Whether you’re a newcomer to the market or a long-time veteran, the sheer number of business terms you come across can easily get confusing. Of these, you’ve likely heard of two popular buzzwords: branding and marketing. Though some people seem to use the words interchangeably, they mean very different things. As you develop your strategies for long-term success, it’s important to understand each definition to make your efforts as productive as possible. If you’re unsure how to differentiate the two, don’t worry—we’re here to help! In this article, we’ll explain the difference between branding and marketing to help you expand your business knowledge and develop promotional strategies that never miss their mark.
What is branding?
Branding is a long-term strategy defining how your company will fulfill its promise to consumers.
This isn’t just about logos or slogans (but we’ll get to that!). It’s about establishing a strong connection between your company and its audience. Customers should walk away from your branding materials knowing:
Some major questions your branding strategy should answer include:
- Who is my target audience?
- What are their main values and priorities?
- How does my brand meet these values and priorities?
- What is my brand’s personality?
- What is the story my brand is trying to tell?
- How does it tell it?
- Does this story resonate with consumers?
Why is branding important?
Branding helps you differentiate yourself from competitors and gives you an advantage over them in the marketplace.
For example, Coca-Cola has been around for more than 100 years, but it’s still one of the most recognizable brands in the world. Why is that? You might think the company’s primary focus is the product itself, but a deeper look into its branding strategy reveals it differently. Coca-Cola isn’t just selling a soft drink. Consumers wouldn’t have any reason to choose it over the dozens of similar options on store shelves if it was.
Instead, it’s selling an experience. When you drink Coca-Cola, you’re drinking happiness, excitement, and joy–all of which the company strives to show in its bright commercials and friendly product design. Its most recent slogan is even called “Taste the Feeling!”
This effort has paid off, as Coca-Cola is consistently ranked the most valuable drink brand in the world.
So, brands are more than just names. They can also be visual and emotional cues that help people remember your product or service when shopping.
What is marketing?
Marketing is the tools, platforms, and activities you use to capture consumer attention and invite them to learn more about your brand. However, marketing isn’t just about advertising. It’s about finding ways to connect with customers using a variety of channels. You can use tactics like social media campaigns and email newsletters, but you can also get creative and try non-traditional marketing methods like sponsoring events and giveaways. Some of these might take a few days to create and implement, while others might need a few months of development before they’re sent into the world.
Why is marketing important?
Marketing largely depends on a pre-established branding vision and vice versa.
Remember that “feeling” you’re trying to generate with your products or services? Without any marketing material, there’s no way to elicit any emotion from your brand, let alone differentiate it from others.
Take Red Bull as an example. You’re probably imagining a few familiar images: motorcyclists racing past a Red Bull poster, powerlifters squatting the weight of a small vehicle in front of a Red Bull banner. The company’s marketing strategy is simple yet effective. It’s now the top-selling energy drink brand globally.
By partnering with some of the most intense athletic events in the world, audiences have grown to associate the drink with adrenaline, focus, and power. As such, consumers have no reason not to believe that a single can will “give them wings”, just as its branding efforts have promised.
7 differences between branding and marketing
You now know that branding and marketing are two crucial components behind a company’s success. The two work to push a product’s image and ensure the brand is immediately recognizable through logos, promotional campaigns, and more.
However, when developing either, you’ll want to ensure you’re spending your time wisely. Mistakenly focusing on a marketing task when building a branding strategy could distract you from more important steps and result in a mediocre outcome. So, let’s review the differences between branding and marketing using some key criteria.
Branding is focused on creating a unique identity for a product or company. It’s about building awareness around who you are and what you stand for. Elements like your slogan develop your brand to make it immediately recognizable. For example, can you name the brand behind “The Happiest Place on Earth?” Meanwhile, marketing is focused on promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service to customers. This involves a diverse range of aspects within your business, from pricing your products to communicating with your customers.
Branding will always be the first priority when establishing your overall business plan, while marketing comes second. Think about it: what use is there in purchasing a giant billboard if your company has no slogan, logo, or product to advertise? You’ll need to answer these fundamental questions before spending time and money on marketing.
You’ll see a common pattern if you look at the timeline between a business’s branding and marketing efforts. Branding is forever; marketing is ever-changing.
As we mentioned earlier, technological developments allow marketers to access more channels. Your team might focus on a Facebook advertisement campaign one month and generate content ideas the next. On the other hand, changing your branding strategy is incredibly rare. After all, this is the foundation everything else is built on, so modifying one aspect of your brand means doing the same to multiple other aspects of your business. Imagine the confusion ensuing if McDonald’s suddenly changed the color of its iconic golden arch to purple!
Measuring your marketing return on investment is fairly standard, as it relies on a trusted formula:
MROI = Marketing revenue – marketing spend / marketing spend x 100
On the other hand, measuring your branding’s return on investment isn’t always as straightforward, and it usually depends on long-term data. A few key metrics executives use to measure this include:
- Branding Power: How large is the company’s current market share?
- Branding Perception: Do consumers consider the company a leader in the market?
- Branding Potential: Do the answers above make it likely that the company’s shares will grow in value over the next year?
Marketing’s impact is almost always customer-centric. Things like TV commercials and celebrity partnerships are geared toward the public. Though branding informs these efforts, it also has a secondary impact on workplace culture. The personality and values a brand develops extend to its employees, which we can see in companies like Zappos. This customer-favorite online retailer’s motto is “Powered by service,” and it’s regularly recognized for offering one of the best customer experiences in the world.
Of course, this is only possible thanks to Zappos’ great company culture, which fosters a family-like spirit amongst colleagues and boasts an incredibly low turnover rate.
Deciding whether branding or marketing is more difficult is subjective since it depends on several elements.
Though both of them require plenty of dedication and time to nail down, which is more complex will come down to factors like the:
- Size of your business
- Product or service you’re selling
- Number of employees on your team
The great news is that branding and marketing leave lots of room for experimentation: one doesn’t always need to be more unique than the other. You will need to follow the established steps to ensure you’re developing a comprehensive branding and marketing strategy, but the way you fulfill them is up to you.
For instance, you might create a wacky brand like Chubbies or establish a unique social media presence like Wendy’s company Twitter account. The possibilities are endless!