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Branding vs Marketing: What Are the Key Differences Between the Two

Even though we encounter them every day, the terms branding and marketing are often a source of great confusion. They get mixed up or are even used interchangeably. While they have a lot in common, they are two very different concepts. Nevertheless, understanding this difference between them is quite simple. So, what is the difference between branding and marketing? Read on as we break it down for you.

What is the difference between branding and marketing?

Marketing is what we tell people about our brand. Branding is what people tell us about our brand.

The simplest way to explain it is with this picture:

branding vs. marketing

Marketing is like asking somebody on a date. Branding is the reason they say »yes«.

Branding is who you are, and marketing is how you build awareness.

Branding is about defining who you are as a company. It’s not just a logo, not only a mission statement or a brand promise. Branding is a set of short and long-term brand expressions to attract and nurture the target audience to become and remain customers. This is achieved by shaping their perceptions of the brand and it includes many things: your mission and purpose, values, your brand identity, personality, your internal culture and all the other elements that set you apart from other brands. Branding drives recognition and loyalty.

Branding answers the following questions:
  • Who are you as a brand?
  • What makes you unique as a brand?
  • What is your brand personality?
  • What are your values?
  • What is your purpose and mission statement?
  • What is your internal culture like?
  • What are your ideal customers like?
  • How do you communicate with them?
  • How do you keep them coming back?
  • And many more …

Branding is something you and your team do daily with every e-mail you send, every phone call you answer, every social media post you publish. Branding has as much of an impact on your team and internal culture as it does on your customers.

Marketing, on the other hand, is a set of tools, processes and strategies you use to actively promote your products, services and company. It impacts the customers to drive sales.

Marketing promotes intended brand value, whereas branding reinforces it.

Marketing answers the following questions:

  • How to effectively reach potential customers?
  • How to get their attention?
  • How to get them to buy our products and services?

You dictate your marketing. Your audience dictates your brand, and they are the ones who ultimately define your brand. Therefore, branding is not defined once and set in stone forever – it’s an ever-evolving process that permeates your processes, culture, and development as a business.

What is the relationship between branding and marketing?

Marketing is a part of branding.

Whatever messages marketing is sending, they are always fulfilling the process of branding. All instances of marketing are instances of brand messaging. However, the opposite is not valid. Many cases of brand expression are not marketing. Not every time you publish something on social media are you marketing your product. And not every phone call you make is

branding vs marketing diagram

trying to sell something.

What is the goal of each?

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

Marketing campaigns are usually short-term and have a clear goal, e.g. more sales of a specific product. Marketing may get people to engage with your company for the first time, but branding is what keeps them choosing you and coming back again and again by building a relationship with them. Marketing and branding both share a goal of attracting customers to grow a brand.

What comes first: branding or marketing?

To successfully market your brand, your brand has to be well defined. Only when you have your branding in place and know who your ideal customers are, can you build a marketing strategy that will reach your goals. Therefore, branding has to come first, and marketing should follow its guidelines as all the messages marketing puts out have to stem directly from the brand and its brand strategy.

Branding is a foundation upon which you can build effective brand-driven marketing campaigns.

These are usually short-term, and branding is long-term. If marketing is a sprint, branding is a marathon race. That’s why it needs to be the core of your marketing strategy.

Now that you understand the differences between branding and marketing, here’s a table that quickly summarizes what we’ve covered in the article.

branding vs marketing table

How to make the most out of the two?

To make the most of both worlds, marketing should follow branding, and branding should utilize agile processes to respond best to what customers are saying.

Many believe branding is to be set in stone and followed by the marketing team. We strongly disagree. Why push a narrative that doesn’t resonate with the public? Why expect people to accept the manager’s internal decision when we can listen and adapt accordingly? That’s the beauty of agile branding.


How to create brand strategy that will serve as an excellent foundation for marketing your brand? We are here to help. We can create a marketing strategy for your brand that will stem from a bulletproof brand strategy.

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Founder and lead strategist at studio Atlas Authentica. Her mission is to help businesses form agile and strategy-driven brands as well as mentoring young creative enterpreneurs.