Far too many communities allow others to control their narrative. To elevate your community to the fullest in the eyes of the outside world, it is critical to understand the differences between marketing and branding.

When you ask the experts, you get many opinions. Marketing is all about convincing people to do something or take an action. Branding is all about helping people feel something. Marketing generally speaks to the mind and logic, while branding speaks and connects to the heart and soul. When we attempt to brand our community, we want to speak to the heart and soul, we want to have them fall in love with us, we want them to connect on an emotional level.

Branding is the why, marketing is the how. Branding is long-term, marketing is short-term. Branding defines trajectory, marketing defines tactics. Branding builds loyalty, marketing generates response. Branding creates value, marketing extracts value. Branding is the being, marketing is the doing.

Yes, through marketing, we entice tourists and visitors to visit our community. We want them to spend money locally, and we want them to do all the things that tourists do. But to build the most effective marketing, we must first appeal to their heart through branding. Once you have reached their heart, you can much more easily reach their mind and pocketbook.

As I have worked with communities, I am constantly encouraging and assisting them to build uniqueness that leads to unique stories to convey to the outside world. When they can create a unique story that others can’t easily duplicate, the branding message becomes clearer and moves beyond the words.

When it comes to business and communities, effective branding can change attitudes, it can alter previous notions, and it can determine how others perceive your business or community.

But we must also understand that a brand is largely a perception, one that can change depending on the situation. Elon Musk said it best when he said, “Brand is just a perception, and perception will match reality over time.” In other words, regardless of your branding efforts, if the branding message doesn’t match reality, the message conveyed by the branding efforts will slowly erode toward the reality of the real situation. If you are selling something that really doesn’t exist, the consumers will figure it out, and reality will set in. Never create a brand that really doesn’t exist; that will only erode trust and future branding will be much less effective.

I love this quote by Jay Baer, a marketing expert: “Branding is the art of aligning what you want people to think about your company with what people actually do think about your company. And vice-versa.”

It is much like asking someone out on date. Asking them out on the date is marketing; branding is the reason they said yes.

John Newby, of Pineville, is author of the “Building Main Street, Not Wall Street” column dedicated to helping communities combine synergies with local media companies allowing them to not just survive but to thrive. His email is [email protected]