Branding vs Marketing: The Strategic Difference

Branding vs marketing, marketing vs branding.

Though many think splitting the difference is semantics, like asking whether the chicken or the egg came first… it’s far from it.

Although branding and marketing share overarching goals and often work in tandem to achieve them, Branding and Marketing each have distinct roles and individual goals.

By the end of this article, you won’t just understand the difference between the two, but you’ll be able to explain it clearly to clients and colleagues alike.

Branding vs Marketing
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What Is Branding?

OK, I really don’t want to, but I’ll start with what it’s not.

Your brand is not your logo or fonts. It’s not your brand values (aka what the brand stands for), purposepositionpersonalitymessagetaglinestory or promise.

It’s also not the creation, development or design of the elements that make up your visual brand. I.e. “branding” is not the designing of your logo. Though those make up your brand identity (also known as visual identity).

Branding is a set of short and long-term expressions of the brand to attract and nurture the target audience to become and remain customers.

It does this by shaping their perceptions of the brand.


Branding is the act of expressing a brand in the market.

This includes all promotion messaging (marketing) as well as long-term non-promotional messaging.

In other words, when you are “branding” you’re expressing everything your brand represents from its differentiation strategy to its personality to its purpose whether that’s visually, verbally or otherwise.

When you post a tweet you’re “branding”.

When you launch your new website you’re “branding”,

When you tell a story you’re “branding”.

When you send out emails you’re “branding”.

A strong brand takes all of these elements into account and creates a brand experience that captivates your target market and fosters customer loyalty.

What Is Marketing?

Marketing makes up the collection of activities and tactics brands use to place their messages into the market with the goal of influencing the audience to buy.

Marketing is more focused on sales than branding and is based on a shorter timeframe — aka a marketing campaign. It almost always has a call to action to buy or to step towards a buy.

Definition Of Marketing

Marketing is the act of promoting a brand in the market to drive sales.

In other words,

Search Engine Optimisation is “marketing”

Social Advertising is “marketing”

Content Promotion is “marketing”

Promotional Emails are “marketing”

Which Comes First: Marketing or Branding?

Because marketing drives sales and provides the initial traction for the brand, you could be forgiven for thinking that marketing comes first.

However, the messages that makes up the marketing stem directly from the brand and the brand strategy.

Marketing only comes into play after the brand has been built with a clear brand strategy in place to guide brand expression.

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The Difference Between
Branding And Marketing Strategy

Brand strategy and marketing strategy both share similar goals but how they’re developed and the end product of each are different.

What Is Brand Strategy?

Brand strategy is the plan of brand expression and developing the brand strategy (or having the brand strategy developed) is one of the first tasks of the business owner after they have developed their business plan .

Unfortunately, most business owners overlook this and go straight to marketing once they’ve had a logo designed.

The brand strategy sets the foundation and subsequent building blocks of what the brand represents.

Beginning with who the business aims to serve, the brand is developed as a strategic entity that expresses the brand messages.

These messages and their expressions are designed to shape the perception of the brand in the mind of the audience to ultimately influence a long-term relationship.

Brand strategy wants more than a transaction.

Brand strategy wants a relationship.

Only when a brand strategy reaches its vision does it achieve its goal.

What Is Marketing Strategy?

Marketing strategy is the plan of brand promotion or activation, which is developed on the back of the brand strategy.

The brand strategy including audience research, positioning, personality, brand voice, messaging, storytelling and visuals provide the tools for the execution of the marketing strategy.

Although the marketing strategy is the front line of the brand, without the tools of the brand strategy it has no direction.

Marketing strategy wants a transaction.

When it achieves enough of them, it achieves its goal.

When it comes to marketing, you can go digital or traditional. Digital marketing relies on digital channels like social media, podcasts, content marketing, and SEO to achieve a goal. While traditional marketing uses print ads in magazines, flyers, billboards, packaging, and more to achieve the same goal.

At the end of the day, business owners and marketing managers need to determine the best marketing tactics to earn their market share and convert loyal customers.

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When Is Marketing Not Branding?

Marketing efforts always fall under the banner of branding because it is part of the expression of the brand.

Though marketing has many campaigns and operates on many media platforms, all instances of marketing are instances of brand messaging.

In other words, marketing is never “not branding”.

When Is Branding Not Marketing?

Though marketing always falls under the banner of branding, the opposite is not true.

There are many instances of brand expression that do not fall under the banner of marketing.

Any form of fulfillment (i.e. messages after the sale) are not “marketing” messages but are certainly “branding” messages.

Does this mean that Marketing is sales and branding is customer support?

No, as there are many examples of pre-sale messages that make up branding including:


Ongoing content


Brand experiences

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The Goals Of Branding And Marketing

One of the reasons it’s so difficult to separate branding and marketing is because of the overarching goal they share.

Marketing and branding both aim to attract customers to a business to ultimately grow that business.

If there are no new leads and customers aren’t finding the business, then both the marketing and branding efforts are failing.

However, one of the key differences between the two is how branding and marketing attain this goal.

Your brand uses a set of elements like core values, brand personality, and visual branding to foster brand awareness and earn a share of the market.

On the other hand, a marketing plan uses different channels (both online — like an ad campaign — and offline — like billboards) to transmit a message and attract potential customers.

In addition, your brand guidelines dictate the direction of your marketing tactics.

In the long run, a combination of your brand and marketing is responsible for building brand loyalty and retaining customers.


Branding vs marketing is not a comparison that’s going away anytime soon.

The crossover in goals, the shares responsibility and the nature of their audience interactions mean they will always be compared and confused.

But as brand managers, leaders and builders, it’s our job to set the record straight.

It’s our job to articulate and explain the nature of each to anyone with their hands on our brands.

If they don’t know, then how can they direct the brand?

What is your role in brand building and how are you shaping the understanding of branding around you?

I’ll love to hear from you.

Let me know now in the comments below.

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  1. Have you ever contemplated the difference between branding and marketing? If so, you are not alone. While the two are undoubtedly connected, there are minute differences between the two.

  2. Thank you for this information it adds another Idea for me to understand deeply the true meaning of Branding and Marketing.

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