…Simply put, no.
Branding is a STRATEGIC activity. Advertising is one TACTICAL method of executing the brand strategy (it’s not the only one) Advertising is actively promoting a product or service. It’s pushing out a message to get sales results: “Buy our product because it’s better than theirs.” Advertising may contribute to a brand, but the brand is bigger than any particular promotional effort.
Branding is about authentic, consistent and purposeful relationship building. It is a “promise delivered”. People create allegiances and loyalty to brands. People care deeply about which brand they buy and what that says about them. People care about the difference between Coke and Pepsi, Apple and PC, Wal-mart and Target because of the relationship they have with them.[i] Leading firms are leveraging branding to build emotional relationships with their customers, and in a recent survey, Forrester found that emotion — how an experience makes the customer feel — contributed most to customer loyalty in 17 of the 18 industries.[ii]
Branding is not a campaign, and can be considered a meta-layer that exists before, after and during a campaign. It’s “the expression of the essential truth or value of an organization, product, or service.”[iii] It is communication and demonstration of unique properties that are intended to make the brand appealing to a particular audience. Demonstration is a key point here; communication through advertising is not enough. In his 1986 book, Moments of Truth, Jan Carlzon states: “Anytime a customer comes into contact with any aspect of a business, however remote, is an opportunity to form an impression.”[iv]
Consider the various things businesses do to run their business and serve their customers: advertising, sales, customer service, sponsorship, recruitment, strategy, etc. Each of these is run independently and thus there is room for them to deviate slightly from each other in intent or execution. To a customer or a member of the general public, there may be inconsistencies in what they hear about your service and what they see in your advertising, or between the way you recruit staff and the way you support your communities. A strong brand is the unifying link that brings separate storylines into one cohesive, consistent story for your audience.
So as you can see, advertising can help build the brand but it is not the starting point. Business owners that are approached by advertising suppliers should determine whether they have their brand figured out before tapping their always-constrained resources. A well-defined brand promise that is both communicated AND demonstrated will always generate a greater ROI than will sporadic advertising campaigns.
[ii] Pattek, S. (2015) Brand Experience Redefines Brand Management [Forrester]