Branding vs Marketing… what’s the difference?

Let’s discuss the difference between branding and marketing; as explained by brand master, Stephen Houraghan.

This is not a new debate: branding vs marketing – marketing vs branding.

It’s an age-old topic, and seasoned professionals, marketers, brand strategists, and designers are all debating how to split the difference between the two.
This is not a matter of semantics, it’s not a case of splitting hairs, and it’s not a case of which came first, the chicken or the egg.

Both branding and marketing have different roles and goals, but all marketing is a form of branding.

Let’s start with branding

What is branding?

Branding is defined as the act of expressing a brand to attract and nurture the target audience in order for them to become or remain customers by shaping their perceptions.

In other words, branding is the expression of everything a brand represents, from its position to its internal brand. Its visual identity, its values, and everything the brand communicates, who it is.
That is branding.

Whether it’s visually, verbally, or in writing.
When you tweet – your branding, when you upload a piece of content – your branding, when you place an ad – your branding. When you have a customer service rep on the phone – your branding. Every single point of contact with your brand is a piece of branding, including all of your advertising and marketing.

So, how is marketing different?

Marketing is the promotion of a product, service, or brand itself to drive sales.
There are many crossovers with branding.

SEO is marketing, content promotion is marketing, and advertising is marketing.
Marketing is everything on the front lines of the brand that generates sales.

When is marketing not branding?

The answer is, never.

All forms of marketing is branding.
Because any kind of marketing, at any touch point, is on the front lines of that brand, it is an expression of the brand, which is branding.

The short answer… all marketing is a form of branding.

You might want to fight this and say: All marketing activities are not branding. Paid ads with purchase as your conversion goal is not branding. It’s sales.
Branding is about expressing your brand’s beliefs without expecting immediate ROI.
When Red Bull had a guy jump from space, they didn’t track the video viewers and tried to sell them Red Bull drinks. They just wanted their audience to know that Red Bull = Adventure.

NO IMMEDIATE ROI = Branding – Branding has no clear or immediate ROI.

In fact: Any effort to influence the actions or perceptions of the consumer is branding. Every single touchpoint is branding. From a paid ad on Google to a sales call, immediate ROI or not…
All these efforts are messages from the brand, representing the brand… We don’t disconnect marketing from branding… they cross over.
All marketing is branding, but not all branding is marketing.
If they buy from your paid ad, you have influenced their behaviour and ultimately their perception.

Does that mean that all branding is marketing?

No, it doesn’t.

This is the difference between the two; this is where we separate branding and marketing.

There are many different ways to express a brand, but not all of them are about promoting a product or service that leads directly to a sale.

Branding includes all forms of promotional content, where there is a direct sale linked to that promotion.
It also includes every other touch point and every expression of the brand where there is no sale connected, no call to action, and it’s just about nurturing the relationship.

This could be customer service, packaging design or an email drip sequence, a how-to video, content that gets delivered to the audience, or any form of communication where there is no ask.

It’s all about the relationship and the nurturing.

Any sort of communication in which there is no direct motive, no direct sale involved, it is simply communication and nurturing, is also branding.

So branding includes marketing and promotions, but it also covers all types of communication in which there is no promotion and the focus is solely on nurturing.

What’s the big difference between branding and marketing?

Branding wants a relationship, whereas marketing wants a transaction.

Branding creates the relationship that makes the transaction possible.
However, for branding, the relationship is much more than just transactions.