask how will the customer benefit from experiencing this product—“What’s in it for me?” Smart marketers know that promoting the attributes of a branded product is only half the battle. A truly persuasive marketing message talks about the personal consumer benefits derived from these product attributes.

Let’s take a simple media example, an on-air promo for a local newscast. The promotion department produces a message that brags about its high-tech weather radar system and staff of meteorologists but fails to explain how these resources (or product attributes) will personally benefit viewers. Which of the following copy phrases is more persuasive?

“Storm-Track Doppler Radar and our staff of meteorologists are ready for severe weather here in the heartland.”

“Storm-Track Doppler Radar and our staff of experienced meteorologists are ready to protect you and your family from the dangers of severe weather.”

Last word

An area in which both promoting and branding can run into trouble is the often misplaced emphasis placed on creativity. When creating any type of per sausage message, successful brand managers know that it’s the ideas, not the glitz, that matter most. In other words, marketing strategy should drive creativity. Most promotion professionals are clever people, so a lack of creativity is rarely a problem. If anything, the problem is creative overkill. Producers, copywriters, and artists sometimes are so consumed with getting people’s attention that the creative “bells and whistles” ignore the original marketing objectives and strategies underlying the whole project.

No one would deny that gaining an audience’s attention is indeed a major achievement and that creativity is crucial for this particular task, but style should not be confused with substance. Consumer behavior research reveals time and again that, in addition to flashy graphics and music, consumers will also pay attention to a compelling message—a message that is grounded in consumer benefits. Creativity should be regarded as a means to an end, not an end unto itself. The Big Question for all creative people is “What are the compelling reasons why an audience will respond to this advertising or promotional message?

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