Branding vs. Marketing: What’s the Difference?

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Branding vs. Marketing

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Working through your brand strategy inevitably raises the question of whether we should invest in branding or more tactical conversion-driven forms of marketing. Building a brand identity while seeing a return on investment can be confusing and overwhelming. This article resolves the branding vs. marketing debate, helping CEOs, marketers, and content strategists align and work towards achieving the same goal; a profitable brand that scales for years to come.

Many terms and acronyms get thrown around, and keeping them all straight is hard. On the one hand, branding and marketing are on opposing sides of the table. Other times, branding and marketing are coupled together into a single conversation. 

So which is it? We will discuss the differences between branding and marketing and where they intersect. We will help you understand how to apply branding within a marketing strategy for better brand positioning and storytelling.

Ready to learn the truth about branding versus marketing? Let’s get started by looking at what goes into a branding strategy.

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Branding Is Who You Are

Branding is the creation of the identity, positioning, and reputation of your company, service, or product. Branding is who or what you are. Whether encapsulated in a logo like Starbucks, a sign like McDonald’s golden arch, a website like Amazon, a jingle like Oscar Mayer, or a name like True Value Hardware. Branding captures the emotions, beliefs, values, and desires your product evokes. It’s the personality of your product or service, and ultimately, branding keeps your customers loyal year after year. 

Kevin Smith describes branding as “part art, part science” and sums it up in one word, aesthetic. It’s what a product says when it’s not speaking. Think Coca-Cola or Marlboro Man. These companies experience an ever-flowing form of brand awareness, taking place subliminally in the minds of the consumer.

Marketing Is How You Promote Your Products

Marketing is the action of promoting your products, services, or company. Marketing includes advertising, public relations, and market research. Think of marketing as the actions you take to convince customers to buy your product or service. We can engage in marketing by emailing, buying advertisements, or creating a Pay-Per-Click campaign. If branding is what a product says when it’s not speaking, marketing is what it says when it is speaking.

Here are some more ways to differentiate marketing from branding:

  • Marketing is the short term. Branding is the long term.
  • Marketing is an advertisement or a call to action. Branding is becoming timeless, like Google or Levi’s jeans.
  • Marketing is the micro. Branding is the macro.
  • Marketing drives sales. Branding builds loyalty.
  • Marketing gets customers’ attention. Branding keeps customers’ attention.
  • Branding comes first but takes longer to cultivate. Marketing comes second but gives immediate results. 
  • Marketing changes all the time. Branding is indefinite.
  • Marketing catches customers’ attention quickly. Branding builds long-lasting relationships.

Marketing strategies approach a target market with an interesting message that results in consumers taking action. Whether through an advertising campaign, in-store promotion, or internal outreach. 

Marketing Drives Brand Loyalty

Customers like consistency, and if they like your product or service, they expect the quality to be the same or better than the last time. Brand consistency is a critical factor that builds customer trust and increases ROI. Inconsistent branding creates confusion and undermines your brand’s status. Consistency is important because it takes five to seven brand impressions before a customer remembers a brand. And it’s that memory that drives brand identity.

If your marketing effort gets people to engage with your products or services short term, branding keeps them loyal year after year. And while both are important and interact with one another, brand loyalty is what marketers try to achieve in the long run.

Where Branding & Marketing Intersect

If branding is the yin, then marketing is the yang. Rather than thinking of it as marketing vs. branding, where each opposes one another at particular times. Branding and marketing create a flow, keeping the existing customer interested for the reason you want them to. 

Your marketing and branding strategies drive potential customers to make purchases. The most effective marketing strategy will perform significantly better when the consumer experiences brand recall due to a previously developed branding strategy. 

If it wasn’t for Apple’s previous branding effort, the iPad might not have been able to capture the market. 

Brand Loyalty Can Make Your Product Timeless

Brand loyalty is the positive association customers have with your product. Despite efforts from your brand’s competitors to lure your customers away with lower prices or more convenience, brand loyalty brings them back repeatedly without even comparing prices.

Starbucks, for example, has brand loyalty that makes people seek them out, regardless of where they are. Customers can rely on Starbucks to duplicate their emotional experience and provide comfort and consistency, even far away from home. Customers know they’re getting a good cup of coffee and similar service wherever they are, and the premium pricing of their latte is irrelevant. 

Starbucks’ brand identity is its logo, name, and reputation, whereas its social media posts are its marketing efforts. Consistent marketing has helped them create brand loyalty to where they are seemingly unbeatable in the broad coffee category. Their consistent signage attracts more sales than any of their marketing efforts. And that’s what a stellar branding campaign can do: It makes your brand timeless. 

Starbucks has no loyal customers because it is the most likable coffee company. If you were to survey their patrons, only a tiny percentage would suggest customer experience is the principal reason. If this were the case, most revenues wouldn’t come through the drive-thru. 

Starbucks earns its customer loyalty through brand recognition. The frequency of branding and expectation of a consistent product drives growth for this corporate brand. 

Brand Storytelling Can Relay Authenticity, Truth, and Emotion

Brand storytelling is a way to connect with your audience and build timelessness. With brand storytelling, the more personable, authentic, and honest your message is, the more effective it will be. Your marketing efforts can reflect brand storytelling in these ways:

  • Create a brand voice by telling authentic stories.
  • Relay company values to enhance your brand equity.
  • Keep brand messaging simple to ensure it resonates.
  • Appeal to customers’ emotions across all brand engagements.
  • Share success stories and failures to develop brand trust.

“Your brand story is more than what you tell people,” says Deborah Shane in Small Business Trends. “It is what they believe about you based on all the signals your brand sends out.” 

Brand Positioning Sets You Apart

That brings us to your company’s overall perception or reputation— brand positioning. Your brand positioning sets you apart from your competitors and is essential for a successful brand identity over time, no matter how good your products or services are. Brand positioning is how your audience perceives you and what you stand for. For example, when you see the Apple logo, you might think of innovative technology and sleek designs. Maybe you’re likely to buy, but the long-lasting relationship that customers build with Apple over time has made the company successful. And that’s brand positioning.

For better or worse, your internal team can affect your brand positioning. High turnover and employee dissatisfaction can take their toll on your branding efforts. The opposite is true, too. Think of employees who work at Chick-fil-A, for example. Their reputation for having high employee satisfaction and being “employee first” places to work saturates their brand image. 

Branding and Marketing Strategies Work Together

A well-defined brand strategy will help your company create long-term growth and revenue, not only because of customers but also because of your internal communications. It will:

  • Define the value your product or service provides to new and existing customers.
  • Create a consistent message that you can leverage in your marketing campaign.
  • Enhance consumer trust and loyalty, helping to build a strong brand identity.
  • Align your company’s departments for better internal communications.
  • Establish guidelines for better internal decision-making, budget planning, and time management
  • Identify opportunities and prioritize initiatives
  • Optimize time and financial investments

On the other hand, your marketing strategy will function as your brand strategy. It will outline specific tactics to communicate your key brand message to your target audience in ways such as:

  • Content Strategy
  • Digital Marketing
  • Campaigns
  • Social media 
  • Advertising
  • Public Relations
  • Influencers

No matter what methods you’re using in your marketing strategy, our brand development services can help you fine-tune and grow your brand identity.

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