brand marketing vs content marketing

Brand Marketing vs. Content Marketing: Why You Need Both to Grow Your Community

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For those of us living and breathing the marketing world every day, the terms “brand marketing” and “content marketing” mean different things—even though they sound very similar to most purpose-driven leaders seeking the right marketing strategy for their business.

What is the true difference between brand versus content marketing? And why does it matter when it comes to how your company is perceived by your audience? Here’s the scoop.

Brand and content marketing are two sides of the same coin. They’re both essential to connecting with your brand’s audience and customers, inspiring action and converting sales. And in an ideal world, they share the same end game, too: building relationships, trust and loyalty in the long term.

Think of brand marketing like the cake, and content marketing as the icing. Brand marketing focuses on the core of your brand and shaping brand perceptions, while content marketing centres around sharing valuable content to engage and nurture an audience, ideally driving toward a targeted customer action (like followership, engagement, or lead generation). Combine them both to create something truly delectable to your community—and for your business, as well.

Difference between brand and content marketing

Why Does the Distinction Between Brand vs. Content Marketing Matter?

So, why is this important? In our current world, both physical and digital, we are inundated with marketing messages that play on our emotions in an effort to spur quick conversions—in short: buy now.

But this type of purely transactional content doesn’t always match up with the new consumer mindset. As of 2022, approximately 44 per cent of consumers around the world were considered purpose-driven, choosing brands based on how well they align to their own values. This means people care more than ever about the true mission and meaning behind a brand, and the perception of the brand by their like-minded peers. When they’re making purchasing decisions and supporting a company with their hard-earned dollars, they want more than a product. They want to belong to a community that shares their values. This is an area where content marketing shines, offering an authentic, consistent window into the brand’s purpose and people.

All of this means that brand and content marketing—together—require a more central role in your company’s long-term marketing strategy than ever before.

What is Brand Marketing?

What is brand marketing

Brand marketing is about creating a positive perception of your brand in the minds of your target audience. It’s the broad, strategic work that encompasses your brand’s identity, values and messaging. Like we said, it’s the cake (or the sturdy framework) that supports everything else you do. Done well, this involves:

  • Ensuring Consistency in Messaging: Making sure that all brand expressions and communications, from logos to taglines to advertising, consistently reflect your brand’s voice and values.
  • Building Associations: Creating a strong mental association between your brand and specific qualities or emotions, such as trust, innovation and sustainability.
  • Developing Long-Term Strategy: Planning ahead to keep your brand top-of-mind for your target audience, even when they’re not actively purchasing.

What is Content Marketing?

What is content marketing

Content marketing is about delivering valuable, relevant content to your audience to drive engagement. It’s more tactical and focused on immediate interactions and engagement—but it also nurtures your audience over time. It’s the icing on the cake, the part that makes your brand stand out with authentic two-way conversation and communication. This involves:

  • Creating Valuable Content: Developing blog posts, videos, podcasts, and other content that provides real value to your audience.
  • Engaging Your Audience: Using content to attract and intrigue your audience, encouraging them to interact with your brand and each other.
  • Building Relationships: Fostering a sense of community and connection through ongoing, meaningful interactions with your audience.

Above all, content marketing is more about building a strong community—and giving that community reason to want to be involved with your brand—than about making a hard sale. And you can accomplish this through both brand and content marketing, working together.

How to Use Brand and Content Marketing Together to Grow Your Community

Now that we all understand the differences between brand and content marketing, and why your business needs both working in harmony—here are some actionable tips, based on lessons we’ve learned in our client work.

