It might be an inevitable by-product of the process of maturing, but I am becoming irritated, and also concerned, by the nonsensical debate about which is the best in media terms for effective marketing.

It should be obvious that there is no answer to this question. Other than a lack of any specific context, it would be like asking a farmer to choose between soil, fertiliser, water and sunshine as preferred elements in which to grow a crop.

In much the same way as a plant, a brand, business or golf club needs to be nurtured and sustained by a mix of elements, if it is to be developed effectively and then survive and prosper.

The obvious problem is that the elements in the media mix used — with social media, traditional media, PR and advertising as the reference elements for the basis of this discussion — to build and entrench a brand’s reputation in the market, should never be seen in isolation.

As I have stated in the past, editorial opinion is the grail for PR and marketing. However, people make the mistake of seeing it as separate or exclusive from other forms, such as advertorial, advertising and social media.

This is not the case as they all perform different functions within the overall media mix, but ultimately they should complement each other and provide balance, in pursuit of the brand’s strategic goals.

For example, an editorial piece can be circulated on social media platforms, while promotions driven through social media channels and the brand’s website can be cross-referenced in editorial and PR.

The other difference between the plant analogy and a brand is that unlike vegetation, a brand will need to travel. Therefore, as an alternative analogy, perhaps a journey in a motor vehicle will be more effective.

If you are about to make an overland trip from Cape Town to London and irrespective of whether you choose a saloon, SUV or 4x4 for the trip, your vehicle will need a balanced supply of “nutrients”. In this case, these will be petrol, oil, water and air to take it (and you) to the destination.

As with the previous analogy about farming, asking the driver to choose between these four elements is patently ridiculous.

It can be argued that the supply of petrol will need to be continuous, but that oil and water will be required less frequently and air only occasionally. This is logical enough, however, it overlooks that each has a defined role to play in making the journey a successful one. Good luck to the driver who finds himself with a plentiful supply of water, oil and petrol, but no air and two flat tyres.

The Biblical quote that “man shall not live by bread alone’” in many ways sums up the truth about the examples of farming and the journey to London, in that no-one element in isolation will be sufficient to ensure success.

The Cape Town to London analogy is limited too, in that the journey in the example is finite, while a brand’s journey effectively never ends, or as Scott Bedbury, the CEO of Brandstream put it: “A great brand is a story that is never completely told.”

Many people believe that branding is a relatively modern, post-18th century concept. However, its origins are actually based in antiquity, with studies showing that the Egyptians branded their cattle more than 2,500 years ago.

Over the years, the term has evolved from branding livestock, to mean the development of a “personality” associated with a product or business, so that the term “brand” now suggests the values and promises that a consumer may perceive and buy into.

Part two of this series will appear in Wednesday’s Business Day

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