Branding vs Marketing

Branding vs Marketing:

Understanding the Differences and Fine Lines Between the Two

It is not uncommon for branding and marketing to be thrown together in a conversation. They’re even used interchangeably at times. However, don’t be mistaken. There are notable differences between the two.

Let's explore the points that set branding vs marketing apart and how to create strategies for your business.

What Is Branding?

To better understand the fine lines that differentiate branding and marketing, let us define both terms first, starting with branding.

Branding is the process of giving an individual, group, company, product, or service its distinct meaning and personality. This way, the target audience will be able to identify the brand and, more importantly, distinguish it from its competition.

Some make the mistake of limiting branding to just the visual elements involved. While your brand’s logo, color palette, and fonts play a role in making your brand more memorable, they simply serve as a visual placeholder.

What’s more important is how you give your brand meaning.

How will it reflect your company’s core values? How will it best represent your vision and mission?

Taking these factors into account can even serve as a solid reference in creating your visual elements. Ask yourself, "Which color scheme will best reflect the personality you want to give your brand?"

Here’s an excellent example of branding done right: According to Oberlo, black is the color of power and elegance. We don’t know about you, but those are precisely the meanings we were able to derive from Nike and Chanel’s logos.

What Is Marketing?

Now let’s move on to marketing. Marketing is the process of promoting a brand, product, or service, typically to boost sales.

However, Hubspot points out that it’s usually more nuanced than that. Marketing activities may also include research, analysis, and other tactics to improve your target audience’s perception of your brand.


This is where marketing efforts can get confused with branding. That’s because they sometimes have overlapping goals: to allow your brand to put its best foot forward.

There are different types of marketing, but they can be categorized into two: traditional and digital.

Traditional marketing is any strategy that involves classic methods such as distributing print media, putting up a billboard, and even shooting a new TV commercial.

Meanwhile, digital marketing is any strategy that involves online tactics such as SEO, social media campaigns, and more.

Don’t worry. We’ll be discussing more about how to create branding and marketing strategies in a bit.

Branding vs Marketing: What’s the Difference?


The difference between branding and marketing goes beyond their definitions. Here is a quick table highlighting their key differences:

Key Aspect




Branding requires a journey inwards to uncover the company’s identity and reason for existence.

Marketing seeks to reach outwards, expand the company’s network, and get in touch with its customers.


Branding campaigns establish a lasting impression and forge a meaningful relationship between the brand and its customers.

As such, branding efforts can last for years一usually until rebranding is required.

Effective marketing campaigns typically have specific and short-term goals, such as introducing a new service or increasing the sales of an existing product.

They can last for a few months, with a set timeline, and hopefully until the main goal is met.


Branding aims to establish customer loyalty and increase repeat sales.

Marketing targets to attract potential customers and make new sales.

Branding vs Marketing: Deciding Which One to Prioritize

Another facet of the branding vs marketing dilemma is deciding which should go first. You can say that timing is another key difference between marketing and branding.

From a logical business hierarchy, branding should come first. At the very least, you should establish a face for your marketing efforts to promote.

This way, you have something to show your customers. In addition, an established brand will give your marketing campaigns a clear trajectory.

It can be challenging to stick to your brand’s “True North” amidst the constantly changing marketing trends and growing competition. Fortunately, branding can serve as your compass and ensure you’re always on the right track.

Is There Ever a Time When Marketing Comes First?

Some references say that marketing should come first. After all, any new business would benefit from an initial boost in sales.

That may be true, but don’t expect that success to last long.

Without a memorable brand, your customers will find it hard to search for you again should they require more of your products and services in the future. On the other hand, it’s an entirely different argument when you have already built your brand.

You may focus on your marketing if that’s the case.

That said, this doesn’t mean that your branding should forever remain stagnant. Instead, you should treat it as a living organism that can grow and develop as time progress.

How to Create a Brand Strategy

Again, think of your brand as a living organism. You wouldn’t want it coming into the world with just a face, right?

Instead, you want to develop a personality for it; doing so will require careful planning.

That said, here’s a step-by-step guide on creating a branding strategy:

1. Start With the Foundations

You should begin laying down the foundations of your brand strategy by asking yourself why the brand needs to exist first.

What purpose will it serve? What values will it represent? What will be its vision and mission?

We understand that this is not the “fun part” of creating a brand strategy, but it is an integral step that you can't simply skip. The answers you will determine here will prove helpful as you develop your brand’s visual identity later.

2. Determine Your Target Audience


Now that you know why your brand needs to exist, the next step is to define who it is for. Who is your target market?

Don’t just come up with a general idea of your target customers. As the adage says, “You can’t please everyone.” Instead, try to be more specific.

Go beyond just defining their location, gender, and age group.

