Suddenly Marketing

Brand Messaging | Content Strategy | Writing

Branding is NOT optional – Part 2: Let them eat your dust

Some marketing lacks logic.

I’m being kind, here.


You know that saying about putting the cart before the horse? When you see it illustrated, it’s pretty clear that it’s a Bad Idea. That cart isn’t going to pull that horse anywhere and you will go nowhere fast. Even the horse can tell that something is wrong with this picture. “Cart before horse” is a sure recipe for a total lack of locomotion, if you know what I mean.

But, people do this in their marketing.

All. The. Time.


They get that cart all loaded up and climb on board. They look earnestly in the direction they are trying to go, whip in hand, and wait expectantly for the wheels to start turning. After a while, they wonder why they aren’t getting any closer to their destination. They may move things around in the cargo area to try and jumpstart their journey. When that doesn’t work, they might try a new coat of paint on the cart. They never even look at that poor horse, standing there, patiently waiting to do his thing.


Wake up! Branding is the horse that’ll get you (and your cart) to the finish line.

I recently read an article that made my head spin. Brand specialist and brand identity expert David Brier (@davidbrier – follow him) got tired of listening to the debate about social media vs. branding. To settle the smackdown, he compared the Google search frequency of three terms: “brand strategy,” “social media,” and “branding.”

Do you want to take a guess at the results?

“Social Media averaged around 80 on Google’s chart whereas branding came in around 20 and brand strategy was near 0 (zero) by comparison.”



A cart is just a vehicle. Social media is just a channel.

  • A cart (or any other vehicle) without an engine is nothing but a big (expensive) paperweight.
  • A marketing channel without a strategic branding message is nothing but a big (expensive) budgetary black hole.

Putting your marketing cart before your branding horse means you’re opening your mouth before you know what you want to say.

The correct order of things is horse and then cart: brand message and then marketing.

Branding is how you discover and define the unique and differentiated essence of who you are, what you stand for, and the visual and written elements that help you convey that message.

Marketing is how you get your message in front of people.

Know what to say, then say it.


Put things in the right order and you’ll put yourself miles ahead of the competition.

Time and time again companies skip over brand development (or give it a very superficial treatment) and dive straight into marketing. They start talking without thinking through what they want to say. They pile up all kinds of content in their cart, but they have no way to drive it home in the minds of their audience.

If you are willing to invest in brand development and brand strategy, you will immediately leave half your competition in the dust.


Doesn’t that sound like a good place to be?


And just because it’s loads of fun (and makes its point with clarity and hilarity), here’s the video David did for Fast Company around the importance of branding and the fact that social media is just a channel. You’re welcome.


You might also be interested in:


Branding is NOT optional – Part 1: A cautionary tale


Branding is NOT Optional – Part 3: Do yourself a favor. Get brand.


  1. Laura

    “Know what to say, then say it.”

    Un-huh. At least I got that part right.
    Saw a craiglist ad yesterday looking for a ghostblogger to write (2) 500 word articles per week for $40 to represent their medical staffing agency.
    Really? REALLY!
    Now, as early on in the learning curve as I am about social media and the whole blogging thing, even I know what you say can’t be willy-nilly. I am putting alot of thought and planning into what I’m going to say, how I’ll represent my ideas, my writing, myself.
    But I have to admit, it’s fun watching some idiots make fools out of themselves!
    Great post.
    Fantastic video.

    • Jamie Lee

      People who can see where others go wrong are in a good place to get it right for themselves.

      … and, yes, it can be amusing and entertaining to watch others muff it up. (I do have an evil streak.)

      • Laura

        Yeah. I sent them a pitch about marketing correctly and the whole “you get what you pay for” spiel surround the “know what you want to say then say it” theme.
        Of course, I told them if they really wanted to get it right and needed someone to do that for them, I would be the one.
        Unlikely, I will get called because to quote Forest Gump “Stupid is as stupid does” and my guess is anybody advertising such low rates probably doesn’t “get it.” But this post reminded me as usual about the importance of branding and how that plays out in business.

  2. Kassie Ritman

    I Never watch embedded video…I dont know why…just generally mule headed I suppose. But for some reason I Did watch this one. So glad! Reading about the cart and horse, your layers of explanation, and then the silly rant video really made bells go off for me. I actually “get” all the nutty obsession with “branding” now. Thanks for that. Its a term I keep hearing thrown around at board meetings all of the time. Now I get why I didn’t get it before…those who has been barking it the loudest don’t realy get the diff between channels and branding ! No wonder I was confused.
    Next meeting Im at, we will all be forced to watch this video …by me. I will be the loud barker :)

    • Jamie Lee


      You hav absolutely just made my day! I’m thrilled beyond words that this post helped the “bells go off” for you. That is spectacular! And to know that you are now ready to be an evangelist at the next meeting – fabulous!

      My next post is all about the different ways people define “brand.” Buckle up – it’l be fun! :)

  3. Kassie Ritman

    Kindly correct my grammer error has =have
    i was ranting and didnt notice …whoopsy

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