What’s The Real Difference Between Brand Strategy and Content Marketing Strategy?

March 12, 2019

Brand Strategy vs. Content Marketing Strategy

Editor's Note: This post was contributed by Josh Ritchie, CEO/Cofounder at Column Five.

Many people have many different ideas about what it takes to build a brand. You have Chief Brand Officers, brand teams, brand identity designers, marketing teams, sales teams, and a slew of other people whose work and decisions affect the brand-building process. Each has a valuable role to play, but there is often confusion about what building a brand really requires and who is responsible for what—especially when it comes to creating and executing content marketing and brand strategies.

People often confuse content marketing strategy for brand strategy, assuming they’re one and the same. This is not true. In fact, assuming they are is one reason many people’s strategies fail. Understanding the difference between both is vital to ensure that everyone’s work is aligned to the brand’s larger goals, and that both sides are equipped with the tools, resources, and people they need to get the job done.

So, What’s the Difference Between Brand Strategy and Content Marketing Strategy?

When we talk about brand strategy vs. content marketing strategy, it’s important to understand not just what each is but how they relate to each other. Content marketing strategy and brand strategy are not two sides of the same coin. Your content marketing strategy is a part of your brand strategy. Got it? OK. Let’s dig into each individually.

What Is a Brand Strategy?

Brand strategy is, in essence, the big game plan. It’s the articulation of what your brand is and aspires to be, the purpose it serves, and how you communicate it to the world. It’s a documented plan that outlines your goals and how you plan achieve them.

To create a solid brand strategy, you need to understand your brand’s core identity and brand ecosystem. Who are you? What do you care about? Who are you trying to reach? How can you engage with them? How does each element influence the other?

Creating your brand strategy is not a one-day exercise. It requires deep thinking, collaboration with various stakeholders, and foresight, especially if you’re reimagining your brand top to bottom. This includes:

  • Articulating your brand core (vision, mission, values, and purpose)
  • Auditing your content (to understand how well it aligns with your core)
  • Creating personas (to understand the people you’re trying to build a relationship with)
  • Understanding how your brand is perceived (both internally and externally)
  • Identifying your brand positioning (compared to your competitors)
  • Crafting brand messaging (value prop, tagline, brand stories, etc.)
  • Creating your brand identity and guidelines (brand voice, tone, visual identity, etc.)
  • Creating a content marketing strategy to help you achieve your business goals (this includes your content strategy)

Hence, you can see how a content marketing strategy fits into brand strategy. In a sense, your content marketing strategy is essentially how you execute your larger brand strategy. That said, it is its own strategy, with its own set of moving parts.

What Is a Content Marketing Strategy?

Like brand strategy, a content marketing strategy is the blueprint, but it's the blueprint for how you’re going to use content to support your brand strategy. This includes:

  • Goals and definitions (to understand what you’re trying to achieve in service of your brand strategy)
  • Measurement methodology (to identify how you’ll measure success)
  • Journey or lead mapping
  • Marketing personas
  • Brand messaging
  • Channel opportunities
  • Storytelling opportunities
  • Editorial calendar
  • Keyword strategy
  • Media planning
  • Budget allocation

Thus, the distinction between brand strategy and content marketing strategy is pretty much this:

BRAND STRATEGY = The Plan to Achieve Big Idea

CONTENT MARKETING STRATEGY = The Tool to Execute the Plan to Achieve the Big Idea

How to Make Sure Your Content Marketing Strategy Supports Your Brand Strategy

It’s crucial to have each strategy clearly aligned and articulated. But how do you do that?

The relationship between brand and content marketing can be murky if you’ve jumbled them all together. This makes each ineffective and leads to a lot of frustration. To avoid this, here are a few tips to help keep things clear.

  • Document each strategy clearly. It may seem inconvenient to dismantle the house and start from scratch. But if you don’t have a solid brand strategy, you can’t work effectively or efficiently. It’s especially important to document your core identity (your purpose, vision, mission, values), as these elements influence everything you do.
  • Identify responsibilities clearly. When teams are siloed, it’s easy to waste resources on inefficiencies, especially if there’s no clear guidance or clarity about who’s doing what. One of the benefits of documenting your strategies is that you see a snapshot of the entire ecosystem. This helps everyone understand exactly how teams should work together, as well as ways to improve your process, maximize your resources, and keep everything aligned.
  • Keep your teams talking. Depending on the size of your organization, you may be working with departments in different offices or even countries. Regular meetings, status updates, and knowledge-sharing is invaluable. It’s particularly helpful to share both successes and failures.

Remember: Whether you’re a two-person team or a marketing manager leading a team of 20, it’s important to keep the big picture in mind always. Experiment, test, and iterate to move your team forward and working toward the same goal: to build a thriving brand.

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