Identify Their Pain Points: What are their daily challenges? What are their most common complaints?

Define Their Joys: What do they need, want, and enjoy? What are their most common goals? What motivates and inspires them?

3. Check Out What’s Already Out There

According to Mark Twain, “There is no such thing as a new idea.” But does this mean that you should simply give up on making an effort to offer something unique?

Of course, not.

Hence, the next step in creating your branding strategy is to look at what your competitors are currently doing. Deviate from them.

Don’t just offer something different. Instead, offer something better.

Don’t forget to take note of the visual elements of their branding as well. The last thing you want is a similar visual branding to your competition.

4. Come Up With Your Brand’s Story

Armed with the research you’ve done earlier, you can now start telling your brand’s story.

How was it born? Why did you decide on the purpose and values you’ve given it earlier?

Use your story to create emotional connections. Make it compelling and relatable, especially to your target market. Take your time to give your brand the depth and meaning it deserves.

5. Craft Your Brand’s Personality

The next step is to create your brand’s personality. That is why we’ve suggested you consider your brand a living organism.

Doing so definitely makes this step significantly easier.

Picture your brand as a person. Given its purpose and values, how do you think it will behave?

How will he make friends? How will he reach out to people? How will he communicate? What will be his tone?

Try to develop a personality that your target audience would like to befriend.

6. Give Your Brand a Name and a Face

Here comes the fun part. It’s time to create a name and face for your brand. Its name should be short, catchy, and easy to spell.

As for its face, we’re not just talking about your logo here. We’re referring to the whole visual branding package.

What’s the color palette? What are its fonts? Do you plan on editing its images and designing its graphics a certain way?

Each visual element should complement the other. We recommend seeking professional help if you’re not confident with your design skills.

7. Plan the Launch

It’s almost time to introduce your brand to the world. Hence, take a moment to search for the best arena for it.

Does your target audience congregate somewhere? What social media platforms are they on? What types of media do they subscribe to?

Consider the best timing to make your introductions as well. When will your target market be most open to your branding efforts?

This is going to be your brand awareness strategy.

8. Make Your Brand Collateral

You are now ready to put together everything you need for the launch.

The various media and materials you’ve created can be your brand collateral. These include your website, packaging, graphics, print material, and more.

Don’t forget to refer to the visual branding you designed earlier.

The key is consistency. In addition, every piece of your branding campaign should align with your business goals.

Don’t rush the process. Poor execution is not an option.

9. Define Your Failure and Success

Finally, you need to plan how you will track and manage your branding campaign.

How will you determine whether your launch is a success or not? What are the criteria? How do you plan to collect this data, and more importantly, how do you plan to analyze it?

The goal is to determine what’s working and what’s not so you’ll be able to improve your branding in the future further.

How to Create a Marketing Strategy


Once you already have an established brand, you can now move on to developing a marketing strategy.

Like how you developed your branding strategy, this process will require you to perform market research and competition analysis. The good news is that you may use the information you’ve already gathered previously.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on developing a marketing strategy:

1. Define Your Goals

To avoid redundancy, we assume that you have already determined your target audience and performed due research on your competition. With that out of the way, the next step would be to identify your goals.

Determine what you want to achieve from your marketing campaign.

Do you want to increase your brand awareness and online recognition? Do you wish to increase your leads and sales?

Try to be specific, realistic, and time-based. For instance, don’t just state, “I want my business account to reach a million IG followers.”

Instead, you can say that you want your follower count to increase from 500 to 1000 in the next three months.

2. Equip Yourself With the Right Tools

Try to break down your goals into smaller milestones, and from there, come up with actionable steps to achieve each step.

This will help you determine the tools you need for your marketing campaigns. There are plenty of options available depending on your specific needs.

For instance, platforms such as Semrush and Ahrefs are great for SEO and content marketing. Meanwhile, Buzzsumo and Later will prove beneficial in social media marketing.

However, don’t limit yourself to just digital marketing tools.

Developing a marketing strategy, keeping track of all those marketing materials, and managing multiple marketing teams can require resources beyond the ability of marketing apps. Hence, it wouldn’t be bad to consider other software, such as sales management tools, productivity platforms, and even communication apps.

3. Get the Lay of the Land

Knowing your competition isn’t enough. After all, there are a lot of marketing tactics that can apply to multiple industries.

As such, take note of current trends. See what media and marketing messages your target audience is currently engaging with.

Review and audit what you already have published out there (if you have any). As with your branding efforts, take note of the gaps that you can possibly fill.

4. Create a Marketing Plan and Stick With It

A marketing strategy is a holistic overview of the marketing efforts you need to make to achieve your goals. Meanwhile, a marketing plan is composed of the specific actions you need to perform to fulfill the marketing strategy.

