Branding vs. Marketing

Understanding the Key Differences Between Marketing and Branding

By: Frank DePino | February 16, 2023

Branding vs. marketing is a critical discussion, especially among startups or small business owners who might not understand the difference between the two. Although they share similarities, brand identity and marketing strategy are critical to your long-term success in various ways. Precisely how are they different?

A brand strategy entails formulating and strengthening your company identity, whereas marketing is about promoting that identity and related products and services to grow your customer base and revenue.

Today’s guide will provide an even more in-depth look into the difference between branding and marketing. We’ll also define both terms, explore similarities, and discuss which is more important to your company’s success!

Branding is the process of giving a meaning to specific organization, company, products or services by creating and shaping a brand in consumers' minds.

What Is Branding?

Before we delve into how marketing and branding diverge, let’s provide definitions of both terms to get you up to speed.

Definition of Branding

First, there’s branding.

A brand is a company’s personality, to put it simply. That brand personality encompasses many elements, including a company logo, preferred color scheme, font typeface and size, and the tone used to communicate everything from emails to social media.

As much as visual branding is important, other elements of branding that are less visually inclined abound. They include your brand positioning, targeting, values, and brand promise.

According to design resource Renderforest, 75 percent of consumers recognize a brand by its logo, 60 percent by its visual style, 45 percent by its brand colors, and 25 percent by its voice. All these elements require careful consideration and planning.

New companies will focus on pinning down and expanding upon a brand, whereas more established companies with a definable brand will strive to build awareness and strengthen their respective brand.

Taking the time to create a solid brand is always worth it. Dropshipping resource Oberlo states that 77 percent of customers will gravitate toward brands when they have the same values

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What Is Marketing?

Now that you understand branding, let’s shine the spotlight on marketing

Definition of Marketing

Marketing, at its core, is all about promotions.

What a marketing campaign promotes varies. For example, you could launch a campaign just to promote your brand, whether a first-time new brand or a rebrand for an existing company.

Much more often, marketing promotes products and/or services.

A marketing strategy will use as many elements as needed to achieve its objectives. Some of those tactics include:

The digital marketing industry has risen to an all-time high. Online advertising resource WordStream reports that in 2020, the industry reached a value of $350 billion and that by 2026, the value will increase to $786.2 billion.

In a nutshell, branding is who you are and marketing is how you build awareness.

What Are the Differences Between Branding and Marketing?

We’ve defined them separately, so now it’s time to explore in more detail branding vs. marketing by highlighting all the differences.

Branding Is More About Identity, Marketing Is About Promoting That Identity

A brand, as we established, is your identity. It includes your brand story, passions, goals, and values all rolled into one. It’s both your visual identity and non-visual identity, but at the end of the day, it’s about who your company is.

Marketing doesn’t include elements of brand creation and identity. A marketing campaign expects that identity to already exist. Then, you can promote aspects of your brand identity to reach a specific target audience.

Branding Is an Ongoing Effort, Marketing Campaigns Start and Stop

We’re not saying that marketing ever stops, but campaigns come and go in a way that branding doesn’t.

A branding effort must be consistent over the life of your company. Returning to our previous point, when your company first starts, your goal is to define your brand.

Once you know what your brand is, then you strengthen it and build it into a household name. Sometimes, your branding efforts might find you expanding your brand in new and exciting directions than you had originally anticipated.

Brands can also stagnate, especially as your audience, roster of products and services, and goals change. In that case, then it’s time to rebrand, but you never once do you stop working on branding.

Marketing should remain an ongoing effort too, but each campaign has a definable endpoint. You can only promote a product or service for so long in the same way before you have to try something different to prevent the audience from getting bored.

Then it’s on to the next campaign. Considering the frequency with which companies introduce new products and services, that too informs the lifespan of the average marketing campaign. 

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Marketing Grabs Attention and Branding Holds Onto It

Marketing and branding also diverge in which parts of the sales funnel they appeal to. For instance, it’s the primary job of a marketing campaign to grab a consumer’s attention.

Once the company has attention, how does it hold onto it? That’s through branding. Customers will learn more about the brand, find similar values, and hopefully feel inspired to make a purchasing decision. 

Some Similarities Between Branding and Marketing

Branding vs. marketing mustn’t always be some grand battle. As we’ve made abundantly clear, marketing and branding share many traits, so let’s take a closer look.

Branding vs. marketing mustn’t always be some grand battle.

Marketing and Branding Increase a Company’s Value

It’s all about value for so many audiences. Consumers expect valuable offerings when engaging with a company, from high-quality lead magnets at the opt-in stage to quality emails and valuable products and services.

Marketing and branding alike bolster the value of a company and its offerings. To a customer, value determines how much something is worth and whether it’s something they need.

