Do you know your organization needs support but you get stuck on who or what you’re specifically looking for? In this post, we’re exploring the difference between a branding and marketing agency, and how to decide who to hire.
Your communications, marketing or fundraising department needs some additional support so you start asking your network for marketing agency referrals and jump to The Google and search “best marketing agencies near me”. You’re confident that any of the names you receive will be able to support you and begin the research process.
But depending on what that ‘additional support’ looks like, a marketing agency may not be what your department or organization needs help with. Marketing and branding agencies are often thought of interchangeably but here’s the thing – there are some big differences between what they offer, what support looks like and what problems they are solving for.
In this article
→ What’s the difference between brand, branding and marketing?
→ What type of support does a branding agency or studio offer?
→ What type of support does a marketing agency or studio offer?
→ Making the case for starting with your organization’s brand and branding
→ A few tips for finding your right brand or marketing partner
What’s the difference between brand, branding and marketing?
At Witt and Company, we define brand as the perception of your business, comprised of how people think, feel and act.
How you actually get people to think, feel and act towards your brand is through a combination of brand elements like your messaging, logo, color scheme and website, known as branding.
Marketing, is putting the brand elements into practice to influence a behavior. Think posting on social media, sending an email to your list or building a website.
What type of support does a branding agency or studio offer?
When you bring in a branding agency for support, their job is to help you change, define, update, refresh, strategize, create or bring clarity to that perception. I think of this as the foundational work for your organization and directly related to the success of its communication efforts.
While the process, deliverables and level of support is dependent on the agency, at a high level, an outside brand partner can help your organization with:
- Purpose, mission, vision and values
- Positioning, differentiation and uniqueness
- Ideal client persona
- Core message
- Personality, communication and tone of voice
- Brand identity – logo, fonts, colors, patterns, textures, graphics, etc.
What type of support does a marketing agency or studio offer?
At the core, the marketing agency’s job is to help you develop, and possibly execute, your brand through communication channels to influence a desired behavior. Generally, this means proactively increasing engagement, traffic, leads, donors and advocates for your organization.
Again, the process, deliverables and level of support is dependent on the agency. But at a high level, an outside marketing partner can help your organization with things like:
- Blog posts
- Social media
- Search engine optimization
Making the case for starting with your organization’s brand and branding
There are two different use cases to explore – a new organization and an existing one.
If you’re a new organization, it’s a lot easier to understand and make the decision to start with your brand. Since it sets the foundation for effective organization communication, it makes sense to get clarity on what your organization is all about, how it will be communicated and to whom. Then, you can take those elements and apply them to your marketing.
But what happens if you’re an existing organization and wondering what your next right step is? How do you decide if it’s marketing or branding help that you need to seek out?
While we are a little biased, generally when an organization’s marketing isn’t meeting expectations, we still first want to explore the brand.
Because defining who you are as an organization, shaping its perception with your key stakeholders and fostering more meaningful relationships with them is an ongoing effort that never stops. As your organization grows and evolves, so too does your brand.
There’s this misconception that once you define the key elements of your brand – things like its mission, purpose, positioning, personality and identity – you can then move on and not revisit them until you’re ready to go through an entire rebrand.
The drawback of this mindset is that you miss a huge opportunity to let your brand grow right alongside your organization. When you intentionally check in with your brand elements on a regular basis, you gain the opportunity to make more incremental tweaks and adjustments along the way, so that you can maintain (or even improve) your brand’s perception overtime. This also helps you build stronger relationships with your stakeholders because you’re taking them on the journey, rather than keeping your brand stagnant and then doing one big overhaul.
Yes, of course, sometimes a rebrand is necessary – check out this post if you’re wanting to learn more.
Back to the original question and point. Even as an existing organization, we’re still making the case for revisiting your brand first and then jump into changing up your marketing strategy or tactics. That way you can ensure the right elements are in place before you then change how they’re being externally communicated. Because each brand element can be directly tied to a marketing effort, if the brand isn’t solid, the marketing probably won’t be either.
For example, it doesn’t make sense to add in a new social media marketing platform if you aren’t clear on who you’re trying to reach there. Or, to adjust the type of blog content you’re writing when you aren’t confident in your brand’s core message.
Which leads to the (kind of) obvious: once you revisit your brand strategy and identity, or if you can say with absolute confidence that they’re aligned and supportive, it makes sense to bring in marketing support for your organization’s communication efforts.
And, if you’re still unsure, it never hurts to ask…
A few tips for finding your right brand or marketing partner
Which brings us to the last section – it’s the job of the brand or marketing partner to help you determine if their services or support are what your organization needs. This is why it’s important to have a variety of conversations with multiple options so you can see how their approaches and processes are similar and different. Which is recommendation number one – meet with multiple partners get different perspectives and opinions.
And here are a few other questions to ask to help find your right fit:
- What are their brand values and what’s their company culture like; does it align with your organization?
- How are they adaptive and nimble to the inevitable changes that emerge during a brand and/or marketing project?
- Does you and your team feel comfortable with them; do they create space and listen to your ideas?
- Do they understand and respect what your organization is trying to create?
- Can they show past work that’s in line with the problems you’re experiencing and solutions you’re envisioning?
With that, happy branding!
All my best,
Additional brand resources
Looking to redesign your nonprofit’s website but overwhelmed by all the options? Here are five tips for finding your organization’s right website design partner.
Want to start closing the brand communication gap between your nonprofit organization and your right audience? These questions will give you more brand clarity and direction for effective communication.
Are you considering rebranding your nonprofit organization? Here are the top considerations that will help you reduce the overwhelm and stress of rebranding your organization.
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