Branding vs marketing

In 2019, there was a tweet about how Tesla should spend money on advertising, especially with the autopilot feature being introduced by the company. Elon Musk, the co-founder, CEO, and product architect at Tesla Motors, responded to the tweet “Tesla does not advertise or pay for endorsements. Instead, we use that money to make the product great.”

Compared to other industry giants like General Motors, Volkswagen, Ford, and BMW, which manage to rack up advertising costs in billions of dollars, Tesla hasn’t spent a dime on traditional advertising or any marketing strategies since its inception. Despite not spending on marketing, Tesla’s market cap stands at a whopping $150 billion as of May 8th, 2020.

This is an interesting data point for understanding the difference between branding and marketing. In a nutshell, branding is building the identity of a company, and marketing is a series of strategic actions taken towards building awareness for the brand which would eventually bring in sales.

It is evident, Tesla focuses immensely on building a strong brand. Musk has always been an advocate of building magnanimous products people will be thrilled to own and use. This is mostly done by channeling the majority of Tesla’s funds into R&D, core engineering, and product design.

The idea of branding is analogous to building a personal reputation.

Colonel John Boyd was a remarkable fighter pilot in the US Air force and the chances of an average American knowing him are close to nil. It might come as a surprise, but the revolutionary F15 & F16 fighter jets were his brainchildren. He created the Energy-Maneuverability theory, and it revolutionized tactics used in aerial combat. Simply put, he was a maverick!

His ironclad personality rubbed a few people in the wrong way and that resulted in him not achieving greater heights in terms of promotion or service glory. This was inconsequential to him.

When he mentored young officers, he made it a point to pass on the same principles he had focused on building a reputation that weren’t driven by external validations.

In 1973, he gave a speech to one of his proteges, and the underlying theme of that lecture:

focus on being impressive, rather than impressing others

Boyd, without a doubt, was referring to building a strong reputation (branding) and being remarkable in an authentic manner. Boyd was also practical to point out the path of marketing oneself and achieving fame and promotions, but it would mostly rob one of an opportunity to be outstanding.

People and organizations that focus on building great products or providing commendable service, usually focus on branding as their hallmark.

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