Is there a difference between branding and marketing?
On the surface, the two sound pretty similar. A branding strategy is just one aspect of your overall marketing strategy, right?
Yes and no. The two certainly share some similarities, but what’s more important are the ways in which they differ—and how those differences coordinate to make up a cohesive customer outreach strategy.
What Are Marketing and Branding?
Before we go into detail, let’s define our terms, starting with marketing:
“Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”
Pretty straightforward. Marketing is an incredibly broad term that encompasses just about every type of public outreach your business will perform.
Branding, on the other hand, is a little different:
“[Branding] is a strategy designed by organizations to help people to quickly identify and experience their brand and give them a reason to choose their products over the competition’s, by clarifying what this particular brand is and is not.”
Branding is essentially a subset of marketing, referring more to how your company defines itself rather than the specific actions it takes. But as we’ll review, there’s a lot of overlap between the two – and this overlap can muddy the waters in understanding key distinctions between the two.
Key Aspects of Marketing vs. Branding
Marketing and branding sound quite similar to the uninitiated, but they’re vastly different in application.
Primarily, marketing is your company’s engine for driving lead generation, sales, and brand visibility.
- Physical advertising
- Online ads
- Pay-per-click campaigns
- Social media outreach
- App-based promotions
And so on. If an activity involves creating visibility for your brand or contributing to your company’s ability to find customers, it falls under the marketing umbrella. It’s more about the way your brand communicates and the messages it sends rather than what the brand actually is.
That’s where branding comes into play. At its core, branding defines the values of your company and many of the unique company features that differentiate you from your competitors.
- Company mission statement
- Underlying values and principles
- Brand promise and messaging strategy
- Company culture and tone
Think of it this way: Your branding tells your customers who you are, while your marketing involves the methods by which you tell them. For example, Ben and Jerry’s has long since made sustainability a key part of its branding. It’s one of the key elements highlighted in the company’s mission statement, and it’s something that loyal customers know well. B&J understands the marketing potential of this core value and pushes it heavily in its marketing—not the least of which is through their packaging design!
This is, perhaps, the key distinction between the two ideas, but to really understand how they work together to drive revenue, we need to go deeper.
Bringing the Two Together
The goal of marketing is pretty simple. You push your company messaging with the goal of attracting leads to your sales funnel and, eventually, turning those leads into buyers.
Branding has more to do with recognition. Powerful branding can put a company’s logo or name in the customer’s mind with hardly any prodding at all (think of the red and white striping of the Coca-Cola logo or the outline of a halfway eaten Apple. Even seeing these colors/images can invoke near-instantaneous brand recognition in our minds.)
They’re different in function, but they work together to produce results. Marketing is definitely the more fluid of the two; you’ll find your strategies constantly changing over the weeks and months, with new tactics to try and new goals to hit.
Branding is more evergreen. Your company’s branding is one of its most important assets – and it’s an asset that depends on stability and consistency. Customers come to expect certain things from your brand, and those elements shouldn’t be changed on a whim. Re-branding is a much bigger proposition than making simple tweaks to your marketing strategy.
We like to think of marketing as clay and branding as marble. Your marketing clay is malleable and adaptable based on your specific needs – whereas your branding “marble” is stable, with changes occurring slowly over time.
This is how to leverage the two. Your branding and values act as the concrete framework that underpins your marketing goals. In many ways, your company’s brand is the roadmap for your marketing efforts. Your brand’s values, mission, and desired market all play into what you’ll say—and how you’ll say it.
If your customers have come to expect a friendly, approachable tone from your brand, your social media marketing, for example, should play into this idea. It’s about presenting a consistent, unified messaging strategy across all website assets.
Branding and Marketing Go Hand in Hand
Marketing and branding often get lumped together in business discussions, but don’t let their similarities obscure how important it is to assess each one individually. Marketing is about reaching your audience, and branding is about making a connection with that audience. Think of them as wings on a plane. Though they appear similar on the surface, you’re not taking off unless both are working as they should.