What’s the Difference Between Branding & Marketing?

Branding is the foundation of your business identity. Marketing describes the efforts you undertake to build on that foundation in order to promote your image and improve your brand equity.

That might sound simple, but the reality on the ground is that the difference between branding and marketing often tiptoes a blurry line in business discussions. It’s important to understand the distinction between these two, in order to ensure you’re making the most effective use of them.

So what are the differences between marketing and branding? Or are we just talking potato pot(a)to?

What is branding?

Branding is who you are as a business. It’s everything from the way you look to the way you act, and it defines how an audience views you as an organisation.

This is reputation on steroids. It’s that happy feeling inside people get when they see a package with your logo drop through their letterbox, the recognition that leads people to your website for a trusted source of information, or even just the image in someone’s head when they hear that captivating jingle that you employ on your adverts.

Remember that an audience isn’t just limited to your customers. Your brand image encapsulates everything from the sentiment of your suppliers to the views of those individuals and organisations who haven’t yet directly interacted with you.

What is marketing?

Marketing refers to the skills and tools you utilise to promote your strategic brand goals. Marketing is a constantly evolving suite of talents and tactics that today incorporates everything from garish billboard advertising to the weird and wonderful possibilities of virtual reality experiences.

Marketing is about promoting opportunity for your business. That means identifying customer needs and wants, and then communicating how your brand offering can help provide a solution. In today’s landscape that should be delivered by effective, impactful inbound marketing, which seeks to attract customers through the value you can add to their journey, rather than bombarding them with celebrations of your own awesomeness.

What’s the difference between branding and a logo?

One area that often causes confusion is whether there’s a difference between your branding and

your logo. It used to be that the term ‘brand’ was used more directly to refer to the visual representation of your company logo, but nowadays when we talk about brand or branding we’re almost certainly referring to the wider concept encapsulated by who you are as a business.

Think about the iconic McDonald’s logo. Today we would, as I just have, refer to that golden M as a logo, while historically you might have heard it referred to terms like ‘brand mark’, ‘brand icon’, or even ‘trademark’. A logo is just one small part of your brand, albeit an important one. The brand is everything from the iconic M right down to how consistently delicious your Big Macs are.

How do marketing and branding work together?

Branding is your identity, marketing is what you to do to promote that. Marketing and branding are intrinsically linked to one another, which more often than not is where the confusion as to the use of these terms originates.

Branding is about culture, both how you act, and how you are perceived to act. You should be proud of your company culture, products and reputation, which hopefully means you want to brag about it. That’s where marketing comes in. Marketing contributes to the success of your brand, but without a strong brand identity, marketing is facing an uphill battle.

How important is branding then?

Branding may be a slightly nebulous concept to define, but it’s no less important than good accounting, strong strategic decision making or a company culture that values employees. Remember, in essence these things we’ve just mentioned are actually part of your brand.

If you’ve got terrible accounting practices, paying invoices late or mixing up pay cheques, people are going to hear about it, and it will impact your brand image. Refuse to let people take coffee breaks? First of all you’re a monster, but second of all you’re likely to be a monster that employees gossip about behind your back. Design a logo that includes eight different colours in a parabolic explosion of hieroglyphs? Even writing that was horrendous, so viewing it is going to be worse. People see, and people remember.

So next time you think about how you interact with the world, think about everything that makes you special as a business. That’s the difference between marketing and branding. One is the story of you, and the other one is how good you are at telling it.

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