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Marketing vs. Branding: How exactly are they different?

Updated: Aug 10, 2021


At first glance, you may think that branding and marketing are two words with the same meaning. That, however, is false.

In the bid towards a successful business, it is important to understand the distinction so that you can effectively develop both the branding and marketing aspects of your company which are key to kick start any business.

We understand the struggle, after all, there are so many definitions out there, but here we will show you how these 2 concepts are not as convoluted as you might think.

Understanding this difference will allow you to effectively use them to give your business a starting edge.

What is Branding?

To put it simply, branding is about speaking to your audience and creating a lasting impression on them—establishing and reinforcing your company’s unique traits. This is often also known as brand differentiation.

Contrary to popular belief, branding does not just concern visual appeal like logos, design or packaging. Of course, these do play a part in forming your brand image, but even deeper than that, branding is about your company’s identity—not what you claim it to be, but what your audience believes it is.

This identity can include your:

  • values;

  • distinguishing qualities; and

  • types of emotions evoked by consumers when they think of your company

So, the next question might be: how is branding achieved for my company? One way to approach this challenge would be to ask yourself three questions.

1. Who am I as a company?

This first question allows you to identify the core company values that will guide the direction the company takes as it establishes itself as a brand. It also allows you to formulate the main messages about your company that you want to convey to consumers.

2. What kind of image do I want my company to have?

Once the core company values have been identified, there must be ways to incorporate this into the business model so that the values can present themselves. For example, if you want the brand image to be compassionate, it is important to establish a good work culture to show that the company cares for their employees at the very least.

These actions play a part in building a good reputation for your company, which is important in brand imaging—just take a look at Google who is well known for being one of the best in offering employee welfare.

3. How can I convey our values and identity to consumers?

Lastly, conveying all that you have established in the first two questions above is the most important step. There can be no effective branding if the identity that you have formed of your company is not recognized by consumers. Leveraging certain aspects of the brand’s operations can help in conveying these ideas.

These include:

  • Visual identity/ marketing

  • Customer service

  • Pricing

  • Product quality

When consumers form a perception of your brand, it drives interaction with the business and increases brand value. However, it is essential to note that branding is a consistent and constant effort to perpetuate one’s brand image, value and identity in the market.

The importance of such consistency can be seen in the success of Coca-Cola, with its iconic drink being recognizable to (I dare say) anyone on the street.

Coca-Cola has achieved this international recognition by keeping its logo, packaging and product almost the same for the past 130+ years.

Branding is not a one-time effort in the bid to kickstart your business, but the core of any successful business model that hopes to convert existing customers into organic brand ambassadors.

What is Marketing?

On the other hand, marketing is telling people who you are—to build awareness for your company. It takes the established identity of the company that is achieved through branding and promotes this so that people are exposed to your company and take an interest in it.

Marketing involves analysing and leveraging on how a target consumer group interacts with a company’s product or service to engage them and optimise sales through market research, product development, public relations and advertising. It often aims to convey a certain message about the company or product and showcase the company’s value

There are many forms of marketing. The more common ones include:

  1. Traditional Marketing

  2. Outbound Marketing

  3. Inbound Marketing

  4. Digital Marketing

  5. Search Engine Marketing

  6. Content Marketing

  7. Social Media Marketing

  8. Video Marketing

Most may seem self-explanatory, however, outbound and inbound marketing may sound new to many.

To put it simply, outbound marketing is marketer-driven and it pushes messages at everyone, with no specific target audience. This is a more traditional form of marketing and is no longer as effective. It is aggressive and consists of email blasts, advertising calls and print ads. Conversely, inbound marketing is consumer-driven and focuses on pulling in potential customers—usually with a target audience in mind. It is more effective as it focuses on aspects like creating valuable content and building customer relationships.

Understanding the difference between branding and marketing

Since marketing is concerned with communicating your company’s value to consumers, it is closely related to the steps taken to establish good branding for your company—more specifically, tackling “How can I convey our values and identity to consumers?”.

We have seen how branding forms the foundation of successful businesses like Coca-Cola, Apple, and Google alike. Thus, a company should establish strong branding before embarking on marketing efforts that play on brand characteristics and unique identity.

Answering your questions...

Is branding the same as marketing?

No, it is not, branding is establishing an identity that you want your audience to believe your company has while marketing is communicating what you have established to build awareness for your company, to achieve that belief.

Does branding or marketing come first?

Branding should always come first as there should be a solid foundation in the company’s identity before any marketing comes in to perpetuate that identity among consumers.

Which is more important?

No one is more important than the other as branding and marketing need each other to be effective. Imagine having a product, but no one knows about it or on the other hand, having a product everyone knows about that has no substance. Neither scenario will be beneficial for your company—this is what happens when branding and marketing are not viewed with equal importance.

Ultimately, it is important to understand the distinction between branding and marketing. This helps to avoid starting your business off on the wrong foot, ensuring that marketing efforts are not convoluted with branding efforts, to ensure a more effective and successful business strategy.

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