  1. Lay Your Brand Foundations: Clearly articulating your brand marketing strategy, including its vision, mission and values will inform your content marketing strategy, including the visuals and assets that ultimately connect with and speak to your community.
  2. Study Your Audience: Use data and analytics tools to gather insights about your community. Identify what content resonates most, what issues they care about and how they engage with your brand. We do this through creating targeted personas to go deep into the mindset of customers.
  3. Use Content Pillars for Storytelling: Draw on both of the above to inform story pillars, which are themes or specific topics you want to be known for. “Premium content for humans” might be one, for example (to pull from our own). These pillars drive your content strategy—what you create, talk about and amplify to your audience.
  4. Nail Your Brand Voice and Tone: Your brand’s marketing persona and strategy will inform your unique brand voice, which you’ll then use to “speak” through your content marketing, ensuring you sound like you in all of your content—from social media posts to long-form articles. This gives your audience a glimpse into your values and personality, which help determine whether or not they’re aligned (and want to join your community).
  5. Communicate Your Purpose: As we mentioned above, the purchasing habits of Millennials and Gen Z, especially, revolve around connecting with companies that have a clear purpose and strong values. So, take a minute to think about what you stand for and what your audience needs to feel about you to make a purchase—and aim to cultivate that feeling with your content. It’ll help build a connection with your target audience and help you stand out from the crowd, as well.
  6. Create Content that Provides Real Value for Your Audience: Rather than aiming to prompt a direct transaction, instead let your audience feel like you’re solving their problems, answering their questions and reflecting them uniquely in your content. Ultimately, this builds trust , which is key to motivating purchasing decisions in 2024.
  7. Leverage the ‘Social’ Side of Social Media: Remember that social media is inherently social and deserves to be treated as such—instead of posting and forgetting about it, take the time to create content your audience craves and wants to talk about, then engage and talk back in real time. This is also crucial for trust, and fostering a strong community. Respond to comments and messages, ask for feedback and show that you value your community’s opinions. When your audience feels heard and valued, they are more likely to stay engaged and loyal to your brand.
  8. Utilize User-Generated Content: Foster a sense of community by encouraging user-generated content—that is, original, brand-related content created by members of your audience. You can do this by reaching out to people who are already loving your brand. Then showcase their work, celebrate them and bring them into the fold.

By strategically using brand and content marketing this way, you can grow your audience into a loyal and trusted community.

A Case Study in Community-Building: fit52 with Carrie Underwood

fit52-fitness-app-case-study-forge-and-spark

Fit52, a fitness app fronted by singer Carrie Underwood using her personal trainer’s methods, is an excellent example of how brand and content marketing work in tandem to build a thriving community. Forge & Spark has been proudly supporting fit52’s growth journey since 2019. Guided by the fit52 team, we’ve used multiple strategies to help like-minded people discover, commit to, and fall in love with the brand—helping to build a loyal and engaged community of more than 500,000 subscribers and followers.

  • Brand Marketing: Even though it’s spearheaded by a major celebrity, fit52 is a brand in its own right. Yes, everyone wants Carrie’s leg workout, but fit52 is more than that—it attracts both fans and people who are looking for a fitness app that fits into their lifestyle. The app is built on the core value of fitness for all levels, along with encouraging wellness 52 weeks of the year to create habits that real people can actually stick with. This high-level brand messaging is woven through all of fit52’s marketing channels and conveyed in its visuals, telling a consistent and compelling story, wherever they show up.
  • Content Marketing: Building on the brand marketing work above, fit52 shares workout tips, healthy recipes and motivational stories from users on Instagram, Facebook and X, as well as through marketing emails, and their blog. This content not only provides value but also aligns perfectly with the brand mission. The brand has also introduced other faces that have now become synonymous with the fit52 brand, including Carrie’s trainer, Eve Overland, and nutritionist Cara Clark, who create their own unique content for fit52 and engage regularly with the community.
  • Community Building: fit52 fosters a strong sense of community by encouraging users to share their fitness journey on social media. These users have a name, too—the fit52 fam. This group includes all app subscribers, social media followers and ambassadors. The fit52 ambassador program brings active app users into the fold, giving them 1:1 time with the brand, early access and branded perks. The ambassadors, in turn, encourage brand loyalty, promote awareness and engage with the larger community. fit52 also hosts community challenges and in-person events, which create opportunities for users to connect, support each other and celebrate their progress together.

By integrating their brand and content marketing efforts, fit52 has succeeded in building a passionate community of people who not only use the app but also actively participate in promoting a healthy lifestyle, and advocating for the brand.

The Power of Brand and Content Marketing for Community Growth

Building a community through brand and content marketing requires a deep understanding of your audience, creating authentic content and genuinely engaging with the people who trust your brand. A well thought-out strategy can transform your entire marketing approach—and help cultivate a thriving community that supports and advocates for your brand—which, in turn, leads to more sales (and more brand love!). This type of long-term strategy can set up success for years to come.

Your community is out there, waiting to connect with your brand. Ready to grow it? Reach out to learn more about how we can help you integrate brand and content marketing to build a thriving, engaged community.

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