Brand marketing. Two words you’ve probably heard thrown around a lot by entrepreneurs and marketers alike. But there’s a lot more to brand marketing than you might think.

brand marketing illustration
Brand marketing tells your story by emphasizing your whole brand. Illustration by Orange Crush.

What is brand marketing? Brand marketing is a way to promote your product or service by promoting your brand as a whole. Essentially, it tells your service’s or product’s story by emphasizing your whole brand.

In this article, we’re taking a look at some of the best examples of brand marketing from top global brands and discussing how you can take cues from them as you develop your own brand marketing strategies. We’re also covering what to do and what to avoid with brand marketing to ensure your strategy’s success.

Everything you need to know about brand marketing:

What’s the difference between branding and marketing, and which comes first?

Good question. It’s important you understand the difference between branding and marketing so you can efficiently use them together. In essence, marketing is how you build awareness of your brand and its products and generate sales, and branding is how you express who your business is for and what it’s all about.

Think of marketing as your business-generating toolkit and branding as your overall approach to reaching your target audience. Branding is one of the primary building blocks of your marketing strategy, so it will always come first. If your brand was KFC, your branding would be the “secret herbs and spices” and your marketing would be everything you do to get your customers excited to try your chicken, like your TV and radio ads, billboards and social media ads. No matter what industry you’re in or how large you aim to grow, it’s important to work out who your business is as a brand before you create a marketing plan.

Stylescape designs
Once you’ve defined how your brand looks, keep it organized in a brand guide. Brand guide design by ludibes.

That means clearly identifying your company’s personality. In other words, defining your brand. This means carefully choosing your illustrations, logo, typography and business colors to embody your brand’s values. For example, if you’re a bold brand, you’d likely choose a bright color palette and a punchy copy voice. If you’re a timeless, traditional brand, you’d probably go with more muted colors and a sophisticated font for your website and email template. These design choices are the foundation for your marketing strategy.

When is brand marketing most successful?

screenshot of Colgate Oral Care Center website
For Colgate, effective brand marketing means being the go-to oral health expert. Via Potion.

You’re in it for the long game with brand marketing. It works best when your goal is to create repeat buyers (for instance when it comes to everyday products) or to connect with buyers making long-term, expensive purchases like vehicles. This is because a clear brand creates recognition and ignites a distinct feeling about it that will stay with your audience forever.

print ad showing a prominent diamond ring
A print ad with strong brand marketing. Flyer design by L.W Dezigns.

For example, a tourist will know they can trust Colgate toothpaste to keep their teeth clean wherever they are in the world. Colgate has taken a unique approach to their brand marketing over the years, deciding to educate their audience, rather than just push products to them. They’ve started an Oral Care Center, which hosts a series of videos about oral hygiene, and they also share important facts about how to care for your teeth on all their advertisements, particularly their social media platforms. This brand marketing strategy has helped Colgate to not only sell toothpaste, but to become one of the most trusted oral care brands around the globe.

The more thorough you are in your brand marketing strategy, the greater your likelihood of thriving when you execute those strategies. Investing in a solid brand marketing strategy now will make your future marketing campaigns easier to execute, because you’ll have guidelines to follow and past successes to build upon.

Here are three questions every business should answer when putting together their brand marketing strategy:

  1. Who is your target audience?
  2. What is your brand’s primary goal?
  3. How does your brand define success?

Understanding the answers to these simple questions will help define what your objectives should be, how you should talk to your audience and how you’ll measure your success.

overhead photo of red and white sneakers
Brand marketing communicates where your brand fits into the world. Logo and brand identity design by sheva™.

Three of the best brand marketing strategies in the business

Apple, McDonald’s and Nike are three brands that almost anybody in the world will recognize. How did they reach this point? Effective brand marketing!

Apple’s brand marketing strategy

Apple’s brand marketing strategy is simple. Don’t just create a brand, create a movement. In all of Apple’s marketing efforts, they don’t just sell their newest phone or tablet, they sell a lifestyle. From their crisp white packaging and their provocative taglines (Think Different being one of their most famous) to their event-like product launches, Apple’s brand marketing makes people feel like they need Apple products to improve their lives.

