Branding vs Marketing: The Key Differences You Need to Know


Branding vs marketing graphic on multiple coloured squares


16 min read

In the great branding vs marketing bout, there can only be one winner.

And that’s you.

Why people feel the need to pit the two against each other is beyond me. That being said, not many marketers understand the differences between branding and marketing, with most using them in an interchangeable fashion.

This is likely due to the term ‘brand marketing,’ a term used to describe strategies that involve promoting brand as a whole through through focused campaigns.

For any business, regardless of size, knowing the differences and similarities between branding and marketing will help outline which is worth investing more in, depending on goals and other influencing factors.

Still, the two terms are quite inseparable. Meaning you’ll need to leverage both in order to reach your overarching business goals. You might need to lean more on one side than the other, but both will be needed.

Let’s start by looking at the definitions of branding and marketing.

What is Branding?

Branding is as all-encompassing as it seems. It’s not just your logo and your message. Yes, those are important, but those make up your brand identity. Branding is how people view and perceive your company.

This applies to those inside and outside of the company too. You see, branding is as much about how you and your employees see/think about the company, as it is from the outside looking in.

So if branding is more than the visual elements, what does it really cover?

Simply put, branding is everything that makes you, well, you.

This includes:

  • Brand Identity: How you look and the messaging that accompanies to make you unique
  • Brand Strategy: The long term goals you have in mind for the brand and where you’d like it to be
  • Marketing: How you promote the brand outright and the channels you use to do it
  • Web Presence: The visibility of the brand online, covering everything from your website and blog, through to social media and video

Notice how marketing is part of branding?

Why this is the case comes down to just what marketing is all about. Essentially, marketing, at its core, is about promoting brand, either directly through brand marketing campaigns, or indirectly through the products/services offered.

Strong branding has the power to do just about anything from a business point of view. It can help establish a loyal crop of customers, it can rally your employees behind a cause, but most of all, it can help put you ahead of the competition.

person holding iPhone with Nike logo

Why is Branding Important?

Branding is almost intangible in a way, and yet, we feel it when we think about certain products. For example, if I was to say “electric cars” you’d automatically think of Tesla – or one of the various classic car companies now making the switch.

It’s almost an involuntary reaction, you can’t help but think it, similar to that one scene in Inception where one guy says to the other guy:

“I say to you, don’t think about elephants. What do you think about?” And the other says “elephants.”

Branding is a lot like that. It’s that mental leverage that can make the world of difference in terms of people choosing to engage with you over another company. There’s another name for that type of leverage, it’s called ‘brand equity.’

This is but one of the reasons why branding is important, others include:

  • Tells your story effectively
  • Builds an emotional connection
  • Establishes and nourishes trust
  • Branding generates growth
  • Increases employee morale
  • Gives businesses purpose/direction
  • Provides a base to build on

That last point is a very important one. You see, having a strong base will allow you to try new things and not alienate your audience. A strong brand will have earned the trust of its customers, meaning they’ll follow you no matter what you do (as long as what you choose to do is in line with your existing values and identity, that is).

Look at Apple, a brand that started out crafting and selling computers in 1976. Fast-forward to the present day, and the brand is on the verge of announcing its first electric car.

Will its customers buy this vehicle when it drops?

Of course they will, it’s Apple, and people buy into the brand and trust them on a deeper level.

We could talk about branding all day, but we’ve yet to touch on marketing. If you want to learn more about branding, check out this post here.

Oh, and if you want to learn more about branding services that most agencies typically offer, we have a post for that too.

yellow posted note with light bulb

What is Marketing?

If we’re to analyse this branding vs marketing bout then we need to provide definitions for both, despite marketing being a lot easier to define in comparison, at least in my opinion.

Marketing in its simplest form, refers to the actions a brand takes to attract an audience to its offering through high-quality messaging. How that message is presented and who it’s aimed towards will vary depending on what sector the business operates in and their marketing goals.

Under the term ‘marketing’ are several subcategories that you need to be aware of:

  • Content marketing
  • Print marketing
  • Brand marketing
  • Search engine marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Social media marketing (SMM)
  • Podcast marketing
  • Video marketing
  • Word of mouth marketing

For those unfamiliar with search engine marketing, this covers things like pay-per-click (PPC) which does involve keywords in the same way that SEO does, only you tend to pay for it, whereas the former is an organic strategy.

We have plenty of other blogs covering the topic of marketing if you’d like to know more.

I’d recommend checking out our guide on how to write a marketing report, as you’ll almost always want to be evaluating your performance in this lane to ensure that time, money and resources are all utilised effectively.

Why is Marketing Important?

