Are You Marketing Your Brand or Your Mission?
When you think of your brand, it can feel like a nebulous concept sometimes, right?
You show up at your organization every day to fulfill a mission, to fill a need and to create opportunity for yourself and others around you. But is that your mission (your “why”) or is that your brand? And where does marketing come into the mix?
These functions work hand-in-hand, but our terminology of what they mean can get confusing.
Where do mission, brand and marketing intersect, and how do each of them work together to build awareness, community, fundraising opportunities and sustainability for your nonprofit?
Let’s break these terms down.
What you do and why you do it is the mission. Your mission directly ties to impact and purpose.
Your brand is the perception of what you do, which is not to be confused with perceived outcomes.
As Jeff Bezos has said, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Your mission is the work you actually do. Your brand is what people perceive you do.
Yes, you can build a house. That is your mission. That is your work. Your brand is how others perceive that house to be. Is it a good house? A sturdy house? A pleasing house?
And understanding that perception is critical to understanding what your brand is. Spending time on the brand is often overlooked and many companies and nonprofits go straight to the marketing and do not stop to pause on the brand.
You must first pause on how your mission is communicated in your brand. Then, move to the marketing plan and strategy.
Otherwise, you might just flat out be wasting money on marketing when your brand isn’t right. Since both branding and marketing can serve the growth goals of your mission in different ways, each deserves it’s own spotlight.
Here’s my breakdown for how to distinguish between branding and marketing.
- Branding. Own your voice and show up with it through stories, visualization and proof of how you bring value into someone’s life. Branding is about differentiating.
- Marketing. The tactics and strategies used to get in front of people and have your voice heard. Marketing is about amplification.
So, what is next? How do you use this new way of thinking about mission versus brand versus marketing?
I’ve made it simplistic, but it’s not simple. It’s a discussion point that needs attention within your organization. In order to make the most of your marketing spend, evaluate these questions:
- Why are we here, who are we and why does it matter to our audience?
- How do we help our audience live out their life aspirations (for impact) through our mission?
- How do we communicate this in our brand messaging in a way that matters to our audience?
- What channels do we think our audience is on and where will this message have the greatest opportunity for reach within our budget?
So, the next time someone asks you if you need to spend time on branding, hopefully you have a little bit of insight to share on the differences between branding and marketing, and why each needs care and attention.
Taylor Shanklin is a TEDx speaker, podcast host and marketing innovator in the nonprofit sector. Taylor is the founder and CEO of Barlele, a brand and marketing strategy agency that helps mission-minded businesses and nonprofit organizations grow through clear storytelling, branding, digital marketing strategies and strategic growth coaching.
In her career, she has served 100-plus organizations on both national and local levels. Her areas of expertise are branding and digital storytelling, digital marketing for nonprofits, empowering one's authentic voice and helping nonprofit organizations realize their full potential through digital donor experiences that delight and surprise. Taylor lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children and dachshund named Lady.