Strategy, Branding, Websites, or Marketing - The Chicken or the Egg?

By Lisa Hirst Carnes | May 2022

An illustration of people examining a large chicken and huge egg.

If your organization is ready to make a change, you may be confused about where to begin. Do you start with a new website and use that to inform your marketing? Or do you create unique branding and apply it to your website and marketing? When is the right time to develop a marketing strategy?

Don't worry. At ArcStone, we have decades of experience helping organizations like yours find the right approach in the right order at the right time.

Let us explain.

The Order Makes the Difference

It might help to think about building your brand the same way you'd think about building a house. Do you start with the roof, or do you start with the foundation? 

This is where the correct order of operations comes into play for your marketing needs. 

Although it may not be the visual impact you're focused on, strategy is an essential first step in the process. A well-thought-out and well-researched strategy sets you up for a successful rebranding and informs your new marketing plan. 

If you skip strategy as the first step, you will likely run into problems down the line. It could mean realizing that your marketing efforts aren't reaching the right audience. Or that your website redesign looks great, but it's lacking the functionality to convert site visitors into customers. Not spending the initial time on strategy leads to skipping critical steps in the process or having to backtrack when you realize that you've missed something crucial. All of this leads to wasted time, energy, and money. 

Common Pitfalls to Avoid

  • Without a strategy, your website and marketing won't resonate with your target audience. Speaking to everyone means you're reaching no one.  
  • Without a well-defined brand, your website and marketing materials will all have a personality of their own rather than a consistent look and feel. 
  • Without a well-designed website, you won't gain traction with your SEO efforts or advertising, leading to lost time and money. 
  • Without a marketing strategy, your digital marketing efforts will likely be inconsistent and scattershot rather than complementary and synergistic. 

By taking the time to think through your goals, business objectives, audience, and mission, you lay down a solid foundation upon which you can build the brand of your dreams. 

Marketing Services for Nonprofits Banner

Start with the Foundation

In order to set a solid foundation to build your new brand upon, let's explain the marketing terminology we're using. 

Understanding the Lingo


A marketing strategy is a plan of action designed to help an organization promote and sell a product or service. In the case of nonprofits, you're still marketing, but you are trying to convert people into donors rather than customers. A marketing strategy helps your organization to focus its resources and budget, however limited, on the best opportunities for the bottom line and competitive advantage. 

TL/DR: A marketing strategy helps you put your budget to the most efficient use possible to benefit your organization. 


Branding includes all of the visual and written communication with your audience. A brand identity consists of a name, logo, symbol, or other feature that differentiates your organization and what you do from everyone else. Branding gives meaning to your organization and acts as a personality that interacts with potential customers. Branding involves colors, photo styles, illustration styles, fonts, and developing your unique brand voice. 

TL/DR: Branding is the personality of your organization and is represented visually and in language. 

Website Design/Redesign

A website design or redesign involves creating fresh content, a sleek new layout, accessibility, and improved functionality for an optimized user experience. Designing a new website requires a well-defined brand identity to drive design choices such as colors, fonts, and images. A good web design process starts with tying the website to the business functions and objectives its meant to serve. After the foundation is laid, the design elements and layouts are wireframed and eventually coded to create a live website. 

TL/DR: Website redesign takes all of the necessary functionality and business objectives into consideration to create a visually stunning site that provides an intuitive user experience. 

Digital Marketing

Digital marketing, also known as online marketing, is all of the efforts that take place in the digital space to reach an audience and convert them into customers. Digital marketing is an umbrella term that includes websites, SEO, social media, blogs, advertising, email, and anything else online to reach potential customers. It includes images, videos, and text to share marketing messages. 

TL/DR: Digital marketing includes every touchpoint of an organization online to reach a target audience. 

The Step-by-Step Approach

Now that we've covered the main elements involved and the different ways they help to build a brand, it's time to put it all into a step-by-step plan. 

Step 1 - Strategy

As we've already explained, strategy is an essential first step. It creates a stable foundation on which to build the rest of your branding and marketing. And strategy starts with research. In this case, research means asking questions about your organization, audience, goals, and processes. One of the ways we get to the bottom of things is by applying the S.M.A.R.T. framework around your goals. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. Additionally, we'll want to explore what channels you're currently using and the effectiveness of your current efforts. 

Step 2 - Branding 

Once we know more about your organization and your target audience, we can begin to define your brand identity. In getting to know you, we can start to put together your brand's personality and explore how it can be represented visually and in language. Are you big and bold or romantic and sweet? Together with your mission and vision, these characteristics help us create a unique identity that will help your organization stand out. Defining your brand consists of selecting colors, fonts, a logo, and a brand voice that resonates with your target market. Having a well-defined and unique brand will help you gain brand awareness and, used consistently, builds trust with your audience. 

Step 3 - Designing Your Website

Think of your website as the front door to the house we're building. It's the cornerstone of your online presence, and it may be the first impression of your brand on someone. It must be welcoming, accessible, easy to navigate, and showcase your personality. It also needs to do the work of converting a visitor into a loyal customer or member so they'll come back again and again. With so much that goes into creating an excellent website and user experience, you'll be grateful for the work of steps 1 and 2. 

Step 4 - Digital Marketing 

As we've discussed, digital marketing refers to all of the ways you contact and interact with your audience online. It includes:

  • Advertising
  • SEO
  • Social Media
  • Content Marketing
  • Email

Along with the overarching strategy that has brought us to this point, your digital marketing must align with your goals. Rather than approaching all of the different elements of digital marketing in a scattershot manner, find the strategic connection between them. Often falling under the umbrella of a campaign, your digital marketing efforts can all point to the same goal. 

Build Your Brand from the Ground Up 

Like building a house, you're building your brand from the ground up. And just a construction, the foundation matters. By being strategic and taking a step-by-step approach, you are setting your branding, website, and marking efforts up for success. 




Topics: Design and Technology