Branding vs. marketing: Are you doing it right?

By Laura Gayle, Business Woman Guide

Branding and marketing are intertwined, but they are not quite the same thing. If you want to “do it right,” it’s important to distinguish one from the other. While both are designed to achieve the same goal, each plays a slightly different role in getting there.

A company wants to establish who it is (identity) and what it stands for (mission and values). Branding is the means of bringing these two elements together into the public eye. The way a company communicates its brand and its messages to the public is through marketing, a key component in a comprehensive business plan. Because the messages need to align with the company’s identity and primary objectives, marketing should follow branding in the process.

Statistics indicate that one of the top reasons a large percentage of businesses fail is due to a lack of focus. Focus can be lacking in many areas of a startup, but with branding it means a swift and certain death. By getting the company’s branding in place before turning attention toward a full marketing plan, a company can immediately boost its chances for success. If you want to do branding and marketing right, consider the following tips.

Establish a solid brand

Unfortunately, many companies misuse the word “brand,” or they misunderstand what it means and blur it together with marketing. While it’s true there are some overlapping concepts between the two, branding is an initial step that absolutely needs to be established before moving on to marketing. A strong brand creates a solid foundation for a business to build upon. To get started with branding, decision makers should:

-Set a mission statement and clearly identify and state the company’s values and objectives.

-Tell the company’ story. How did it come about? People are generally interested in a company’s origin story because it adds a human element to the company’s image — especially if the company’s values are ones they can relate to and support.

-Establish the company’s “voice,” aligning the tone of every message with the ethos of the company. Once developed, keep this voice consistent to cement and strengthen the company’s identity.

Develop a solid logo with effective imagery. It should be aesthetically memorable, creating a visual representation of the company’s identity and attributes.

-Give consumers valuable reasons why this brand matters to them.

-Give employees a reason to be brand ambassadors. Is the company a place they are proud to talk about?

Consider the demographic and market segments the business hopes to reach and determine if the above elements speak to them. If not, it’s worth the effort to revisit and hone the branding strategy a bit more before proceeding further.

When it boils down to it, branding is all about impressions. First impressions matter a lot, especially when it comes to establishing a reputable business, and they can be made in many ways. Here’s an example: Your office space communicates a lot about your brand. Are your offices modern, vibrant, and energetic? Or stale, boring, and stuck in a 1980s rut? If it’s the latter, invest some time and resources into creating a more welcoming office space. By making a dynamic first impression at headquarters — with business partners, employees, and customers, alike — your business makes a stronger bid for positive consumer attention.

Companies that make a bad first impression will find their clients running toward the competition. Branding is the first way to make a good impression. And it isn’t just for big conglomerates, either; branding is equally important to small and medium-sized businesses, as well.

Create a marketing strategy

Once branding is firmly established, you can turn toward marketing. Done right, this is where a company builds awareness of its products or services. A good marketing campaign also goes a long way toward growing the company’s number of repeat visitors, eventually achieving brand loyalty from them.

A company’s marketing initiatives should focus on outreach with the messages and promotions they send out to consumers. These messages should be eye-catching and appealing, and should directly communicate what solutions the company can offer to a consumer’s pain point or why a product or service is desirable. Understand your target audience and develop messages they’ll find appealing with these elements in mind:

-Demonstrate how the product or service meets a market need. (42 percent of startups fold by failing to prove how their offering serves a market need.)

-Develop simple, focused messages using the brand’s voice.

-Focus messages to communicate the company’s core values.

-Ensure that content and messaging remain consistent and align with the company’s brand.

-Repeat marketing messages often.

Once messaging is developed, attention should be turned to determining which tools should be utilized to send a company’s messages.

-Find marketing channels where your audiences will see them. (For instance, if you’re marketing to Gen Z, there is no point in taking out costly television ads because your chosen demographic mainly watches content through streaming.)

-Carefully examine any marketing — for example, materials you prepare for trade shows or conferences. Assess with a critical eye whether the materials communicate the messages you want to convey.

-Use a good mix of designated marketing channels that complement one another. This way, audiences can receive the same message in a variety of ways. Repetitive, yet effective.

A primary jumping-off point for stakeholders is to consider how they want people — both external and internal to the organization — to see the company. This can be accomplished by taking the time to carefully plot out brand attributes and putting effort into developing the perception they want to create. Once this piece of the puzzle is in place, attention can be turned to planning out a marketing strategy.

Bottom line: Branding cannot succeed without good marketing, and even the best marketing approach will make less of an impact if a business’ branding identity isn’t clear first. From the beginning, it’s important to segregate the two initially before moving forward. After that, there’s no doubt, branding and marketing need to cohesively work together to make a memorable impression with the public and accomplish a company’s goals.


Laura Gayle is a full-time blogger who has ghostwritten more than 350 articles for major software companies, tech startups, and online retailers. Founder of, she created her site to be a trusted resource for women trying to start or grow businesses on their own terms. She has written about everything from crowdfunding and inventory management to product launches, cybersecurity trends, web analytics, and innovations in digital marketing.


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