All the information you gathered this far should help you determine these actions.

Some marketers find it easier to start with the end in mind by identifying the milestones needed to accomplish the set goals, then further breaking them down into even smaller steps.

Here’s a tip: If you didn’t accomplish a particular task within a week, it would be ideal to break it down further into more straightforward actions.

Once you’ve laid out your steps, it’s time to plot them on your marketing calendar. Ideally, you should create a timeline that would coincide with your preferred campaign duration.

Be honest and realistic. This way, it’ll be easier for you to stick to your marketing plan.

5. Create an Evaluation Plan

Finally, determine how you will evaluate your campaign’s success. You might want to set up a social monitoring tool to help you track your marketing messages and audience engagement across multiple marketing channels.

Here are just some of the factors we consider whenever we want to determine whether our marketing campaign is a success:

  • ROI

How much did we spend on our marketing campaign? On the other hand, how much did we earn back in sales?

For instance, suppose we spent $1000 on a quick social media marketing campaign to launch a new product. Let’s say that the campaign brought you $6000 in sales.

It means that you have an ROI of $5000 or 500%. The higher this percentage is, the more successful your campaign was.

  • Traffic

Aside from ROI, we also track how much traffic we’ve generated to a specific channel, whether it’s our social media page, website, or even an online shop.

Going back to our example earlier, let’s say that we ran the product launch social media campaign during July. We will now look into that month’s traffic and compare it to our previous metrics. That's usually from a month when we had no campaigns running.

This is to determine how many people our marketing efforts bought in.

  • Conversion

Finally, we looked into our conversion rate while our campaign ran.

Suppose we could discern that our product launch marketing campaign brought in 1000 unique visitors to our website; from those, 100 bought something. It means that our campaign generated a 10% conversion rate.

These aren’t the only factors you should consider to determine a campaign’s success. You can also look into other aspects like your social engagement, click-through rate, and open email rate.

Indeed says there are 21 different metrics available. Just choose which ones are the most relevant to you and your brand.

Branding and Marketing FAQs

1. Does branding mean marketing?

While branding and marketing may sometimes share common goals, they are not the same. The very nature of these processes is different.

Branding is a process that requires looking at the brand inwards. Meanwhile, marketing is a process that seeks to extend and expand outward.

You may review the definitions and the table of key differences we’ve shared above for more information.

2. What is more critical, branding or marketing?

Branding gives your brand the identity to set it apart from its competition. Meanwhile, marketing gives it the voice to reach out to its audience. They are equally important in achieving business success.

3. What comes first, branding or marketing?

Branding should come first since it will give direction to your management efforts.

We can see why some prioritize marketing first since it will ensure sales and bring revenue. It’s clear how tempting that is, especially for new businesses.

However, your business will fare better in the long run if you take the time to establish your brand first.

To get started, refer to the branding strategy guide we’ve shared above. Once you have built your brand, you can make your marketing management efforts significantly easier by formulating a marketing strategy beforehand.

4. What is the difference between branding strategy and marketing strategy?

The key differences between marketing and branding will highlight the obvious factors that set these two strategies apart.

More specifically, branding and marketing strategies only coincide in some of the research required to design both. Otherwise, all the other steps involved are distinct from their strategies.

5. How do branding and marketing work together?

Despite their differences, we can all agree that branding and marketing both work to achieve the same goal. More specifically, here are the two most important aspects they affect:

  • Help You Better Connect With Your Audience

If there’s one thing we’ve confirmed through years of experience, data collection, and analysis, it’s this: a brand never fails to attract people who share its values.

When done right, branding can bring together a community of like-minded people. Meanwhile, marketing can further reinforce this initially established connection.

Not only will you be able to tap into potential customers, but you’ll also be able to boost the customer loyalty of your existing clientele.

  • Help the Holistic Growth of Your Business

It can be easy to neglect the branding aspect of your business, thinking that it was only a one-and-done deal, but it’s not.

We get it. It can be just as easy to get taken away by all the marketing and sales strategies we need to keep track of each day.

Achieving the balance between branding and marketing is crucial to propelling your business to new heights.

Branding vs Marketing: Two Sides of the Same Coin

We can see how some mistake branding and marketing for the same thing. After all, these processes do share a lot of similar aspects.

However, it’s important to note that they are not the same.

Three main points set them apart. These are their focus, duration, and results.

Understanding these key differences will reveal that even if they are separate undertakings, they will help you attain your business goals. For us, that’s what matters.

Uday Tank

Uday Tank

Uday Tank is a serial entrepreneur and content marketing leader who serves the international community at Rankwisely. He enjoys writing, including marketing, productivity, business, health, diversity, and management.
Published September 28, 2022

Share this Post