Branding and marketing: what's the difference?

Man holding lightbulb in his hand with 'BRAND' written above in yellow

Many businesses, big and small, do not understand the important differences between branding and marketing. Mark McCulloch of WE ARE Spectacular explains why the two are important, but in different ways

Branding and marketing, and the difference between the two, is not just misunderstood in business. It is misunderstood in most businesses and even in their own marketing departments.

I have worked as a general marketer and a senior brand manager. This easy guide will help you navigate your way between the two areas and see their potential to improve your business.

What is branding?

Branding is my real passion. It was when I started working with Robert Bean of Northstar Partners that I started to understand what branding was really about. Robert worked at BT as head of customer communications when the "It's Good to Talk" campaign was launched. In addition, his work on the Honda brand turned into the "Power of Dreams" campaign.

Robert's definition of a brand is that it is a "promise delivered". You make a promise to customers and colleagues with everything you do, and, you deliver on that promise.

The idea that a brand is a badge, a name or a colour is just a tiny fraction of what a brand actually is.

How to define your brand

It's imperative to define what your business stands for. You have to:

Some businesses know what they are from day one. As long as they stay small and keep the same employees, they may not need to repeat this exercise. However, for most firms, things change - sales drop, people leave or a competitor threatens your patch. Then what do you do?

If you define what your brand stands for, it becomes easier to make decisions - who you should hire, which products to sell, how your communications should sound and even what your office should look like.

The key to unlocking the power of your brand is involving your employees. Take them with you through this process and have a brand expert on hand to help guide you. This does not need to be costly or take up too much time. However, once this is done, it could set up a brand strategy for your business that lasts for years.

What is marketing?

Marketing is defined by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as:

  • identifying something that people want and are prepared to pay for, or a problem that they would like solved;
  • developing a product or service that meets that need and then promoting it so that the audience is aware of its existence;
  • working out the details and making sure you're charging the right price.

Marketing is an integral part of your brand. It helps you to communicate the promise that you want customers and prospects to know about.

Your marketing should also be based on your brand positioning, personality, values and tone of voice that have all been defined and communicated among your staff.

Marketing vs branding

In essence:

  • marketing is what you do to get your message or promise to customers;
  • your brand is how you keep the promise made, through delivery to customers and colleagues.

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