Consistency and conversation: How branding and advertising can work better together

Dan Ratner

Dan Ratner is managing director of branding and communications agency, uberbrand. He has more than 15 years’ experience in marketing, communications and branding and is passionate about branding as an enabler to fulfil organisational objectives. Working closely with uberbrand’s clients Dan works to understanding the current customer perception in the context of business goals and aspirations. Dan works with well-known Australian brands across a variety of sectors including financial services, travel and education.

Advertising and branding are two of the most visible outputs of marketing, which is why getting them right is so important. However, too often the line between branding and advertising becomes blurred. This means advertising activity can be out of sync with brand, resulting in poor results for both functions.

To get this right, it’s important to understand the distinct role of both brand and advertising and how they can work together harmoniously.

Brand: the consistency that builds trust

The role of branding in relation to advertising is often misunderstood. To clarify, a brand is not what you say it is, it’s what people think it is. It’s a perception held in the mind of your audience.

This is because perceptions are made up of impressions. To create the right perception, every impression – from product, customer service and internal culture – needs to align to the way a brand wishes to be perceived.

This means, brand can differ from what you may be trying to convince your audience it is through advertising.

Advertising: The conversations brands have with their customers

For advertisers, brand provides a framework for delivering communications that are true to the essence of the business. That’s why it’s important that both brand and advertising work together.

If brand was a person, then advertising would be the conversation a brand has with their customers. And just as speakers become boring if they drone on about the same old thing, advertising changes to ensure the conversation remains fresh and topical.

This highlights key difference between brand and advertising – advertising campaigns shift to remain relevant while the brand remains consistent. When branding and advertising work in harmony it creates a perfect tension between exciting, topical advertising and consistent, trustworthy branding.

The holy grail: Getting to a big idea

The holy grail in advertising is getting that really big idea; a campaign that consumers recognise and remember. To do this, it’s important to think beyond the product or service of a business. Instead think of the reason the brand exists in the first place.

For example, Dove’s purpose is to ‘help improve self-esteem’. This purpose is more important than any of their products, and is the inspiration for one of the biggest ideas in advertising today - the campaign for real beauty.

A truly big idea such as this creates advertising that is focused yet inspiring; it elevates and articulates the brand far beyond the product helping it to communicate its ultimate purpose.

The importance of advertising and branding synergy

Despite being the holy grail, a big idea becomes meaningless if it has a weak connection to the brand. This is because communicating a big idea essentially creates a promise that the brand must uphold. And if a brand fails to live up to the hype of an advertising campaign, there can be negative consequences.

Not only that, if a big idea is created without the brand in mind, it risks overshadowing it. Even though the campaign may have excellent cut-through and recall, audiences may not remember who the ad was for. This can be problematic for marketing managers who need the advertising to deliver results for their brand.

Therefore, when planning and executing any advertising campaign creatives must have a very strong understanding of the brand and any ideas should be vetted against it. This process is assisted when there are strong lines of communications between the brand and advertising teams on both the agency and client side.

Branding and advertising are two very different functions. However, if advertising activity is out of sync with brand, then it will deliver poor results. Striking the balance requires brand and advertising to work closely together, with brand providing the structure and inspiration to fuel big ideas, and advertisers using insight and creative to keep the conversation fresh.

Tags: brand strategy, marketing strategy

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