Branding on its own is great and all, but it will require a bit of a push for it to connect the way you want it to.

Which is where marketing enters the picture.

Marketing is how you appeal to potential and established customers, it’s also how you continue to build the brand and shape it accordingly, in line with your target audience, and any other notable factors such as trends in the market.

Through marketing, businesses can do a range of things that help move the brand forward. For starters, marketing helps to build and maintain the reputation of the company. And brand equity relies heavily on your overall reputation.

Another thing marketing is great at is informing others about you as a brand. Your efforts will also highlight the value of your products or services, which in some cases, isn’t as clear as it could be.

Here’s an example to help:

Let’s say you operate in the bustling tech sector and are hoping to release a product that is incredibly complex in terms of what it does and how it works. And this confusion could cost you if you don’t do something about it.

One of your options could involve leveraging video marketing to relay the benefits through an explainer video – a video that you’ve either produced in house or sought the help of a video agency to create it for you.

The result is an increase in brand awareness, and even, sales.

Here’s a quick rundown of why marketing is important:

  • It engages with customers directly
  • Builds and maintains brand reputation
  • Can inform others of products/services
  • Generates fresh leads and sales
  • Helps grow brand equity in markets

A girl stood outside of a McDonalds with a drink

What is Brand Marketing?

Before we look at the key differences in the great branding vs marketing debate we need to answer another popular question that relates to this topic at large

That being:

What is brand marketing?

Essentially, brand marketing represents the strategies and methods used to flesh out the brand, its values, its messaging and everything in between. Just because your name is attached to your marketing campaigns does not make it an example of brand marketing by default.

No, no. Brand marketing is more to do with emphasising the brand specifically.

Just look at what McDonalds has been able to achieve by leveraging its brand identity across every piece of marketing and touchpoint. This level of consistency has kept them on the top for as long as we can remember.

The takeaway here is you can be successful in your efforts by leaning on brand to carry the message.

A great thing about brand marketing is how it amplifies word-of-mouth marketing. Sticking with the McDonalds example, take a look at this video here:

This advertisement quickly went viral, gaining hundreds of thousands of mentions on Twitter. And that’s without working out just how many people were talking about it in the real world.

Almost every shot in this ad features the golden arches somewhere, which once again goes back to what we were saying about how prominent McDonald’s branding is in every aspect of their marketing.

In terms of which side it falls on (marketing vs branding), brand marketing – despite having the word brand in the name – tends to lean more towards the side of marketing.

We hope that clears up any confusion.

Now comes the moment you’ve all been waiting for. It’s time to weigh up the differences when talking about branding vs marketing.

People sat around table looking at computer screen with findings from a rebranding workshop

Differences Between Branding Vs Marketing

You should now have a decent understanding of branding and marketing at this point – and a rough idea of the differences between the two.

Branding is used to actively shape your brand, outlining who you are, your values, your USP, etc. Marketing, on the other hand, is used to promote your product, service, or brand directly using specific channels and strategies.

Here’s a quick rundown of the differences before we look at each in closer detail:

  • Branding always comes first
  • Marketing drives sales better
  • Branding is a long term benefit
  • Marketing is a tactic
  • Branding benefits the team

In this section we’ll be breaking down every difference relating to branding vs marketing, starting with why branding always comes first.

Branding Always Comes First

Which comes first for businesses, the branding or the marketing?

If we were having a chicken and the egg conversation, providing an answer would be next to impossible. But in the case of branding vs marketing, the branding always comes first no matter what sector you work in or what country you operate out of.

Why that is comes down to what branding represents. Branding is the answer to such questions like:

  • Who are you as a brand?
  • What are your core values?
  • What are you looking to bring to market?
  • How will you communicate with your audience?

Once you have the answers to these questions, only then will you be able to start cooking up your marketing strategies. The answers to these questions will help you gain a deeper understanding of the brand at large, who your customers are exactly, and how you can connect with them.

Without knowing who you are and what you stand for, you are basically wasting money and resources.

Trying to market a product or service without branding is like trying to ride a bike with no wheels. You can pedal as hard as you like but it will get you nowhere.

pink piggy bank

Marketing Drives Sales Better

Most marketing campaigns and strategies you come across are there to drive results, with results being another word for sales most of the time.

Things like SEO, content marketing, and advertising, while they might not be towards the bottom of the funnel, they are with purpose. And that purpose is all about converting leads into repeat customers.

Branding on its own, or more specifically, brand marketing, is a great way to generate leads as top of the funnel content. But it’s mostly the marketing that moves individuals through the different stages of this process.