Apple packaging
Apple’s packaging is more than a brand, it’s part of a movement via Swedbrandgroup

This brand marketing strategy has created a dedicated fandom. Apple recognizes their fandom’s staying power and with it in mind, never strays away from their comprehensive brand. Even when their marketing executions change, their clear, modern and innovative brand marketing strategy remains the same.

Steve Jobs at an Apple launch
Apple’s product launches are events that excite the whole world. Via Financial Times.

Nike’s brand marketing strategy

Nike’s brand marketing strategy involves not just selling a product, but selling a story. From their website to their product descriptions to their social media, Nike takes every opportunity to tell a story about their products, their beginning or their ideas.

Nike product description showing a red sneaker
Nike is an expert at telling stories, from their social to their product descriptions. Via Entrepreneur.

Adding a storytelling element to your brand or giving your customers the background of your business story adds a human element to your business and may be a great marketing strategy for you. Remember, your story doesn’t have to be groundbreaking. Simply explaining where you came from and giving your customers something to relate to is far more influential than just selling a product.

Nike print ad featuring Colin Kaepernick
Nike’s print ads always do more than sell a product, they tell a story. Via Business Insider.

McDonald’s brand marketing strategy

According to numerous studies, McDonald’s is one of the most recognized brands around the globe. So it’s no surprise their brand marketing strategy relies heavily on brand consistency. Their golden arches are instantly recognized everywhere from America to India to Australia, and people associate their brand with feeling happy.

collection of McDonald’s merchandise
When a brand is as big as McDonald’s, even merchandise without the company’s name is instantly recognizable. Via McDonalds.

How has McDonald’s created such a distinguishable brand? Well, they’ve kept their brand identity and product consistent for over 60 years, while making thoughtful and on-brand improvements. Their logo has remained relatively the same and their marketing taglines have unrelentingly endorsed the same message: we make you happy. Here’s a few ways they’ve said it over the years:

  • You deserve a break today (1971-1975)
  • That’s my McDonald’s (1981)
  • Have you had your break today? (1995-1997)
  • Smile (2001-2003)
  • I’m lovin’ it (present)

When you’re creating a brand marketing strategy, invest in something that has longevity. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time you create a new marketing campaign or logo. In fact, doing so could create more harm than good because inconsistency and extreme changes will likely confuse and even alienate your audience.

the first McDonalds restaurant
The McDonalds logo and colors have barely changed in 60 years. Via Culinary Lore.
McDonalds billboard
The McDonalds logo is so identifiable, that they no longer have to show the whole thing. Via DeMilked.

Brand marketing in five simple steps

Brand marketing isn’t reserved for industry giants like Nike, Apple and McDonald’s. Any brand, at any size, can pull it off by nailing five simple steps.

1. Understand your brand purpose

animated social media ad
This ad answers almost all the questions above. It’s a high-tech cap that kills bacteria fast, making health-conscious buyers feel their water is safe when they use it. Social media ad via Maryia Dziadziulia.

Understanding why your brand exists is core to your brand marketing strategy. Ask yourself these questions to help you nail your brand purpose.

  • Who is your target audience?
  • Why would they trust you?
  • What does your brand make them feel?
  • What challenge does your brand solve?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • What is your brand’s background story? Why was it created in the first place?
  • If your brand was a person, who would they be and why?

This first step is where you’ll start defining how your brand will look and feel. This means choosing your brand color palette, typography and imagery. If you’re not already familiar with how to represent your brand persona through visual design choices, take a look at our resources on how to design a logo, logo colors, font choices, visual design styles and logo shapes.

 2. Research your target market

Understand who your customers are by creating customer personas. A customer persona is a comprehensive picture of your perfect purchaser. It will help you create an emotional connection with your audience. For example, if you’re selling small budget vehicles, your customer persona might be an 18-25 year old female university student who’s looking for her first car. When crafting your customer persona, ask yourself questions such as:

  • How old is this person?
  • Are they married?
  • Where do they live?
  • What is your job?
  • What do they do every day?
  • What’s their educational background?
  • What was their most recent purchase and where do they like to shop?
  • What do they care about?
  • What do they need from my product or service?
simple black and white logo of a car made from a couch
A clear vision of your ideal customer persona will guide everything from your business name to the art style you choose for your logo. Logo design by Desana.

