By Mark Harrison
It’s a common misconception that branding and marketing basically mean the same thing. Indeed, understanding the difference between branding and marketing is also the key to distinguishing your company from your competitors. Despite how some people use these terms, they’re not interchangeable, but completely different stages of your business strategy that happen to complement one another. Both are formative aspects of your company’s identity in the market, but branding comes before marketing for the simple reason that it’s about the personality you want to put across. This will affect everything you do, especially your marketing. In turn, your marketing may also help you evolve your brand over time. It’s all about finding the right balance between who you are and who your target audience is. The simplest way to put it is branding activities determine what your marketing will say about you, while marketing activities are more focused on how you tell your customer about your brand.
What is your company all about? If you’re just starting out, what is it about you that customers will find attractive? Or if you’ve been at this for a while, what is it that keeps your customers coming back time and again?
The answers to these questions lie in branding. The brand you choose is like a promise. You have to make sure that whatever you promise your site visitors or anyone else who hears about your company, you are able to deliver.
Your brand should stand up to a long-term investment on your part, resonating with your target audience and sticking with them to the point where even a word or phrase can evoke it.
Most of all, your brand represents your purpose. It’s the “what” of your business. In order to define and elaborate upon your brand, there are a few other “what” questions you should be able to answer:
- What made you decide to start your business?
- What are your core values and mission statement?
- What do you offer your customers that no one else can?
- What is your business’ tone of voice?
- What will consumers think when they think of your brand?
In addition to creating “rules” for your brand, the most obvious branding activities are designing a logo and choosing a slogan. These features are certainly going to be highly visible in your marketing materials, but you should decide what you want them to say about you while working on your brand.
How Does This Affect Marketing?
Branding provides clear guidelines for your staff, consistent across multiple departments and levels of experience, in order to make sure everybody is on the same page. It’s what you’re all about.
Ideally, you should aim to set out your stall (so to speak) for years to come, but it’s also a continuous strategic exercise. Your brand is open to change over time, both influencing and being influenced by your marketing tactics.
With a clear sense of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, you’ll be able to determine how you want to convey that to your customers.
Unlike branding, which is a strategic activity, marketing is subject to factors such as budgeting, meaning that it’s a more tactical pursuit. Having decided how much you’re willing to spend on marketing, you need to learn how to maximise the return on your investment.
Marketing is about getting your message out and this requires research. Including both online and offline marketing, you need to find out what your customers want and then determine how you’ll deliver it in a way that is consistent with your brand.
Your marketing tactics should assure your customers that you are able to meet their needs and instil in them a sense of trust. They should also be distinct from your competitors, who will be conducting their own research.
Don’t forget that these companies will be conducting research of their own, and if they’re asking the same questions to the same target audience, they’ll likely get the same answers. If every brand made the same promises, then a lot of them would become indistinguishable from one another.
In much the same way as you want to differentiate brands from one another, this is why you need to know the difference between branding and marketing.
If you don’t have a brand, then you won’t stand out from the crowd, but if you only have a brand, without the correct marketing, then you may not reach your customers effectively.
Content marketing is an umbrella for a wide variety of activities that fall under marketing rather than branding. From blog posts to podcasts and social media posts, your content is informed by your brand and your business’ tone of voice, but it serves to attract potential customers to your platform and entice them to make a purchase.
How Does This Affect Branding?
In busy industries, re-branding is often necessary in order to stand out from companies offering comparable products and services. For instance, if other companies have grown too close to your brand or are otherwise offering something that you aren’t, you may need to redefine yourself to some extent.
Re-branding can range from developing your existing identity to a complete overhaul of your logo and slogan. Your market research should inform these decisions, enabling you to fine-tune any aspects of your existing brand that aren’t doing the job.
Conclusion: It’s What You Do and How You Do It
Despite the symbiotic relationship between branding and marketing, there is a crucial distinction that shows how important it is to treat them as both serious and separate activities.
Branding is about you and marketing is about your customers. By all means, use them in tandem with one another. Just make sure you don’t get them confused or you run the risk of garbling your message.
Only by understanding the difference between branding and marketing can you figure out what you want to accomplish with each of them and act accordingly.