Do you know the difference between brand development and branding? Did you even know there was one? Branding ensures your logo is in the right place and that the colors are always consistent. Brand development incorporates those elements, too, but goes much deeper. Think of it this way: Branding is tactical; brand development is strategic.

Brand development uncovers an organization’s true brand—that which makes it truly unique. Without it, your brand is indistinct, generic or—in the worst-case scenario—a commodity traded on price. BASF, the chemical company, says its brand stands for everything it is, both inside and outside the company, “in our contacts with our business partners, neighbors, friends and family members, and, of course, in how we treat our colleagues, employees, and managers.”

Most advertisers look out at their public as through a telescope, trying to discover their wants and needs. Then, they develop their brand around meeting those needs. And every one of their competitors is doing the exact same thing—going to the same public, asking the same questions, getting the same answers, and then developing the same solutions. What’s the outcome? A blur. And the public says, “All brands are alike, so I’ll take the lowest price, thank you.”

What if you turned the telescope back on your company? What if you took the time to discover your brand’s true identity—that which makes it unique and valuable—and then marketed that to a public wanting and needing what you uniquely offer? What if you made sure everyone in your company understood what made you different and believed in the difference? That’s brand development.

Kent D. Seltman, former marketing director of the Mayo Clinic, in speaking about what makes the revered medical institution so successful as a brand, says it’s the “power of a workforce, all aligned to a single value.” He goes on to say, “The Mayo Clinic has built one of the strongest brands in the world … preserving the essential elements of what the organization is.”

Preserving the essential elements of what an organization is. It’s at the core of brand development. And it’s not just for the Mayo Clinic. Or Coke. Or GM. All companies, products, and services need to distinguish themselves from all competitors, or they will pay more for their marketing and get less in return. Again: Without brand development, marketing costs more in the long run and returns less.

The truth is, brand development is not just a marketing initiative. It’s a strategic corporate initiative. It is the essence of your company. It’s reflected in your structure, your operations, and in everything your company does. It’s whatever your public thinks of when they hear your company’s name or see your logo. And it has real cash value. A well-developed brand pays out in more focused operations. Better customer service. More effective marketing. Stronger sales. And, yes, higher margins.

So what do you have? Branding or brand development? Tactics without strategy? It’s never too late to make a change.