Branding vs Marketing: What’s the Difference

Are you confused telling the difference between branding & marketing? If you are, you’re not alone. In fact, branding and marketing are the primary source of confusion for most business owners and entrepreneurs. In fact, there are even established marketers out there who would not be able to tell you the difference.

However, as a business owner you should be able to make the distinction between those two. Because branding and marketing are powerful mindsets & tools that allow you to grow & scale your business faster and more effectively.

Before we dive into explaining all the differences between branding and marketing, let’s start with what both have in common.

Reading on, you can see it can easily become confusing 🤔

Branding vs Marketing: Are they not the same?

In essence, marketing and branding aim for the same goal.

Totally fair you’re getting confused here.

The goal of both is to appeal to your relevant audience in order to grow your business. Branding and marketing are playing partners. Both play in the same team and they both support each others goal in a way.

But that’s really the only commonality they share.

Let’s look at the differences. First individually, then how they play hand in hand.

What is Branding?

The term for brand is not new. In fact, brands have existed for more than 400 years. Today’s rules of branding have changed though. No longer are we talking about the look & feel of a product, a word mark or the brand recognition in itself.

Today, branding is a whole different beast all together. Marketers and brand managers are talking about personas. We speak about attitudes, belief systems and values of our target audience in an attempt to attract interest and nurture relationships.

branding vs marketing coca cola

There’s not really a single definition that describes what branding is. We do love the quote from former Coca Cola CEO and chairman Muhtar Kent:

If a good brand is a promise, then a great brand is a promise kept.
- Muhtar Kent

A good brand is a symbol that guarantees a particular experience. But how can a founder or business owner build a great brand?

Another definition by Virgin Startups:

Startup branding, according to Virgin Startups, contains the following elements:

  • the brand story
  • the product/service
  • how we feel when we buy it or use it
  • what values the company stands for
  • how it serves its customers
  • the set expectations and experiences the brand creates
  • why we buy it
  • what it says about us when we buy it
  • why we pay premium if we do
  • the memories it creates for us as users
branding vs marketing

You can see that branding is far more than just a pretty logo, a good choice of font or a social media page that converts. These elements are only small pieces of the overall brand strategy puzzle.

Branding is about making the connections, building trust and maintaining a long and fruitful relationship between your business and your audience. The goal of branding is to establish a loyal customer base that sticks with you no matter how fierce the competition.

Let’s look at marketing on the other hand.

What is Marketing?

Marketing on the other hand is about strategically placing the brand’s messages in front of the right audience at the right time. The goal of marketing is to convert prospects into customers.

According to the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM):

“Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.”

Here’s an awesome example which will make the difference tangible.

How does Branding Influence Marketing

To recap the above, branding heavily influences the message that marketing delivers and marketing delivers it.

A really good example 👇

Let’s say you’re in your mid twenties and you’re looking to find a partner. You have two assistants on your side, a branding team & a marketing team.

So far, so clear.

The marketing team is the best dressed version of yourself who would go out to the right places to attract potential partners to go out for drinks.

The branding department on the other hand would be the one taking the partner to dinner, sharing stories, cuddling up at night, holding hands and nurturing those relationships to build long term trust.

Without the marketing team you would never find that person in the first place. Without the branding team you would never be able to hold on to them.

Makes sense?

So What Comes First, Branding or Marketing

From a bird-eye view when building your business, branding always comes before marketing. And that’s for a reason!

Ultimately, you can’t market a brand that doesn’t exist and has never been created in the first place.

So before you dive into designing your logos, building a website or creating marketing assets, think about your company’s bigger picture. What drives you as a founder, what’s the company’s bigger vision, what’s the purpose and essence of the company you’re building and ultimately, what do you stand for.

This article cannot replace talking to a creative team or holding a branding workshop with your team. However, here are a few questions to get you started:

  • What is your purpose?
  • And your vision?
  • What is your mission?
  • Who is your audience?
  • What are your values?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • What makes you different?
  • Brand personality?
  • What is your brand’s voice?

It makes sense for you to ask yourself these questions before thinking about going out there and marketing your business.

Ultimately, once you have your branding in place, you’ll have a better understanding of who you are, who your customer is & what you stand for as a brand.

Then you can dial in your marketing tactics & strategy that help you attract and convert.

But here’s an important question:

Marketing & Branding: How to strike the right balance

Where most businesses get it wrong is striking the right balance between branding and marketing.

Going back to our example analogy of dating: Most businesses spend too much time and energy on pick up tactics and buying drinks and not enough time on making connections and building trust.

If you spend too much time & money investing in marketing you may be able to gain short wins, but you may never be able to keep customers in the long run. If you spend too much time on branding, you may run out of money in the short term.

The concept of the Minimal Viable Brand has been floating around the startup ecosystem for a long time and may be a

Conclusion

The concepts of marketing vs branding are easy to confuse. Marketing makes sure that you attract and meet the right people in the first place. Branding makes sure that people stick around for the long term.

Or to put it in other words:

  • Marketing is the tactics you apply to get your message to your prospect and customer
  • Branding is how you keep the promise you made in the overall experience and delivery to the customer

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