The more valuable a company and its products and services come across, the more interested in that leads will become. That can lead to conversions and sales.

Branding and Marketing Move Customers Through the Sales Funnel

Although neither marketing nor branding is directly involved with product or service sales, both still propel customers through the sales funnel.

Branding shines the brightest when a customer enters the sales funnel in the awareness stage. A strong brand will stand out to a lead and help them connect in these critical early days.

Then comes marketing. For example, you could use social media marketing to engage an audience and automated email marketing campaigns to nurture a burgeoning professional relationship.

By the time the leads reach the action stage, thanks to your marketing and branding efforts, making a purchasing decision should be simple.

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Which Comes First, Branding or Marketing?

We’ve all heard the age-old dilemma of which comes first, the chicken or the egg? While that’s a more debatable subject, the question of which comes first, branding or marketing, is much easier to answer.

It’s branding!

Why Does Branding Come Before Marketing?

If that wasn’t clear to you, let us delve into why branding must come before marketing.

A marketing campaign is only as successful as its target audience. That’s why no marketer will ever answer that their audience is “everyone” because that’s far too broad of an audience.

Instead, marketers will do targeted audience research to identify segments that may have an interest in a product or service. Then the marketers will home in on aspects of a product or service to appeal to that audience.

Marketing without a brand is just as fruitless as marketing to a general audience, except in a different way. Whereas marketing to everyone means not knowing the right audience, marketing without branding means not knowing oneself.

You can’t possibly identify a receptive target audience until you understand more about your own brand. Even if you by chance guessed upon a receptive audience group, how do you appeal to them?

What colors? What tone? What verbiage?

Let’s say you somehow got all that right and had a successful campaign, but you still don’t know your brand. The next time you market a product or service, you could swerve in a totally different direction without a brand to ground you.

That’s a great way to shed your audience and cost your business revenue. Brand template platform Marq reports that a consistent brand presentation increases a company’s revenue by up to 33 percent.

Customers don’t only expect consistency from a company; they demand it. Branding is the only way to build a consistent representation of your company.

Once you’ve gotten your brand nailed down, then you can pivot back to marketing. Your campaigns will be more successful.

Both branding and marketing work in sync with one another.

Which Is More Important, Branding or Marketing?

Declaring either branding or marketing as more important than the other misses the point. That suggests we’re back to the branding vs. marketing debate when really, you need both to drive your company goals forward.

Both branding and marketing are important for any company’s long-term success. You should focus on branding first and marketing second, as discussed above, but that’s just an order of operations.

You already know what happens if you skip the brand and launch a marketing campaign. Skipping the marketing with a strong brand may not be as deleterious, but it’s not great.

Once you have a brand you and your staff adore, you’ll want to scream it from the mountaintops, and that’s where marketing comes in handy. Without marketing, a brand’s ability to progress quickly reaches its limit.  

Brand Strategy vs. Marketing Strategy

Going back to branding vs. marketing, another clear difference between the two is how you formulate your respective strategy and what that strategy entails.

A brand strategy is internal. While you can’t develop a brand without considering your audience, you’re mostly turning the mirror on yourself and asking tough questions like why your company exists and what you’re hoping to achieve.

Marketing campaigns are decidedly more external. Your strategy centers around which audience segments you can appeal to with your latest products or services. You’ll also devise a method for reaching customers, as marketing entails so many tactics, as you’ll recall from earlier.

A branding agency is a firm that specializes in creating and launching brands and rebranding.

How Branding and Marketing Work Together

The most successful companies know how and when to utilize both branding and marketing.

When in tandem, they create a compelling company profile that lures people in. Backing that up with a strong roster of products and services only further compels consumers.

Strong marketing campaigns targeting the right audience groups with products or services that address those groups’ pain points will ultimately inspire more sales and conversions.

Marketing and branding shouldn’t be pitted against one another but understood and appreciated as separate entities and used together for a killer combination that’s known for delivering huge results.

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Hire a Branding and Marketing Agency

Crafting the perfect brand doesn’t come easily, nor does launching profitable marketing campaigns. If your company struggles in either area or both, you should hire a branding and marketing agency like Mediaboom.

The pros at our agency specialize in services like web design and development, advertising, digital marketing, SEO, email marketing, social media marketing, video production, copywriting, and campaign management.

With us on your side, you’ll be ready to build a brand your audience receives well and then promote that brand in ROI-heavy campaigns.

For more information or to start getting results today, contact us here.

By: Frank DePino

Frank DePino is Principal and Founder of Mediaboom. Since 2002, Frank has led Mediaboom’s award-winning staff of creative and technical professionals, building the most effective marketing and advertising solutions for its clients.


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