You came here to learn the difference between branding and marketing. I won’t dance around the subject. Let’s use sports to make the explanation easy.
Marketing gets you to buy a ticket to your first game with a clever, “First 5 beers free” promotion. Ok, it’s probably a first beer free, but I’m allowed to have dreams.
Anyway, marketing makes you aware of the team, captures your interest, and drives an action (buying a ticket).
Branding turns you into a rabid fan who paints their chest and buys season tickets. Branding is all of the actions the team takes to deliver a consistent experience at every touchpoint, shape your perception, and earn your loyalty.
Both are necessary to get a true demand generation machine up and running. You need marketing to get people in the door, and you need branding to improve retention and referrals. It’s the whole Yin and Yang thing where each gives birth to the other. The end result is progress toward a business goal.
That’s the basics. Now let’s dig a little deeper into each to get the full picture and some practical knowledge you can put to use.
What is a brand?
You can probably go find 50 different definitions of what a brand is on the internet. The following is my definition built through 15 years of running branding firms. I’ll start with what it’s not.
A brand is not a logo.
A brand is not a website.
A brand isn’t a bunch of jargon some jackass at an ad agency spits out.
Your brand is your reputation.
It’s how people perceive you (“you” in this case can be a business, event, nonprofit, team, or an individual).
I like to compare a brand to a person.
Your logo is like your face. It’s how people associate the reputation with the person. A pretty face plays a role in how you’re perceived, but it’s only one part of what forms your reputation.
Your website is like your house. It’s the digital real estate you own where people can find you. There’s no doubt your website is a crucial aspect of shaping people’s perception. Like a house, your website says a lot about who you are. Some homes are warm and inviting, some homes are minimalist and clean, and others are eclectic dens of personality. But again, your website is only part of what shapes perception.
Your brand is made up of your interests, personality, sense of humor, and your actions. It’s the end result of every interaction someone has with your company. Your product, logo, website, sales, marketing, customer service, and each interaction you have with customers, employees, and vendors dictate your reputation.
This naturally leads us to the question…
What is branding?
If your brand is your reputation (a.k.a. how you’re perceived), branding is all of the actions you take to shape that perception. That includes:
- The name you give your business.
- Your brand story.
- The visual identity that represents you (logo, colors, etc…).
- Your website.
- The marketing you share.
- Your sales approach.
- Customer service interactions.
- Your company culture.
- And last but certainly not least, the experience with your product or service.
True branding firms focus on all of these aspects, not just a pretty logo and flashy website. You can’t build a badass brand with a crappy product. That’s why every project we take on starts with a focus on the product. From there, you can work through each aspect of your business to make sure you’re doing everything possible to create the perception you want. You need to ensure every touchpoint provides a consistent message and experience.
A great place to start is asking yourself, “How do I want people to describe my company?”
What is marketing?
Where branding is strategic, marketing is tactical. The purpose of marketing is to move you toward a business goal. To do so, you need to nurture people through the stages of buying:
- Awareness that you exist
- Interest in what you sell
- Action (buying what you sell)
- Evolution into a fan (retention and referrals)
It’s easy to overcomplicate marketing. From content and email marketing to SEO and advertising, there are a lot of channels to navigate.
My advice, keep it stupid simple.
Focus on the most efficient way to get people through the stages above. There is no universal approach that works for every business. Marketing can be confusing and frustrating. Test various approaches. Cut the ones that don’t work and double down on the ones that do.
Branding is all of the actions you take to shape perception. It’s a crucial part in the marketing ecosystem. Branding leads to trust, customer loyalty, and referrals. Contrary to common misconceptions, branding drives measurable results and is one of the most important aspects of demand generation. It’s the reason people choose your brand regardless of price or convenience.
Marketing exists to move you toward a business goal. It’s the tactical Yang to branding’s Yin. You need marketing to get people through the stages of buying. Marketing is often one of the most visible aspects of any company. In other words, it’s going to play a heavy role in shaping your brand.
Marketing is focused on driving revenue. Branding is focused on earning loyalty. You need both branding and marketing to drive consistent demand for whatever you sell.
Grab The Recipe if you want clear advice on building your brand and getting results from your marketing.