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Marketing vs Brand Building – and missing the plot

Do yourself a favour and spend a day walking from one store to the next, from one retailer to the next, from one hotdog stand to the next and just focus on what really makes you want to go back to that specific store, retailer, hotdog stand, and so on. Like with most other things in life there simply has to be a universal factor that plays a role.

That golden thread that runs through all the different ways people, customers, end-users, consumers, whatever you want to call them, measure their like or dislike of a specific brand... let it be a super store, or the little shop around the corner where uncle Dan, the neighbour, sells goodies from a container after his retirement.
When most of us sit down in big corporate meetings strategising "the way forward" in building the brand we wear a hat saying: think budget, think above the line, think below the line, think brand image, equity, blah blah and all the other buzz words that gets us going. We call in consultants, branding companies, spend huge amounts of money on POS and so on to do brand building.
This is where I think the common misperception comes into play. What you're doing in the previous paragraph is not brand building in the true sense of the word – it's all semantics I guess. There is a difference in my mind between marketing and brand building.
Yah, so what makes you go back to the same retailer time and time again? The amount of money the guys spent on POS and branding or the awesome way they treat you when you walk into the store... the broad smile uncle Dan has on his face every time you go buy bread and milk from his container-on-the-corner-shop?
Brand Building is more than just throwing money at a marketing campaign, incentive schemes, t-shirts and training for the sales guys. Brand building starts on a far more personal level. Right, here's the deal: if you are reading this article you are most probably working for a company of some sort. There is no difference, really, between a company and a brand now is there... both have hierarchies, CEO's, Managers, Tea Ladies, etc. How many times have you sat at a Saturday braai with your mates bragging about how awesome your company / brand is? Yup, just as I thought... if you are one of those people who are passionately behind your brand (or company) you are few and far between the masses.
Brand building is investing into the lives of the people that work for the brand. Not necessarily financially, but by empowering them to play a bigger role in building the brand, by bringing some sort of personal and character ethics into the picture... some sort of humanity maybe? You have guessed right if you thought I'm a bit of a Victor Frankl fanatic!
Brand building is helping employees to buy into the brand so much so that they work over a weekend doing a promo because they just love it, not because the manager in charge threatened them or because they need the extra money to buy nappies for their new born baby. Contrary to popular belief personal life (as in who you are) and business cannot be separated. You crap your employees out and threaten them with all sorts of clichés like: "You'll get fired!" or "It's a wonder we still pay you a salary!" or this or that, you end up with most probably having a very unhappy customer care specialist dealing with your customers. Whether they show it or not is not of importance... the fact is that your employees will slowly but surely become more and more despondent and that will affect their passion, drive and the way they portray your brand/company.
I have had a chat with a friend working for another large company in the week, again, where brand strategy was discussed and once again my mouth fell open with a combination of disgust and satire at the way this was planned.
More often than not we have an equation in our minds stating: Brand Building = Investing money + Longer Hours + (Managers stepping on toes - Employees are just lazy people). How many times have you, as a manager, heard that productivity must be improved? Your first course of action is (instinctively) to call in everybody, give them the odds and to crap them out when things are not going the way it's suppose to. Why? Well, because the same happens or will happen to you if your team doesn't perform. Eish, it's a vicious circle!
OK fine! It works... for a while that is, because at some point in time people / employees are going to come to the conclusion that this is still a man's world: you talk to me again that way and I will punch your friggen lights out pal (to put it mildly).
Basically, Brand Building is an internal affair that needs to be addressed on every level within the organisation. Why? Well, you have people working in accounts. You have people working in HR. You have people working in sales. You have people working in PR. You have people working in the warehouse. You have people working in – probably most important of all – customer care, and so the list goes on. Each and every one of these individuals is a part of your organisation... but are they a part of your brand? Have they truly bought into that A4 piece of paper framed against the wall in the boardroom where you have your mission, vision and values engraved upon.
Cliché? I think so. It is a cliché that we need to build our brand by building the people working as a part of that brand... and it will remain a cliché until the day you make a change in your company, your attitude, your beliefs and the way you see your employees, and the way you see your boss. I can't count the number of books I have personally read on these matters... and I guess so have you. Everything from open communication, to sincerity, empathy, leadership skills, the effective manager, the productive manager, the good manager, how to work your way to the top, blah blah, and so on. And to top it all, there is a big yellow or red sticker on it stating that 1,000 000 copies were sold world wide. Technically speaking 1,000 000 people / managers should know how to treat their people and bosses.
There's a South African saying that goes like this: "Umuntu ungumuntu ngabantu." It basically means: a person is a person because of other people. So, if you want your brand to achieve what you want to achieve, help the people in your company achieve what they want to achieve as far as you can. And vice versa... if you want to achieve what you want to achieve, help your brand to achieve what it needs and wants to achieve. At this point you should be imagining the late President J F Kennedy waving his hand in the air: "...ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country..." Ask what you can do for one another as company/brand and employee.
So now you may think: what does this article have to do with marketing and advertising? EVERYTHING! Why? Because people manage people. People sit in corporate strat meetings. People come up with ideas. People design and implement advertising strategies. People interact with other people in your organisation. People are the reps your send out to take care of your customers' training needs. People answer the telephones at reception and customer care. People buy from people. There is personal interaction or intervention at almost every level, in some way or the other. Invest in them!

About Lehan Stemmet

Lehan received his B.Sc degree at the University of the Freestate, earning academic merit bursaries for psychology and biochemistry. While and after completing his degree in biochemistry and microbiology, he earned some extra money doing temp work for too many companies to mention. He has experience in science, human resources, data capturing, database building, information gathering, politics, sales, exporting and importing, human resources, counselling, operations, consulting and many more industries. He has also, while running a consulting business and second-hand office furniture business, completed a post graduate diploma in psychology and industrial psychology with distinction. After his return from Europe – where he played a part in the EURO change over project - he was offered a position as territory manager in KwaZulu-Natal for Capital Outsourcing Solutions (CAPOS). After almost two months he got promoted to business development manager and moved up to Johannesburg. Shortly thereafter he was offered the position of National Operations Manager. He is responsible for all the operational services accounts on a national level, including research, benchmarking, merchandising, field marketing, issue escalations, as well as selection, appointment and training of new staff. For further information / comments please contact Lehan on Cell: +27 82 345 0887 or E-mail: /

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