What’s more, tends to give brands a lot more leeway in how they appeal to their audience. Marketers can try new and interesting strategies to flesh out the brand if their strategies let them, and they can try this multiple times a year.

You can change certain things about your business through a rebrand, and many experts recommend that you only change things up once every 7 to 10 years.

In short, marketing is better at driving sales.

However, when it comes to building recognition and loyalty, branding wins easily as the long-term benefits are nothing short of priceless for businesses.

Branding is a Long Term Benefit

The customer/brand relationship matters, and it’s something that both branding and marketing do so well when working in tandem. Only branding does a much better job in keeping your customers engaged.

In other words, marketing gets customers in the door but it’s branding that keeps them there. Having the attention of your customer base is great, but it’s how you keep their attention that ensures they stick around and don’t go off to one of your competitors.

Brad McGinty, CRO of 15Five sums up why branding is important perfectly here:

“Brand is a long term sustainable competitive advantage that any business can create that is really hard to unseat. Whereas somebody else can copy your feature, someone else can copy your sales model. These other things are all short term, whereas brand is a long term, durable, sustainable competitive advantage.”

The marketing strategies you implement are all finite. Sure they help get your brand in front of the right people, but they don’t have nearly as much longevity as branding.

A great brand can last a lifetime, just look at the Nike’s, the Apple’s and the Tesla’s of the world.

tik tok advertisement on phone

Marketing Has a Higher Chance to go Viral

If you’re looking to amplify your word-of-mouth marketing, then going viral is the way to do it. Granted, going viral is easier said than done, especially when you consider the number of marketers that are currently aiming for the same thing.

There are two ways you can go viral:

  1. Through organic campaigns
  2. Through controlled campaigns

The former is a lot harder to quantify as things seemingly go viral for anything and everything these days. Oftentimes due to memes and internet culture. Still, there are ways to navigate a viral storm and come out the other end with more awareness.

Leaning on trends in the market is a good way to increase your chances of going viral. Social media platforms like TikTok are rife for opportunities like this for marketers to get the message across in new and interesting ways.

And they aren’t always just dance challenges either. Adobe proved that when it navigated the platform perfectly, increasing interest in its brand in the process.

Branding can go viral, like in the case of the Instituto de Estudos Orientais logo which is definitely something you want to tag as not safe for work despite the brand having the best intentions.

Branding Benefits the Team

It’s your team that will be responsible for developing and implementing your marketing strategies. Meaning, when they see your marketing, they aren’t going to have the same response as someone who’s not familiar with the company.

They’ll see it, but won’t react in the same way as someone you’re actively marketing towards. Which is fine, as you’re not trying to engage with them in that way.

Branding is a completely different story.

Just like you need your customers to believe in you so that they work with you, so do your employees. Building a brand that your employees believe in will only increase morale in and out of the office.

According to TalentNow, 50% of potential candidates won’t work for a company that has a negative brand.

They’ll push themselves harder, bring new ideas to the table, and your brand will benefit from it all. It’s something that both you and your customers will notice. And customers love seeing brands that rally their employees behind the same cause.

Branding vs Marketing: The Key Differences You Need to Know

When it comes to branding vs marketing there will always be differences, but the two need each other if your business as a whole is to grow strong and continue to find success regardless of what that success might look like.

No matter how many times marketers try to drive a wedge between them, or use them in the wrong context, branding and marketing when paired together are a force to be reckoned with.

Need more evidence?

Check out the majority of the case studies on our site, starting with iVent. This brand was looking for an updated look to match the quality of its offering. They were also looking for blogs to help accelerate its content marketing strategy. And we over-delivered on both fronts.

We’ve helped countless brands find success through our creative services. From effective branding that carries your message, to content that carries your message, we help you in the areas that matter most.

Get in touch to find out more.

Branding vs Marketing FAQs

Is branding more important than marketing?

We’d say the two are just as important as the other, and won’t function nearly as effectively without the other. That being said, branding is something that is exclusive only to you, whereas marketing can be replicated. So from an originality standpoint, branding trumps marketing.

What comes first branding or marketing?

Branding always comes first, always. Your marketing is heavily influenced by the brand. Not having that guide there would only waste time, resources and money. Besides, what would you be promoting at that point? Products and services need branding to resonate and be successful.

Is branding a marketing strategy?

No, although branding does play a big part in your marketing strategy as it underpins every decision made in line with your target audience. A brand marketing strategy focuses mostly on brand in your marketing efforts.

What is the difference between a marketing strategy and branding strategy?

Your branding strategy will typically cover multiple areas of the business, whereas a marketing strategy is a lot more tactical in that it applies to this one area more or less. Marketing is typically included in a brand strategy in some way.