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What Would They Say About You in The Checkout Line?

In one of my former positions, I moderated a series of leadership forums/panel presentations for women leaders, during which I presented the following scenario to the panelists (and sometimes to the women in the audience): “Imagine that you are in the checkout line at your favorite supermarket, and you happen to glance back and see your boss, a colleague, or an ‘influencer’ in your company. If you overhead them talking about you with someone, what would you hope they’d be saying?” The respondents used words like ‘fair,’ ‘successful,’ and ‘collaborative’ to convey what they’d want to hear. Their descriptors were, of course, how they perceived – and/or wanted others to perceive – their brand.

I’ve read many marketing and branding books and articles, some of which draw a true distinction between the two concepts, and some which blur the definitions, and seem to view marketing as the strategic means to building the brand.

James Heaton, CEO of Tronvig Group, a brand and marketing strategy consultancy and self described “learning organization,” had this [in part] to say about "the difference between marketing and branding" in a 2011 article of the same name:

Branding should both precede and underlie any marketing effort. Branding is not push, but pull. Branding is the expression of the essential truth or value of an organization, product, or service. It is communication of characteristics, values, and attributes that clarify what this particular brand is and is not.\ Branding is strategic. Marketing is tactical.

Marketing may contribute to a brand, but the brand is bigger than any particular marketing effort. The brand is what remains after the marketing has swept through the room. It’s what sticks in your mind associated with a product, service, or organization—whether or not, at that particular moment, you bought or did not buy.

As you consider your brand as an HR professional, business owner, community leader….is it congruent with what you’d overhear in the checkout line at your neighborhood ShopRite, Acme, Wegman’s, Piggly-Wiggly…? One of my favorite marketing leaders described a brand as “the promise” that we give to the people who see us. It is the truth that belies or affirms any marketing we have done of our skills, our talents, and our ability to draw people to us and influence them in a positive way. Have you concentrated more on the marketing and not enough on the brand? Or, have you thought more about your brand, but not adequately marketed it so that the expression of your “promise” is seen by the right people at the right time? Let’s all start the year off with a strategic reflection of both.

To bring this blog post both to a close and closer to home, I want to ensure that what we market at NAAAHR New Jersey is consistently reflected in our brand – a brand that you will help to build. Let’s get this growing.

Happy [brand] new year to all!

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