Note: The below blog post is an elaboration on this week’s episode of I&Co.’s Marketing Mondays (#ICoMM), a new weekly series we have launched on YouTube and our blog. #ICoMM will tackle topics that business owners face on a regular basis, and we are happy to address any subjects you are interested to learn more about. Shoot us an email on hello@itaniandcompany.com with your suggestions! 

Since I started Itani & Company Marketing Consultants nearly two years ago, my focus has always been to work with local businesses for a variety of reasons, the most important of which is that I want to apply my decade of marketing experience to helping the homegrown ecosystem to flourish.

Throughout this time, one of my key focus points has been education, as most business owners I meet are not aware of the complexity of marketing or are daunted by it. A question that constantly comes up is: What is the difference between branding and marketing? Aren’t they one and the same?

The simple answer is no, they are related and inseparable, but two very different things. The best way to explain it is through cooking, with your brand being the targeted flavor of your dish and marketing being the recipe that helps you achieve it (isn’t everything easier to understand when it’s about FOOD? :).

The Flavour: Your Brand

When developing a brand strategy, the essential question is why does this business/service/product exist? What purpose is it here to serve, and how it is going to serve it? The strategy crystalizes the brand’s identity, which is an intangible and invaluable asset that sets your business apart from the competition. It is the personality behind the product or service that you sell,  and it is the brand itself to which people become loyal. Your brand is the flavour of that perfect dish you labour to create (with sweat and tears being essential ingredients).

The Recipe: Marketing

When tasting a meal you may not be able to identify all the ingredients or techniques used to reach the end result, but you can immediately tell if you like its flavour or not. That is how people respond to brands, and they’re not always sure why they like or dislike one. Maybe they can point to a few different elements, but overall it’s a wider recipe that will never be 100% understood by the average consumer.  You have to create your own secret method to whipping up the dish you envision for your customers (ahem, guests), and this takes careful planning through marketing.

Unless you’re Gordon Ramsey, you cook with a recipe that’s either carefully planned down to the last teaspoon or at least a loose idea in your head. It’s rare that you would ever achieve a great tasting dish simply by starting with one ingredient and then haphazardly grabbing other things from the fridge as you go, adding a hope and a prayer along the way that the elements will all taste good together.

But that is what so many business owners do when it comes to marketing. They usually start with some form of social media and then try random activities along the way, hoping that something will click. Trial and error is an unavoidable part of marketing, but erratic business behaviour like this goes far beyond simple trial and error. This is scrambling week to week trying to start a promotion mid month in the hope of stimulating sales. This is working with a random influencer who happened to email you saying they’ll give you “exposure” in return for free goodies. This is clicking “promote” on a Facebook post simply because the social platform nudged you to without even knowing how to adjust the target audience to suit your needs. This is flushing money down the toilet.

Ermm, that’s what I do…so what now?

You need a plan! Even if it’s just a basic schedule of activities jotted down on the back of a napkin, that is still more helpful than nothing at all. Before you start freaking out about the immensity of forward planning, start small. Put up a whiteboard in your office and write out the upcoming 6 months. Then start writing down all your ideas for each of those months. Take a break and come back to it a few hours later to assess all the different possibilities. Compare those with the budget you have and the ROI you think they’ll yield. Then start striking off all the activities that don’t seem to fit with your objectives/budget/calendar/manpower/etc.

If you do regular monthly things like promotions, blog posts, or events it is good to then expand your calendar to define these different categories and plug in a 6 month plan for each of them. I will be sharing a useful template for such planning in the upcoming few weeks, so keep an eye out on our blog!

While too many cooks can ruin a dish, we also know from experience that asking the input of an external chef can help give you plan your meal better and think about ingredients you may not have considered before. We love to cook up magic with our clients, so if you could use a little support give us a shout on hello@itaniandcompany.com and we’ll get our aprons out.