 

billboard ad showing wine bottles against a beachy background
This billboard tells the story of a city slicker being briefly transported to a tropical paradise by enjoying fruity, delicious wine. Billboard design by MindArt89.

3. Define and sell your story

You can sell your brand’s story by creating the right message. The story you craft and sell will connect your brand with your target audience, encourage loyalty and help with brand recall. Take time to really develop an engaging story that has all the same elements as your favorite novel or movie: characters, a conflict, a resolution.

The story doesn’t have to be dramatic; it can be as simple as your grandparents deciding to open a bakery in town 50 years ago and passing the business and their beloved recipe on for generations, then you finding ways to make their iconic cakes and pastries with all organic ingredients, offering the community healthy, delicious baked goods. Capture your market’s attention with a great story, then let them be part of the story by interacting with your brand.

round logo showing a nurse holding a giant spatula
Sometimes, the story is more subtle — like in this logo for a keto bakery. Logo design by Asaad™.
black and white illustrated logo of tentacles coming out of a radish
If your brand’s weirdness is what sets you apart, don’t be afraid to get weird in your branding. Logo design by olimpio.

4. Get to know your competitors

Just like getting to know your own audience, it’s equally important to get to know your competitors. Research them, determine how you’re different from them, then focus on this difference in your marketing messaging. For example, if your competitor is known for being the cheapest, you may want to focus on why quality is more important than price in your communications.

5. Create brand guidelines

Once you understand your brand and audience, think about how to connect them in your marketing. Creative brand guidelines are where you’ll cover your logo, colors, fonts, tone of voice and more. It will help any designers and marketers you work with tell your brand’s story and deliver your message in the best possible way, as well as ensure brand consistency.

style guide for fashion brand
Brand guidelines are an important part of brand marketing. Brand guide design by Terry Bogard.

Three things to avoid when you’re developing a brand marketing strategy

When you’re developing a brand marketing strategy, make sure you avoid these pitfalls:

1. Skipping checking out your competitors

Imagine creating a brand marketing strategy and rolling out your messaging in the form of marketing materials, only to realize that your competitor has already done a very similar thing. This happens all too often, and the best and only way to avoid it is to thoroughly research what everyone else in your industry is doing before you get started.

juice product packaging showing fresh fruits and the juicing process
If you’re selling juice, make sure to see what other brands are doing with their packaging. Product packaging via FreshApple.

2. Having inconsistent creative

Having different creative executions each time you go to market with a different piece of communication might seem fun, but it’s actually confusing for your audience and damaging to your brand. For example, if you own a burger chain, you wouldn’t want to push a celebrity endorsement video at the same time as an animated ad about your ingredients. It would get confusing for your audience as they’re trying to recognize your brand, and it would also be more expensive to produce. The same goes for voice consistency across channels. Whether you’re talking to your audience on social media, via a print ad or a video, you want to make sure your voice always sounds like your brand. Remember, even if you’ve seen your communications and messaging hundreds of times, your audience hasn’t.

Instagram images showing different bottled products against bright backgrounds
Consistent creative is key to creating a strong brand marketing strategy. Instagram post design by Pepper Pack Design.

3. Lacking a long-term vision

Without goals and a brand mission, your brand marketing strategy will not be focused and may lack direction. It’s important to know what you want to achieve in the long-term, rather than just having short-term goals. An example of a long-term goal might be expanding internationally, bringing new products to market or creating a large social media presence.

blue and yellow brand guideline booklet
Cover everything in the brand guide, even branding needs you don’t yet have. Brand guide design by Terry Bogard.

Good brand marketing is key to a successful business

Remember, whether you try to create a movement like Apple, tell a story like Nike or have great brand recognition like McDonalds, the more thorough you are in your brand marketing, the simpler it will be to create, launch and grow with each of your marketing campaigns.

Product packaging for little rituals
Product Packaging for Little Rituals with a strong brand marketing strategy. Product packaging design by JianBranding.

If you’re just starting out or you’re looking to refresh and revive your brand, make learning how to create a brand marketing strategy the first thing on your to-do list.

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