Homer Simpson asks, “What’s More Important, Branding, Marketing or Sales?”

In one of our recent discussions, Homer Simpson raised a good question. “You’re the Authentic Branding Guru.” He said, “So tell me, what’s more important, branding, sales or marketing?”

This is an interesting question. Not because it’s new. (It’s not. It’s so old it’s positively crusty!) What makes it interesting is the floundering debate that inevitably ensues when it’s asked. (Especially when it’s answered with “opinions” as opposed to behavioral substance.)

“What do you think, Homer?” I probed, hoping he’d serve up some of his own brand of off the wall and reliably entertaining perspectives.

“Well, I think marketing is most important.” Homer said. He went on to explain, “TV commercials are marketing and if there weren’t any TV commercials, I wouldn’t get sold on stuff.”

“What about brands?” I asked.  Homer thought for a moment.  (Ok, he thought for several very long moments.)  “Brands are, uh,  like, already there – that’s what the marketing reminds me to buy,” he finally stated.

“Do commercials make you buy things you don’t already want or need?” I asked. “Things like luxury cars or fancy computers?” Homer shook his head. “Nope!”

“Do commercials make you buy brands you don’t already buy?” I inquired.

“Nope!” Homer was emphatic. “They remind me to buy beer though. Heck, they even remind me that I want a beer, like, NOW!  Or some donuts, or pizza…” His face softens and his eyes loose focus as he contemplates his favorite food groups.

“So commercials remind you to buy the things you already know you want?” I recapped, jolting him out of his junk-food-fantasy-trance.

“Yep – that’s why marketing is most important.” Homer agreed, nodding vigorously. “I am so smart!” He crowed.

“Hang on there Homer,” I said,  “Your logic is a little wobbly on this one.”

  1. First – marketing is not better than sales… It’s a whole different activity
  2. Second – all brands don’t already exist. New brands are created all the time!
  3. And third – branding, selling and marketing are not interchangeable activities. Each one has a distinct definition, purpose and role.  However, they CAN work together very effectively.

“How do they do that?” Asked Homer, looking confused.

I began my answer by suggesting that we first define each activity.

Defining Branding, Marketing and Selling

  • What is a Brand?

A brand is – a kind or variety of something distinguished by some distinctive characteristic.
Duff is the brand of beer that Homer drinks regularly because he likes its taste.

  • What is Branding?

Branding is –  to label or mark as unique, to build an emotional connection, to create a memorable impression.
The experience of satisfying his craving for pancakes is branded into Homer’s memory. Oh yes!

  • What is Marketing?

Marketing is – the communication of the brand’s benefits to the consumers who will buy it.
The Simpson’s marketing strategy includes television commercials, and on-line promotions as well as unique store displays and tags for licensed products.

  • What is Selling?

Selling is – persuading or inducing (someone) to buy something, causing (someone) to accept (something); to convince; to win acceptance, approval, or adoption.
The salesman sold Homer on the more expensive car that had the safety features he wanted.

“Ok,” said Homer “You’ve made your point about branding, selling and marketing being different activities. I get it. So how do I know when to sell, market or brand?”

“Good question, Homer,” I replied. “Let’s address the roles of branding, marketing and selling
in our next conversation.”

That’s fine by me” said Homer, heading for the door. “All right brain, you’re done for the day.  Whoo-Hoo! Mo’s – here I come! Can’t get enough of that wonderful Duff!”