Branding, Marketing, and some Queens

One of my favourite podcasts is the Rock Star Branding podcast put together by Brian Thompson, Michael Brandvold, and Greg Kihn.  This week’s podcast focused on the difference between branding and marketing.  These terms are often used interchangeably, and as a marketer myself, I find that confusion to be dangerous to entrepreneurs and business owners.  Brian, Michael and Greg did a fantastic job of explaining the difference in the podcast, so what I will do is show you my current favourite example of each.

First of all, let’s start with textbook.  The 3rd edition of Marketing An Introduction defines it as “…the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, partners, and society” (Armstrong, Kotler, Cunningham, & Buchwitz, 2010, pg. 7).  A bit of a mouthful.  

The same text goes on to define as brand as “a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers” (Armstrong, Kotler, Cunningham, & Buchwitz, 2010, pg. 328).  Less intense than the first, though not as all inclusive as I would like.

Queens Branding & Marketing

I’ve been on a Queens of the Stone Age kick for the past month.  The marketing campaign for their new album, …Like Clockwork, has driven me into a fanatic, frothy-mouthed frenzy of desire to purchase the album, and while the record will be released by a new record label (QOTSA was signed to Interscope, now signed to Matador), the band’s brand has remained in tact during the course of the campaign.

When I think of Queens of the Stone Age the words I associate with the brand are “mysterious”, “blunt”, and “uncompromising”.  Lead singer/guitarist Josh Homme is notorious for not divulging more information than he has to.  Given that he never gets asked about his personal life in interviews, I have a hunch that he has a long list of rules for an interview (and yes, those are a real and normal thing – ALWAYS talk to the journalist before the interview and lay down the rules).  Homme and the band are well-known for being uncompromisingly blunt to the point of being rudejust plain silly, or accidentally explaining his rude outburst at Norwegian Wood.  Regardless of your personal opinion of Homme’s behaviour, you understand how forthright he is and that the band is an extension of how he brands himself (though his branding may just be personality over purposeful choice).

Homme is a representation of Queens of the Stone Age’s brand: an image created and maintained across every medium the band uses to communicate to and with the public.  Marketing is about campaigns designed to encourage purchasing the upcoming album.  As I already mentioned, the marketing campaign promoting …Like Clockwork is a brilliant example of how branding and marketing interact to enrapture fans and non-fans alike.

Clockwork Campaigns

I picked up most of the album’s marketing campaign via Facebook, though it campaign utilized FacebookTwitterYouTube, the website, and an iPhone application called Vine.  By using short, assertive sentences with ambiguous or meaning, the mystery, bluntness, and uncompromising image of the brand is maintained and the marketing campaign rolls on.

Below is a gallery of the Facebook posts that are part of the marketing campaign.  Read the text and take in the images.  To me, each post reads as a mysterious and blunt – just like how the band has branded itself.  The images are bleak and mysterious.  The copy and images are branded content that are part of a marketing campaign.

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The Take-Away

Branding: How a product(s), service(s), person(s), and/or company are presented and what they stand for.  Think of it as the image or words that come into your mind when you consider the product, service, person or company.

Marketing: Campaigns meant to spread awareness, encourage purchase, build brand loyalty, maintain brand image in the customer’s mind, and/or any other objective related to building at business/brand.

Does that make sense?  Comment below, email me, tweet me, just make sure you tell me if this still doesn’t make sense.  I am more than happy to help you understand the two concepts discussed above.

All images are copyright of their respective owners and publishers.

Electile Dysfunction

Yeah, I’m writing about the election, but I’m not talking about politics.  “Election but no politics?” you say, “Russell, you must think we’re fools!”  First of all, I would never think of you as a fool (unless you put effort into it), and second, I’m talking about the mechanics of the election, not the politics of the event.  So fear not!  There will be no political analysis (or whining).


Need-to-Know Basis

There is an acronym used by marketers: SEO.  It means Search Engine Optimization, which is a fancy way of making sure a web page can be found on Google and other search engines.  The simplest trick is knowing keywords used when users are searching for a site.

I originally wrote this post on election day (Tuesday May 14, for those who missed it) when I realized that I had misplaced my voter information card, so I did not know where to cast my vote.  I opened my web browser and Googled “where do I vote”.  Nothing.  “where do I vote victoria bc”.  Nada.  “Where to vote”?  No results.  I tried a dozen combinations of search terms.  None of the search results told me what I needed to know.  The only Elections B.C. page that came up was their voter registration page, which did not contain what I needed to know.

My next step was Elections B.C.’s website.  Oddly enough, there is a page called “where to vote”.

When I searched that exact phrase on Google, that page did not show up.  Google does not know that page exists.  Anyone using Google will not know that it exists.  So how does this relate to SEO?  Elections B.C. does have page to help find voting stations, but Google could not find it.

Elections B.C. has a tough job.  They need to ensure that voters do their part and vote, especially younger voters as they have not been showing up for last two elections.  However, lazy and/or nonexistent SEO is not going to help.

I expect laziness from the government, but an organization dedicated to how B.C. residents exercise their democratic rights cannot afford to be lazy.  Voter turnout has been low for years, and Elections B.C. is not making it easier for voters to get where they need to go.  Speaking of low voter turnout…

The Non-Vote

Approximately 52% of eligible British Columbians went to the polls last Tuesday.  That’s 1% more than the previous year, and the number may increase: there are still ballots to be counted from those of us who went to the incorrect voting station.  Regardless, 1,629,422 out of 3,116,626 is not a great turnout (data courtesy of Elections B.C.).

Such low numbers make me wonder if low voter turnout is indicative of a larger issue.  The most common reasons to not vote I hear are that:

  1. “There is no candidate in my riding that meets my values”
  2. “I don’t believe in the political system as it currently exists”
  3. “I don’t know how the hell the political system works”

The last one is by far the most common, but I’m not soap-boxing about why people don’t vote.

An election is an opinion-voicing mechanism: say who you want to govern, but it does not capture the opinions of those who do not vote.  There is no empty circle where I can mark “abstain”, nor explain why I did not vote.  Mind you, I doubt anyone wants to go to a voting station just to say “no”.  So how could Elections B.C. measure the non-vote?

My father and I discussed the issue, and we reasoned that the voter information card mailed to every eligible voter in B.C. is the best space.  Postage is already paid, so why not use it to gather feedback?  Hell, just look at all this blank space:

Blank space.  So much blank space.  Oh, and whited-out important details: sorry, cyber-stalkers!
Blank space. So much blank space. Oh, and whited-out important details: sorry, cyber-stalkers!

Is it as easy as that?  Probably not, but that’s the best my father and I can come up with.

What do you think?  Comment below about how you think the non-vote could be measured!


Hello Internet!

My name is Russell Graham. I am a writer, music geek, marketing nerd, data-lover, guitarist, bassist, automotive enthusiast, linguistics & history freak, son, friend, and lover, and this is my blog.

What I will do for you is to demystify marketing, advertising, and business use my knowledge and experience.  I won’t always be right, but at the very least I can give you some perspective on a vilified and misunderstood part of the communications industry.