What makes a brand? Is it the logo, the marketing materials, or a carefully crafted advertising campaign?

A brand may include these elements, but in reality, the company has only partial control of its brand. The brand isn’t one-way communication from the company to the public; the brand is based on public opinion. People make or break a company’s success, and all marketing efforts are attempts to move or sway opinions in favor of the company to increase success.

To be sure, a company’s reputation, success in meeting customers’ needs through excellent service or high quality products, and marketing campaigns are critical in influencing public opinion. For example, a bakery known for its out-of-this-world doughnuts may draw customers even with minimal service and a so-so atmosphere, but strategic branding – inviting seating, free wifi, and a customer loyalty program that comes with free coffee – would elevate the experience and expand the customer base. A customer who enjoys interacting with the staff, the products, and the space will linger, spend more money, and bring friends.

So how does marketing help shift public opinion? The two primary tactics are advertising, which is the “push” of marketing, and branding, which is the “pull” of marketing. These approaches are appropriate for different types of business and used in different situations.

Commonly, advertising is associated with product-based companies. Apple, Nike or Coca-Cola succeed based on consumer awareness, and how well these companies can convince people that their product is worth buying. Customers don’t necessarily feel the need to know the team behind their favorite Nike shoes; they just want to know that the shoe works great for running. In product-based companies, a “push” marketing approach targets the customer base through social media, and TV, or print advertising to educate potential customers about their products, cultivate a positive reputation for the company, and convince customers to buy their products.

While push marketing is a great way to spread awareness about products, this strategy can sometimes have a negative effect in a service-based company. (For example, lawyers with aggressive advertising campaigns risk damaging their reputation with the public.)  For companies providing services that require trust, push marketing can create distrust or skepticism. Buying a product and investing in a service are very different experiences; services typically require a relationship, a financial investment, and a time commitment. Trust is critical.

For service-based companies, the “pull” of branding is key to marketing. Branding showcases a company’s values, culture, and services, making information accessible and useful to potential clients. Successful branding allows a company to educate potential clients about its services and processes, effectively “pulling” people in. Service is rooted in relationships, not sales; clients appreciate being able to research a company and get a feel for its values and strengths. Each interaction with the brand, from a web search that leads to valuable information to a word-of-mouth recommendation, helps to build trust.

As Simon Sinek explains, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” Every element of the brand matters, from the ease of navigating the website to the content in a proposal, because it all leads to trust: the kind of trust that allows companies to build authentic relationships with their clients over time, leading to win-win partnerships that endure.

A company’s “why” motive is determined by its people, and grows with the intention of finding customers and clients with a common goal and similar values. The stronger the motive, the more powerful the pull. Branding provides the ability to visually represent the ”why” of a company and to present values, such as being people focused, through viewer-focused visuals. Ideally, these visuals are easy to comprehend and provide accessible, relevant information.  Strong branding makes the client experience thoughtful and easy, and represents the company’s people as well as possible.

When a company has the people, the service, the talent, and the creativity in place, branding that amplifies those assets becomes a powerful tool to pull people in. Branding is the ultimate team sport; it starts from a foundation of people providing excellent service and grows with the branding tools that allow a company to build and strengthen relationships with its clients. When this team is unified by a common purpose and the brand messaging is clear, companies have the potential for unhindered success.

About Ellie

Graphic Designer Ellie Dawson has a passion for conveying a brand at all stages of a project, from logo development through signage in a finished building. Employing skills in research and storytelling, Ellie works with both internal teams and clients to create materials in a range of media. She enjoys video and animation, illustration, layout, and brand conceptualizing and has extensive print experience in large and small-scale formats.

Ellie earned a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design with a minor in Advertising and Fine Arts from Flagler College. Her previous professional experience includes work with branding agencies in St. Augustine and Miami; notable LS3P work includes designs for the City of Myrtle Beach Arts and Innovation Center, Bitty & Beaus, and Robert Smalls Elementary School. Ellie is a member of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, and is engaged in helping to create a firmwide program for emerging professionals across LS3P’s nine offices.