Brand is the input, marketing is the output.
I’m a bit of a stickler when it comes to using the term Brand vs. Branding. To me, a brand refers to the internal foundation of identity and strategy that determines a business’s meaning, guiding principles, and vision. Often that strategy contains the following elements: vision/why, values, strengths, target audience, message, and voice.
Branding, (like marketing) on the other hand, is the outward expression of the inward identity and strategies. It claims its form and function through your website, colors, logos, imagery, designs, client experience, etc.
Your brand informs just about everything in your business. From your marketing to the visuals to your client experience, heck even to how your schedule is structured.
But right now, we’re going to zero in on how [specifically] your brand should be influencing your marketing.
Function: Platform & Length
Platform and length are governed by both goals and the brand. Since your brand contains vital information about your strengths and your target audience, we go there first.
Marketing doesn’t have to be made up of all the things that you loathe – e.g. those dancing and pointing stereotypes.
The best marketing is the merging point of your strengths and your audience’s preferences.
If you aren’t someone who loves writing pages on pages but can talk – then maybe video or audio content is more your speed. Or vice versa, if the thought of video makes you want to crawl into a hovel and stay there forever and a day – there is still a place for your words.
We do of course have to loop in the audience and target of this content.
So, do some digging through your ICAs and try and figure out where they’re consuming the type of content you create. More importantly, where are they going to search for your product/service? And where do they go to sharpen their skills or seek out advice on the topics you specialize in?
If it’s Google – and blog posts give you the ick – take that YT video, podcast, or even an IG reel you made and pay someone to repurpose it into a blog that’s fit for the watchers and the readers. Bonus. It also makes it crawlable for the bots who rank your SEO.
There is a place for both short-form and long-form content on the internet. And people who will consume both. So, the same ideology as before applies here.
Tap into what you naturally want to create – like for me it’s novel-length emails and well-researched, meaty articles. Then I have to find the merging point of that strength with a format that also suits the available time and rhythms of my target audience. In order to stick with my love for length AND still reach my people amidst their full lives, I often have to chop up my words into bite-size IG carousels, clearly outline blog posts with headlines that make it skimmable, and add more emphasis to emails to break things up.
Section Summary: Don’t do marketing you hate. Instead, find the merging point of your strengths in creating content as well as how your client learns and consumes. Your approach to marketing lies at that intersection.
Form: Content & Messaging
If you have a pulse on your brand, you never truly start with a blank slate.
Within your brand identity, you’ll find your unique perspective, your ultimate vision, the strengths you carry with you everywhere, and an entire profile just about the type of people you’d love to work with over and over again.
There’s so much to work with there.
And at its core? Marketing is sharing. Simply sharing the solution your brand provides with those who need it. Over and over again in slightly different and new ways.
Solution is such a funky word when it comes to brands and businesses.
Not all of us creatives provide a tangible product or service that dishes out a clear cut solution (e.g. business coaches vs. wedding photographers). For this analogy – think of “solution” more in the realm of shortcuts, mindset shifts, places to land, literal and intangible products.
Seth Godin summarizes this idea wonderfully “Marketing is the generous act of helping others become who they seek to become. It involves creating honest stories—stories that resonate and spread.”
There are two simple ways to determine what parts of your brand you should be leveraging in your content marketing.
- Core Offerings
Now with an outline in mind, let’s identify those honest stories about the solutions you provide that will resonate with your people and spread your name in the right circles.
Real-life examples are the easiest way to illustrate this point – we’ll use my business.
I’m a brand photographer and coach for creatives. My offering suite ranges from brand photography sessions with a super tailored and in-depth process to 1:1 brand coaching sessions to The Brand Plan a course-meets-coaching style program.
So, naturally, I’ll be talking about brands a lot and content storylines under that banner could range from:
- Bts of my process and on-set at brand shoots
- Advice and shortcuts for defining your brand as a creative
- Stories and learnings from this season of life in business
- Case studies of client work that features solutions and transformations for specific clients and how we got them there
I had even more ideas than that. But, you get the gist.
There are countless ways you can market your products and services by cycling through your version of all the line items above.
This is where you add a little spice. Take those more general storylines, that anyone who does something similar to you can create content for, and you make it specific to your brand.
Your values are the inherently held beliefs and perspectives you hold about life and how you live it. Naturally, you bring those to the table when you do business the way you do and talk about stuff on a normal basis.
We find ourselves in a world where people are predominantly looking to work with and buy from people who support and value what they do in life and in business. Seth Godin alludes to this idea when he says “People like us, we do things like this.”
So, leveraging those values and perspectives in your marketing is a no-brainer.
Going back to my business as an analogy, we’re going to take two of those broader topics and make them specific by leveraging the way that my values have informed and instructed my approach and process.
- Behind the Scenes: I’ve booked 60% of my brand shoots because of bts content and it’s predominantly because I enjoy showing and walking through processes, and so do my ideal clients. They’re looking for someone who creates something more unique and less cookie-cutter, who can see and execute their vision. So, doing the extra work to set up a tripod to film my research process and meetings plus paying an assistant to film me on brand shoots is always worth the work because it shows them that I’m the person they’re looking for.
- Stories and learnings from this season of life in business: This could easily be summed up by just pasting my life quote of “Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt whatever you believe to be the will of God in your life.” – Jim Elliot. If you scroll through my IG and blog feeds, you’ll quickly find that I’m often reminiscent and reminding myself and you to take joy in this season. To find purpose in the mundane and to take a break from the hustle to celebrate this season for what it’s worth and what it’s teaching you. My target audience started a business not to make the most, but to build live to the utmost. Their business is a vehicle for time and financial freedom as well as serving people in the vein of their vision and passions. So, when I share heart notes in the form of reels with scripted, poetic voiceovers playing alongside idyllic clips from real life – they often engage with them.
Does that help you envision how you can get even more specific with your content by airing your values?
Admittedly, it took me a while to figure these out. Some trial and error. Testing and watching what perspectives produced the type of engagement I was looking for. But in the end, the time was worth it because some of my favorite clients found me through this kind of content.
Section Summary: Steer clear of general and choose to be specific. Voicing your values and having opinions is what will ultimately draw in the right people. And at the same time, it will repel those who don’t align with you and wouldn’t be a great fit anyhow.