Branding vs Marketing – What Is the Difference?

Radhika Sivadi

8 min read ·


Many believe there is a fine line between branding and marketing. That there are small differences between them if any, and they can barely be perceived by the untrained eye. However, considering today’s market, it has never been more important for companies and business owners to clarify the branding vs marketing dilemma.

With so many new businesses making their way into the marketplace and so many channels to target consumers, companies need to constantly bring their A-game to the table to stay ahead. 

Communication is key in times of high competition and branding and marketing are the keys to good communication. Provided you understand what the purpose of each of them is.

Read on to find out what is the difference between branding and marketing and how they can help you gain visibility as well as grow your business.



What is Branding?

Branding vs Marketing

Branding, as the name would imply, is all about your brand. From its logo to its message, its “personality”, values, and unique selling proposition. The brand is how you define your company. Branding can be as compliant as you wearing a tailored suit to a business lunch with corporate managers because that’s what’s called for in that circumstance. But it can also be as unconventional as deciding to wear shorts to the same meeting because that’s who you are. 

It’s all about the message you are sending and the things that make your business unique.

There’s a common misconception that branding is limited to the colors of your logo or the design of your website. Branding is about much more than that. It’s how you appeal to your target audience. It’s the emotional connection you create with your customers.

Think about Mercedes. Everything about their brand says things like reliable, luxurious, exquisite. You won’t find their messaging or image straying away from that by doing things like promoting a new S-class model with a pink elephant wearing a tank top. Mercedes’ branding is focused solely on the company’s classic and elegant style.

The consequence of them maintaining such a classy and stylish brand is that customers relate to it at an emotional level. They are drawn to Mercedes vehicles because they consider them dependable. They are attracted to the promise of owning a luxury product and becoming part of a prestigious family.


That’s what branding does. It tells your story the way you want it to be told. It delivers the message of who you are to your customers and helps them understand what they can expect to get from buying your company’s products or services.


Good branding is what makes a business stand out. Ideally, it’s also the main element that drives all of your marketing strategies. Branding works to attract and nurture your target audience and retain your customers.

If you are just starting and setting up your brand, consider the main elements of your business’s personality. What do you want to communicate to your customers? How do you want to be perceived? Reliable, original, eccentric? You get to choose your position. Think about what benefits you primarily want to promote and what separates you from everyone else. 

Then, use marketing to cater to the promise that you made to your customers.


What is Marketing?


So branding is how you make your business stand out. You must now be wondering ‘Then what is marketing?’

Don’t worry, many people fall into the trap of thinking that what we described above as being branding is similar to marketing. In some respects, it is. Both branding and marketing have the same goal of promoting and setting your business apart. And, most importantly, bringing you customers.

 However, there is a fundamental difference between branding and marketing.


Branding is defining how to communicate and deliver your promise to potential customers, while marketing is how you reach them.


Based on your brand strategy, your marketing strategy is where and how you position your product or service. It’s all the activities you carry out to deliver your brand’s message and convince people to buy. Things like social media content marketing, SEO, email marketing, link-building strategies, and all other marketing tactics.

They all have one goal. To promote your brand’s message and your product or service and attract customers.

It may sound like branding is an intricate process while marketing is less so. Marketing is also very complex. It’s made up of a whole network of strategies and processes. They all work to promote your product or service in the best way to attract more leads. Marketing finds the best target market, uses the optimal channels, and segments markets to win over a bigger market share.

Marketing has to manage all the technicalities that help you achieve your business goals while staying true to your brand’s message. Marketing often gets confused with branding for this very reason. That it’s fundamentally based on a company’s branding strategy.


Branding vs Marketing – Differences

Branding vs Marketing 

Marketing Gets Your Target Market’s Attention

Let’s face it, a strong brand needs strong marketing. A good marketing strategy can take a brand to new heights. Without marketing, the brand message would not come across to potential customers. Think about major brands like Coca-Cola or Apple. Apple is a great example of a company that manages to perfectly tailor its marketing campaigns to its brand values every time. In doing so, it builds the brand even further while attracting and maintaining customers.

Marketing strategies are all about planning out all the steps and tactics a brand needs to use to reach its goals.

That being said, each component of a marketing strategy needs to be well-defined and planned out in order to be successful. It has to be tailored to each step of the buyer’s journey and each target market characteristic and it also needs to be consistent with the brand’s voice. 


If branding is about knowing who your company is, marketing is knowing who your customers are.


Marketing is how a company attracts the attention of potential customers to its product or service. One of its first components is market research. That is the stage in which you get to know your target market, your target audience, and your competition. Once you have that information and you carefully analyze it, you can better understand how to make your product or service more attractive to potential buyers. And, most importantly, where to find your potential buyers.

