Marketing vs. branding: what’s the difference?

Understanding Branding vs Marketing

New business owners come across the terms ‘marketing’ and ‘branding’ when they start their journeys as entrepreneurs. Some may wonder, what’s the difference? You may be tempted to say they’re the same. However, these are two very different concepts. Get the best out of your business, differentiate between the two, and use each to deliver optimal results.

Let’s use Coca-Cola as a Case Study.

Coca-Cola has been around for ages and also recognized worldwide. What aspects of their business fall into Branding vs Marketing?

Differentiating Branding and Marketing

We need to first ask, what is a brand?

A brand, in short, is a reputation. According to Marty Neumeier, an expert on the topic, it is “a customer’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company”. What he means is that branding is about defining who you are as a company. It is your mission, your values, and what makes you special and unique. Consists of your key brand elements, like your logo, your website, and your general aesthetic style. It can also be the things you actively do to build your reputation and persona. Like how you speak and interact with your customers on the phone, in emails, or even on social media.


And what is marketing?

Marketing on the other hand is a summation of the tools, methods, and strategies you use to actively promote your product, service, and company. Think of it as the actions you take to connect with your customers and motivate them to indulge in your products or services.

One dating analogy often used to make the distinction is that marketing is how you ask a person out on a date, while branding is why that person says yes (or no). You could say that marketing grabs someone’s attention, while branding keeps it.

Another way to put it, marketing drives sales and revenue, while branding establishes name recognition and loyalty amongst your clientele. Simply put, without marketing, no one would be aware of your product/service; and without branding, no one would care enough to buy it, and repeatedly come back. Both are dependent on one another.

When to Implement Each, and What to Expect

One of the reasons it is so difficult to separate branding and marketing is because of the similar outcome they both want to achieve. Both branding and marketing aim to attract customers to a business and ultimately grow it.

If your business model intends to sell a product/service to “make a quick buck” and move on, invest in marketing. If you want to build an audience, community, and customer base that will keep coming back for the long run, invest in branding first to create an identity, and then in marketing to draw people to that persona. Branding is strategic while marketing is tactical. If there are no new leads and customers aren’t finding the business, then both the marketing and branding efforts are failing.

Marketing is usually planned out with short-term goals. The strategies and campaigns will come and go, but branding will remain steady throughout these changes. The message will be the same, but the way it goes out may change depending on current trends, technology, industry, etc. This doesn’t mean that branding is set in stone once it’s established though. While it doesn’t change as frequently it’s important you update and revises your branding as well. Even the largest corporations and most recognizable household names update their logos, slogans, colors/fonts/styles/etc. A good rule of thumb is to revisit these items at least once every 5 years.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, marketing is an important tool for creating product awareness, introducing your offering to new customers, achieving important sales goals, and sending consistent and empathetic messages to the audience. To do this successfully, marketing needs a strong brand on which to stand.

A very crucial point to keep in mind: branding isn’t a one-time practice that you do only at the beginning. It’s an ongoing process that pervades your methods, your philosophy, and most importantly your progression as an organization. It should be reflected upon using your marketing efforts. Once the difference between the concept of branding and marketing is clear, its understanding can be leveraged to shape brand-driven marketing strategies that bring results for your business.

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