Dynamic Marketing Communiqué

Branding ≠ Advertising. Make the most out of your efforts and resources with this return-driven concept! [Tuesdays: Return Driven Strategy]

April 11, 2023

Miles Everson’s Business Builder Daily speaks to the heart of what great marketers, business leaders, and other professionals need to succeed in advertising, communications, managing their investments, career strategy, and more.

A Note from Miles Everson:

Have you heard about Return Driven Strategy (RDS)?

Explained in the book, “Driven,” this pyramid-shaped framework has 11 tenets and 3 foundations that help businesses effectively implement their branding and marketing strategies.

We encourage you to read about RDS during your spare time. This framework offers lots of insights that will guide you towards business success!

In today’s article, let’s focus on Tenet 6 of RDS, which is about branding offerings.

Keep reading to know some factors that influence effective branding.

Miles Everson
CEO, MBO Partners
Chairman of the Advisory Board, The I Institute

Return Driven Strategy

Are you familiar with umbrella branding?

This is a marketing practice involving the use of a single brand name for the sale of 2 or more related products or sub-brands, and is mainly used by companies with a positive brand equity.

An example of this is the Marriott Hotel brand…

Photo from COdesign

The Marriott Hotel is a multinational company that operates, franchises, and licenses lodging including hotel, residential, and timeshare properties. Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, the company was founded by husband-and-wife duo J. Willard Marriott and Alice Marriott in 1927.

Marriott is the largest hotel chain in the world in terms of number of available rooms. It owns 30 brands with 8,000 properties in 131 countries and territories. The company also operates 20 hotel reservation centers.

Today, Marriott sits behind the Fairfield Inn & Suites, Courtyard, Residence Inn, TownePlace Suites, SpringHill Suites, and many other hotel brands. Clearly, the umbrella brand communicates something about its hotels.

… and what is that?

While each brand is different, they still share the same traits in terms of cleanliness, reservation policies, frequent stay programs, etc. Through advertising, Marriott—alongside its individual brands—is able to deliver an important message to customers about its offerings.

Here’s the thing: For some businesses, the purpose of branding is often confused with advertising.

According to Professor Joel Litman and Dr. Mark L. Frigo in the book, “Driven,” branding is NOT advertising. Advertising is a tool for branding, but only one of many, and should never be confused with the process of branding itself.

In a past “Return Driven Strategy” article, we talked about “The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding” by father-and-daughter duo Al Ries and Laura Ries who believe some firms tend to over-depend on advertising when building a brand.

However, the Rieses say great brands are built not through advertising but through public relations (PR). This concept is consistent with Professor Litman and Dr. Frigo’s Return Driven Strategy (RDS).

Sure, advertising is a TOOL to keep the brand healthy, and create brand awareness and recognition. The problem?

The role of advertising can distract firms from the REAL goal of branding, which is to convince customers that their unmet needs can be uniquely fulfilled by a particular offering.

Think about this: Awareness or recognition of a brand is useless if customers do not buy your product or service. No matter how much you spend on ads, if consumers don’t buy your offering, all your efforts are a waste of resources.

In Professor Litman and Dr. Frigo’s words:

“Without purchase, branding efforts cannot be considered worthwhile.”

So, if we are to think of this in the lens of the Marriott Hotel umbrella branding, it means regardless of how much the company’s sub-brands put Marriott’s logo in their names, their advertising efforts will be useless without proper understanding of branding.

Sure, adding Marriott’s logo to their names will help increase awareness and recognition of their brands, but there’s nothing about it that will push customers to make a transaction.

There has to be other activities to further facilitate the branding process and convince people to actually engage with these hotels.

What else influences branding aside from advertising?

Professor Litman and Dr. Frigo say every customer touchpoint is a branding opportunity because it’s an avenue to influence their minds.

As we explained in past “Return Driven Strategy” articles about RDS’ Tenet 6, branding is a psychological bridge—meaning, it occurs through customers’ thoughts and feelings regarding an offering and their unmet need.

In other words, the ideas surrounding a particular product or service are affected by customers’ interactions with anything that affects that psychological bridge.

Below are other types of communications that affect branding:

  • Public relations
  • Face-to-face and door-to-door sales meetings
  • Coupons
  • Promotions
  • Point-of-sale communications
  • Point of usage communications
  • Billing
  • Invoicing

Branding and Cash Flows Go Hand in Hand

According to Professor Litman and Dr. Frigo, the value of a brand cannot be separated from the cash flows of the offering with which it is associated.

For example: One cannot say that the value of the Marriott Hotel brand is high and yet its sales are not. These two should always be parallel to each other.

Even if a company were to purchase the licensing of a specific name, without an offering to attach the name to and a need that the offering fulfills, the brand remains worthless.

We hope you find today’s article helpful and insightful!

Always keep in mind: It’s not enough that many consumers remember a brand’s name vividly. Without innovation of a deliverable offering that fulfills unmet needs, brands are worth insignificantly less, if anything at all.

Stay tuned for next week’s “Return Driven Strategy!”

Also, if you’re looking to gain a better understanding of this framework, we highly recommend checking out “Driven” by Professor Litman and Dr. Frigo.

Click here to get your copy and learn how proper branding can build a strong connection between customers’ explicitly understood needs and the offering that addresses those needs.

(This article is from The Business Builder Daily, a newsletter by The I Institute in collaboration with MBO Partners.)

About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s
“Tuesdays: Return Driven Strategy”

In the book, “Driven,” authors Professor Joel Litman and Dr. Mark L. Frigo said that the goal of every long-term successful business strategy should incorporate the combined necessity of “making the world a better place” and “getting wealthy.”

That is why they created Return Driven Strategy and Career Driven Strategy—frameworks that were built to help leaders and professionals plan and evaluate businesses so they can also help others achieve their organizational goals and career goals.

The frameworks describe the plans and actions that drive returns for anyone in an organization such as independent contractors, marketers, brand managers, communicators, and other people in any field. These actions lead to the creation of wealth and value for customers, employees, shareholders, and the society.

Every Tuesday, we’ll highlight case studies, business strategies, tips, and insights related to Return Driven Strategy and Career Driven Strategy.

In planning, building, or managing brands and businesses, these strategies, case studies, and guidelines will help you choose what specific actions to take and when to take them.

Hope you found this week’s insights interesting and helpful.

Stay tuned for next Tuesday’s “Return Driven Strategy!”


Kyle Yu
Head of Marketing
Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities
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