Next, marketing focuses on things like product development and coming up with strategies to distribute and promote the product. It’s how you bridge the gap between your product and your end customer by refining how you manage your sales and advertising processes.

The main tool that marketing uses to attract customers is messaging. Through messaging, you let your leads know what your product or service is, what it does, and how it can benefit them.

To get the message across, marketing campaigns are carried out through multiple channels. They are picked depending on where your potential customers are and how they like to be addressed. Today, you can use internet marketing to reach almost everyone as long as you’ve done your market research well and you know where and how to target them. Through social media paid campaigns, or search engine optimization, you can promote a product or service and grab the attention of Internet users to turn them into customers.


Branding Keeps Your Target Market’s Attention

In this age of tough competition, you can’t afford to get lost in the crowd. Maybe there was a time when building a brand was not a top priority for business owners, but those days are long gone. Purchasing decisions nowadays are driven primarily by emotion. So, appealing to your customers’ emotions and connecting with them on a more personal level is essential.

Branding determines how your target audience perceives your brand and it makes it recognizable. It’s the foundation of your credibility and reputation. These are the main factors that can influence a buyer’s decision. Your branding is what customers see in you. Think of two companies selling the same thing. Which one would you buy from? The one that has a reputation and inspires trust? Or the one that has no unique feature or unique proposition?

Customers look for brands they can put their trust in and build long-term relationships with. What they want most is to buy reliable products and get good customer service. Most of all, they appreciate transparency. That’s why brand values matter so much in this environment and why you need branding to deliver your message. It’s to convince customers that you are trustworthy and honest and make your product or service more appealing. 


Trust is what attracts customers and how you build long-term relationships.


Your brand’s credibility will influence both existing and potential customers. All they need to do is click their mouse and keyboard a couple of times. Within minutes, they find everything they need to know about your product or service from online reviews. Your branding strategy needs to be built around cementing your credibility both online and offline to nurture customer loyalty.

What your brand is associated with, how you advertise it, and the messages your brand promotes are how customers will determine whether your promise is only a promise, or it is the real deal.

But branding does not only help you in acquiring new clients, but it can also elevate your success rate in getting the best talent on the market, this is referred to as employer branding.

The best talent wants to work for the best companies, and that is not only about money and perks but also about how the brand is perceived on the market. Does the brand represent the values that the potential candidate has? Does it communicate to the market in a manner which the candidate can get behind?

Branding influences all the aspects of the business, some are more visible while others are hidden under the surface. 


Branding First, Marketing Second 

In the business hierarchy, branding must come first. Without it, marketing is a shot in the dark. If you don’t define who you are, it’s going to be very difficult to understand where you are going.

Marketing methods and trends may change, so can marketing channels or even the keywords that you try to target.  Your branding is what stays the same. Your job is to adapt your marketing strategies and tactics to market variations while always staying true to your brand’s values.

That said, branding isn’t stagnant either. While your brand values may start with broader strokes, they are also subject to fine-tuning and improvement as your business and your relationship with your customers evolves. As long as you don’t stray from your core values, you’re on the right track. 

Some may say that marketing should come first because it’s what drives sales. Marketing is indeed a very important aspect of growing a business. However, branding is what will get you past a one-time purchase and maximize your marketing efforts. It’s how you create a connection with your customers. 


Branding can drive your sales for the long term, while marketing does that short term.


To build their success, businesses need customers to keep coming back. They need them to buy more of their products. They need happy customers that will spread the word about their product or service. Businesses need meaningful relationships with their target audience to evolve and achieve their goals.

Things like the commitment to your customers and to delivering quality, being transparent, and communicating openly. These are the branding values you need to bring into every area of your business. They are the elements around which you will build your messaging, your customer support, your sales strategies, and your team.




Some say that the branding vs marketing dilemma is like the chicken and egg situation. Which came first?

The truth is – whether one has seniority over the other doesn’t even matter. What matters is that they are the two core principles of business that work together. Any sensible and practical business owner or manager needs to define, develop, and nurture them to get the best results. 

But in the same manner, as you would build your house from the foundation rather than from the roof, in this case, you also should start with branding and then move to marketing. 

 As the saying goes, “A goal without a plan is just a wish” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry). I encourage you to invest time in determining what your brand stands for, what your story is, and how you want to portray that story. Then, all you have to do is tailor your marketing strategies to present who you are to the world.


About the Author

Vlad Falin is the blogger and founder of Costofincome, where he writes to tens of thousands of monthly readers about digital marketing and online business.  




Radhika Sivadi