Branding vs. Marketing: Why Neither Can Succeed Without the Other

April 1, 2019

By Laura Gayle, Business Woman Guide

Branding and marketing are related and interdependent functions, but they are not the same. If a business wants to be the best it can be, these concepts must be handled sequentially. It’s definitely not a “Who came first: the chicken or the egg?” scenario. Businesses need to be strategic in the manner they approach both processes, and that means handling branding first, marketing second.

What’s the story about branding?

Branding shows “who you are” by creating a name, logo, and accompanying artwork that expresses your company’s unique identity and values. It’s all about how you want people to feel about your company and its products or services. Strategy must be employed when establishing branding; it has to be both honest and appealing.

Branding for your company is the first thing to establish with the public. Uncertainty doesn’t play well in any market. If people can’t immediately figure out who your company is, what it provides, or the values it stands for, they’ll likely turn to a competitor who can better communicate what they’re about.

To create a positive image for your company, it’s important to pay attention to impressions. For example, think about first impressions: If a business leaves a positive first impression, a customer will likely return. If a negative experience occurs, the customer’s negative impression will play a strong role in the decision to take their dollars elsewhere.

When it boils down to it, branding is all about impressions. Launching your brand and still in the development stage? Here are some tips to think about as you undertake the process.

  • Define a mission statement and stipulate your business’ values. Keep in mind that these are the attributes people will link with your company’s identity.
  • Determine your company’s “voice,” which will be associated with your brand in every written or spoken instance. Is your voice authoritative, informal, trustworthy, or irreverent? Be sure to keep it consistent in communications across the board, both internally and externally.
  • Share your company’s story — tell your audience how your company was “born.” Storytelling enables your brand to trigger good feelings. By adding an emotional component, businesses often find people are better able to relate to them.
  • Don’t neglect your office space. Be sure your company’s workspace feels modern, friendly, and welcoming. Any visitors to your HQ will associate the vibe there with the company’s overall brand.
  • Consider moving to a more visible location. This is especially important if foot traffic is meant to make up a good portion of your customer base.
  • Take pride in your logo and envision it everywhere. For instance, when planning for trade shows or conferences, think about the impression people will get when seeing the promotional materials you display. Your logo plays arguably the biggest role in your company’s identity, so you want to get it right.
  • Establish reasons why your brand is relevant. Be sure to outline to people why they should care about your brand and/or what problem it can solve.

To get the most value out of your marketing budget, make sure you have a solid brand strategy in place before you pull together your promotional strategy. Taking the above into consideration will get you on your way.

What’s the skinny on marketing?

Once your company’s brand is established, you can turn your attention to marketing. The marketing process involves identifying target audiences, reaching customers, and satisfying their requirements while yielding a profit.

At its core, marketing is about outreach. Marketing initiatives create all the messages and promotions you’ll send out into the world and determines the tools you’ll use to do it. Set yourself up with a strong brand and a well thought-out marketing mix to strike the right balance for your marketing campaign.

  • Establish a focused message. Keep it simple and repeat it often. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
  • Recognize pricing. You’ll have to determine price points and find a way to balance your audience’s level of price sensitivity while still being able to profit.
  • Determine where and how consumers can buy your product. Will you be selling exclusively online or offline? Maybe both?
  • Understand your audience. For instance, if you’re marketing to millennials and Gen Z, understand that they care about social responsibility. You’ll need to effectively communicate your shared concerns.
  • Choose marketing channels where your audience will find you, and use the media channels that make the most sense. You don’t want to pay for expensive television ads if you’re marketing to millennials and Gen Z who only stream their content; they’ll never see those ads. For those markets, focus instead on mobile apps or social media.

Marketing is more focused than branding, but it still must always support the overall identity your business is associated with. If the two do not align, audiences will receive mixed messages and drift away. Mixed messages breed uncertainty, give a poor impression, and don’t strike a level of confidence. You always want your marketing efforts to invoke confidence in your product or service.

Why can’t branding or marketing succeed without each other?

Both branding and marketing are essential components of a business’ core strategy. While initially they are approached separately, in the long run, they are not mutually exclusive ideas. There’s a lot of overlap between the two, and one cannot succeed without the other, for several reasons:

  • Marketing is the mechanism that gets the word out about a brand, but it’s difficult to market a product or service that has no identity through branding.
  • Branding typically never changes at its core; however, to succeed, marketing must be flexible and willing to constantly evolve.
  • Marketing tools are what will help keep a brand relevant as it changes to keep up with industry and cultural trends. Without a strong brand, marketing will fail due to lack of interest or consumer need.

Essentially, branding is who you are, and marketing is the approach you take in telling everyone about yourself. But once you’re in the trenches, it’s sometimes hard to distinguish where one ends and the other begins. The best branding strategies support the best marketing ones and vice versa. For all the moving parts to operate effectively, both branding and marketing must be given the right level and balance of strategy. Bottom line: One doesn’t achieve its goals without the other.