Brand Your Community, Or Die!

David Brier said, “If you don’t give the market the story to talk about, they’ll define your brand’s story for you.” Far too many communities allow others to control their narrative.  To elevate your community to the fullest in the eyes of the outside world, it is absolutely critical to understand the differences between marketing and branding – the difference is immense.

When you ask the experts what the differences are, you can get many varied opinions.  Let me separate marketing and branding this way. Marketing is all about convincing people to DO something or take an action. Branding is all about helping people FEEL something. Marketing generally speaks to the MIND and LOGIC. Branding speaks and connects to the HEART and SOUL. When we attempt to brand our community, we want to speak to the heart and soul, we want to have them fall in love with us, we want them to connect on an emotional level.

I saw a great chart the other day, it went like this. Branding is the why, marketing is the how. Branding is long-term, marketing is short-term. Branding is macro, Marketing is micro. Branding defines trajectory, Marketing defines tactics. Branding builds loyalty, Marketing generates response. Branding creates value, Marketing extracts value. Branding is the being, Marketing is the doing.

Yes, through marketing, we entice tourists and visitors to visit our community, we want them to spend money locally, we want them to do all the things that tourists do. But to build the most effective marketing, we must first appeal to their heart through branding. Once you have reached their heart, you can much more easily reach their mind and pocketbook.

As I have worked with communities, I am constantly encouraging and assisting them to build uniqueness that leads to unique stories in which to convey to the outside world. When they can create a unique story that others can’t easily duplicate, your branding message becomes clearer and moves beyond the words, capturing the heart and soul that branding strives to capture.

When it comes to business and communities, effective branding can change attitudes, it can alter previous conceived notions, and it can determine how others perceive your business or community.

But we must also understand that a brand is largely a perception, one that can change depending on the situation. Elon Musk said it best when he said, Brand is just a perception, and perception will match reality over time.” In other words, regardless of your branding efforts, if the branding message doesn’t match reality, the message conveyed by the branding efforts will slowly erode toward the reality of the real situation. If you are selling something that really doesn’t exist, the consumers will figure it out and reality will set in, branding doesn’t solve operational or community shortcomings. Never create a brand that really doesn’t exist, that will only erode trust and future branding will be much less effective.

I love the quote by Jay Baer when he said, “Branding is the art of aligning what you want people to think about your company with what people actually do think about your company. And vice-versa.” It is much like asking someone out on date. Asking them out on the date is marketing, branding is the reason they said, Yes!

As your community or business considers your future, always start with the branding message you want to convey. By understanding what you want that message to be, you will better understand what you need to do to make the branding message be true.  It forces you to evaluate what you want the outside world to feel, experience and understand about your community or business. Successful communities understand the value of the message, they understand creating a community with heart and soul allows for powerful branding efforts. They also know that appealing to the heart will lead people to their doors. Be unique, be strong and build your brand – that will surely lead to success.

John Newby is a nationally recognized Publisher, Community, Chamber, Business & Media strategic consultant & speaker. His “Building Main Street, not Wall Street,” column runs 60+ communities around the country. The founder of Truly-Local, he assists communities, their businesses and local media to build synergies, thus creating more vibrant communities. He can be reached at:

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