Brands Are Value-Generating Assets, Marketing Is Just Tactics.

As the Founder and CEO of a branding agency, it might seem like I’m a little biased when I say that good branding can make or break a company, but truly, the power of branding is something that cannot be underestimated or overstated. Brands hold significant psychological value and are value-generating assets in and of themselves, compared to marketing, which is the mechanism that converts this value into tangible actions and metrics. Branding and marketing are both necessary for maximum reach and ROI, but there is a big misconception that they are the same, and it is my strong belief that they are not.

Particularly in today’s digital age, marketing has become extremely focused on the numbers… number of clicks, number of views, number of followers, likes, shares, and the list goes on. The art of branding has gotten somewhat lost in the race to grab people’s attention by whatever means necessary, crank the machine, and convert the sale. But the best brands are still – and will always be – the ones that make you feel something. A brand’s true power lies in its ability to elicit an emotional response from consumers – one that builds desire, creates lasting meaning, and elevates them to their highest selves.

“The only non-renewable resources we have are our time, our attention, and our energy. If we’re all acting as social media worker bees that build out content and only the top 1% are actually making any money for what they’re creating, then that’s where I wonder if the value equation is actually working for consumers in this new world.”

The key to success for me has been a brand-first, consumer-second approach. Once the brand is locked down, then I look for aligned values, consumer insights, and an addressable audience that would fit and be attracted to this brand’s meaning and purpose. The way you know that you have good consumer insight is that it’s surprisingly obvious. You do a lot of research and work, and then you say, “Of course that’s it!” It needs to be fresh and something you hadn’t thought of before, but once you hear it, it rings unmistakably true.

One of the methodologies I use at Playbook Studio is based on Jungian psychology and archetypes – something I learned from an important mentor and collaborator in this space, Stephen Fischer. It’s what I like to call putting brands “on the couch.” When people go through my process, they feel like they’ve been psychoanalyzed because they are seen, heard, and understand things about themselves and their brand in a deeper way than they thought possible. In order to do this authentically, it’s crucial to get to the core truth of why a brand exists in the first place. Once a brand gets to its core truth, it can express itself with clarity and really connect with its audience on an emotional level – whatever that emotion may be.

A common issue I see is a lot of people today trying to bring new brands or new technology to the market who don’t think that branding really matters. So much of what I do is education around why someone would actually want or need to spend money on the branding aspect. I love working on B2B brands for this reason. At the end of the day, we’re all humans who are constantly judging all of the symbols, codes, and messages that are being sent to us – consciously, subconsciously, and unconsciously. It matters greatly how you show up in the world, as a person and especially as a brand…because everything communicates.

If you’d like to hear more of my thoughts on the power of branding and how it differs from marketing in today’s digital age, check out my feature on Hunter Hayes’ Economics for Business podcast, episode titled, Graceann Bennett: Brands Are Value-Generating Assets, Marketing Is Just Tactics.