Brand over marketing: The 60/40 split

Here’s an idea that may be controversial: You should be investing more time and effort (and therefore $$$) into your brand than your marketing.

Sure, we’re a little biased (we’re a branding studio, after all), but the data backs it up. “Media in Focus,” a report on the effects of mass marketing produced by Google and Thinkbox, shows that when companies put more resources into their brand over marketing, they are more successful in the long run.

It’s all a balancing act. If you spend too little on brand, marketing activations will ring hollow. Spend too little on marketing, and the word never gets out about your brand. The rule of thumb: 60 percent of investment should go into brand-building and 40 percent into marketing. This allows you to create a solid brand foundation for marketing to build from.

In this week’s Branding Bites video, I share the studio’s POV on the 60/40 split. Enjoy!

Rather read than watch? Check out the transcript below!


KACHA: Hi, everybody. And welcome to Branding Bites. My name is Kacha. I’m the executive creative director here at Skidmore Studio. And I want to share something with you that we believe in passionately here at the studio. But it’s going to make half of you want to throw stuff at me, because you violently disagree. And the other half of you are going to want to give me a hug, because you’re so excited that we believe the same things you believe.

We believe in, here at the studio, the power of brand over marketing. See? Like a bunch of you just clicked off the video right now, and you left. And the rest of you who are remaining are like, “Yes. Tell me more.” It’s such a simple idea, but it’s so polarizing. People are firmly entrenched. “It’s got to be brand. It’s got to be marketing.” It needs to be both. And there’s data that backs that up. So, recent studies have been done that show that the best brands invest in brand over marketing at a 60-40 split. And any deviation from that split dramatically reduces their effectiveness and their profitability and the way that their work generates results.

So how does this work? What do I really mean when I say “brand” and when I say “marketing”? Let me describe it. Brand is the awareness-level stuff, the top-of-funnel activities, the long term. It’s building brand identity. It’s getting your brand in the place where your audience can see it. It’s emotionally resonant messages that communicate who you are and what you’re all about. And then marketing, the other half, or the 40 percent, that’s short-term stuff. Activation oriented, that is about new product releases, short-term promotions. It’s about rationale-based communication that says what you have to offer and why people should buy from you.

Do you notice what’s going on here? It’s pretty cool. The 60 percent, the brand stuff, is investing in emotionally resonant messages that help people understand you. And the 40 percent, the marketing, is investing in rationale-based messages that tell people what you have to offer and why they should buy from you. Understand you, versus buying from you — and you have to do both.

The strongest brands do both and they invest in both. And when they don’t, it really messes with that formula. That formula for success just completely breaks down because if you invest more than 60 percent of your work in brand, then you’re just running around introducing yourself to more and more people, but you’re never telling them what you have to offer. And when you invest more than 40 percent in marketing, you’re running around just begging people to buy from you, and nobody likes that guy. And nobody understands what you’re all about and why they should buy from you.

So, the strongest brands invest in brand over marketing at a 60-40 split. We believe in this strongly. Now, if you vehemently disagree, that’s great. We’d love to sit down over some beers and talk about it. If you agree, and you think that we’re right (which we are) we’d love to sit down and talk about that some more too. Either way, hit us up anytime at It’d be fun to chat. Till next time.