The Evolution from Publicity to Branding

I’ve had some interesting chats with some board members of our local Ad Club of Western Massachusetts. I feel that I could offer the membership some insights into successful branding techniques. One comment I received from a board member is that we’ve had a lot of brand speakers lately, we’d like to offer something else. My response is that you wouldn’t stop offering marketing topics just because you’ve had a lot of them recently would you?

Which goes to another misperception about branding that most companies hold: Once you’ve done branding, you’re done branding.

That’s just like saying once you’ve done marketing, you’re done marketing. Ummmmm, I don’t think so.

Our Ad Club originally started life as the Publicity Club nearly 100 years ago (1909). I’m not sure which year saw its name change to Ad Club, but I feel that they are now two names behind in what their name evolution ought to be.

When the Club was founded 97 years ago, newspapers reigned supreme. Radio had just barely been invented, and wouldn’t even begin to see widespread adoption for another 10 years or so.

In the 60s, mass market advertising became the dominant vehicle, and I am guessing that in this period, or possibly in the 70s, the club changed it’s name to the Ad Club.

I am truly surprised that the Club did not change its name to the Marketing Club fifteen years ago. It was at the beginning of the 90s that most businesses realized that there was much more to increasing business than simply advertising. Advertising is but one component of effective marketing. Other components include publicity, promotions and direct mail. I don’t have hard data to back this up, but in the late 80s to early 90s, most job titles changed from VP of Advertising and Advertising Manager to VP of Marketing and Marketing Manager.

Well, it’s now 2006, and what should already be called the Marketing Club should now be called the Branding Club. Just as Marketing includes many things more than Advertising, so Branding includes many things more than just Marketing. Branding encompasses everything that marketing encompasses, but includes strategy, operations, and service. In the past, it may have been good enough for management to tell the marketing department, “go promote us”, and then marketing dutifully went out and told the world what the company was up to.

But true branding is much more than that. True branding demands that marketing does not so much tell the world about the company, but rather actively shapes what the company is. And also how it interacts with the rest of the world. As the internet has broken down borders and made access to information readily available anywhere and everywhere about every imagineable topic, companies now must exist as part of their marketplace. (“Markets are conversations” as laid out in the Cluetrain Manifesto seven years ago.) Companies now must engage with their marketplaces instead of marketing “at” them. And this is what great branding is all about. Unfortunately, I still see too many marketers and companies who think that the internet and world wide web is simply another channel to “market at” people. It’s so much more than that. That kind of thinking would equate television to the Pony Express, only faster. Today’s world is not about “marketing at”, but “engaging with”. And great brands engage people, often on many levels.

Ironically, 97 years later, word of mouth is one of the most important business success factors… and that’s what the Publicity Club was founded to promote 97 years ago. Everything that was old becomes new again.

It would be terrific if the Club jumped ahead of the curve, motored straight past “Marketing Club” and jumped right into being the “Branding Club”. Let’s hope that they do it!


4 Responses to “The Evolution from Publicity to Branding”

  1. Trey Reeme Says:

    Golden post, Morriss. I’m convinced that a clear majority of credit unions don’t understand what you eloquently laid out: “Unfortunately, I still see to many marketers and companies who think that the internet and world wide web is simply another channel to “market at” people. It’s so much more than that. That kinds of thinking would equate television to the Pony Express, but faster. Today’s world is not about “marketing at”, but “engaging with”. And great brands engage, not market.”

    For small and large companies alike, you are your brand. Every interaction, every email you send, every promo you design, every conversation – especially the conversations that occur online.

    “Marketing at” is out. “Engaging with” is in.It’s apparent that you believe it, too. After all, your blog’s not the “ Marketing Adventure.”

  2. V Says:

    Adding to Trey and “you are your brand” – that includes not only how you interact – but how you look!

    The look & feel of your locations + the look & feel of your materials…

    We’re going to be taking a hard look at the look of our locations in the coming months…

  3. Sue Davison Says:

    Great thoughts, Morriss! As a board member of the aforementioned Ad Club, I think you make some excellent points here. I’ll do my best to start the name change — but whether we can jump straight to Branding Club or have to stop first at Marketing Club remains to be seen….

  4. Morriss Partee Says:

    Hi, Sue,

    I actually agree that it would be way too hard, politically and otherwise, to jump straight to the Western Massachusetts Brand Club (but it sounds good!). I just want to be on record that that’s where we are all heading. I do feel that going to the Marketing Club is way overdue (at least ten years). The great thing about going to the Marketing Club is that there are probably a lot more people who would join… graphic designers currently probably feel somewhat welcome, but the Marketing Club would probably feel much more welcoming to printers, mailing houses, web designers, search engine optimization specialists, media producers, writers, publishers, photographers, business development specialists, VPs of marketing, marketing consultants, event coordinators, etc.

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