Let’s Get It Straight: Branding vs Marketing, What’s the Difference?


Branding and marketing. They sound the same. They go hand-in-hand. You can’t (or at least shouldn’t) have one without the other. Are they the same thing?

The difference between branding and marketing is a common misunderstanding. And that’s OK. But it’s time to get it straight. 

Branding and marketing are not the same things. Yes, they work very closely together and one cannot operate without the other. They both are crucial parts of a successful business. So let’s get down to branding and marketing 101. What’s the difference?


What Is Branding?

By definition, branding is “The process involved in creating a unique name and image for a product in the consumers’ mind, mainly through advertising campaigns with a consistent theme. Branding aims to establish a significant and differentiated presence in the market that attracts and retains loyal customers,” according to Business Dictionary.

Branding extends far beyond putting a brand’s name out there for an audience to see or coming up with its name at all–it’s the foundation of who you are. A good brand represents that company’s market identity and presents its reputation, personality, trustworthiness, story, visual appeal, and appearance. 

Take away the social media ads, take away the blog posts, take away the TV commercials–what’s left? The brand. The brand is the meaning of a company and everything it stands for–it’s what sticks around in an audience’s conscience after they see a marketing campaign.


What Is Marketing?

By definition, according to Business Dictionary, marketing is:

The management process through which goods and services move from concept to the customer. It includes the coordination of four elements called the 4 P’s of marketing: identification, selection, and development of a product, determination of its price, selection of a distribution channel to reach the customer’s place, development and implementation of a promotional strategy.

Essentially, marketing is the process of churning your brand’s stuff out to its customers. Think social media ads, product campaigns, billboards, radio commercials, and Google AdWords. Marketing is all about pushing your brand out to your target market with the intention of getting them to purchase. 


Branding First Then Marketing

Now that we’ve defined what branding vs marketing means, it’s important to recognize that while they’re completely different, the two do work together, as long as building your brand comes before marketing.

Here’s how it works:

  1. A brand has to be built first before marketing can happen. Without a brand, what will you market?
  2. Without a clearly defined brand, your marketing will be all over the place. (i.e. How will you talk? What will you say? Will everything be consistent across the brand?)
  3. Branding has to drive marketing efforts, meaning based on your brand’s personality, beliefs, and identity, you’ll be able to clearly define your audience and know where to find them.

Brand first, marketing second, always!


Branding vs Marketing: How They Work Together


1. The Brand Story

A brand story is all about who that brand is and what it stands for. This encompasses personality, voice, tone, beliefs, and values–it gives a brand foundation to stand on and an identity worth recognizing.

While brand story is a crucial part of any business, there’s obviously more than just the story. It’s not the end-all, but it does give customers a way to reach you (marketing) and get more intimate with your brand, dig a little deeper into what you have to offer, get more in line with your history, and develop a real relationship to become more loyal.


2. Brand Name and Messaging

Branding naming is also a huge piece of a brand and its overall meaning–kind of like naming your kid. But even more important than choosing a brand name that fits a certain list of criteria, aligns with your business, and is appealing to customers is the story and message behind that name, something that entails both branding and marketing

It’s a good rule of thumb that as long as your name isn’t completely confusing customers, that’s step one. Tie your intriguing name to a brand story that grabs customers and gives them insight into what it is your business actually does, Then justify that name and tell that story in all marketing materials.


3. Visuals

The most common misconception when it comes to branding is that branding is just the visual pizazz, when in reality it goes far deeper than that. Brand visuals should have depth into everything your brand is–its personality, tone, themes, and values. Every decision should be made with reasoning and justification. No brand color is used unless that color tells that same brand story. And then after brand visuals are defined, it comes down to using those visuals consistently across all marketing materials. 

Want an example? Our friends over at Stickermule do a great job with these print pieces, but their sweet stickers alone are NOT your brand. Instead, these are branded items with brand visuals used for marketing purposes. Get it?

branding vs marketing


4. Branding Drives Your Marketing Messaging

OK, now what about marketing messaging? Think of website copy, social media posts, taglines, blogs, etc.–anything that’s marketing your brand and contains messaging. The voice, tone, and personality of marketing messaging is all derived from the brand itself. If you’re a brand that’s light-hearted and humorous, your marketing will reflect that. If you’ve defined your brand as being sarcastic and to-the-point, then marketing will be representative of it. Branding will drive your marketing, including the messaging involved.


5. Branding Keeps Customers Around

And everything comes full circle. Now that you’ve marketed to an audience, become discoverable to those people, stimulated purchases, and have buying customers, how do you make those customers stick around for more? A brand worth sticking around for.

The brand must always try to give the customer a little something more, a little something that’s appropriate for that brand and fits into its values and purpose. Dollar Shave Club, for example, gives away the Bathroom Reader with every box of razors. Genius, and definitely on-brand! That little something extra makes existing customers loyal brand-fans for life!


Brand Right With Bareknuckle

Ultimately, branding is a promise to your business and to your customers. This is who we are, this is what we stand for, this is how we act, and this is how we tell our story. It’s powerful and something 100% necessary for success. Without a strong brand foundation to stand upon and drive marketing efforts, an entire business would be flat–just another business. 

You want people to know who you are and become fans of that who, back it with a brand that carries something more than just marketing and sales.

Around here, Bareknuckle is the only comprehensive branding agency in Reno. What does that mean? That means that from top to bottom, inside and out, we craft brands that carry meaning through every level, every piece, every message. And then we market those brands to tell their story with impact, power, and purpose. 

Are you a clever, fun, and energetic compost company? Then hell yeah, that personality is going to be in every piece of marketing material you’ve got. How about something like, “A compost party in your plants!”?

Are you a photographer stoked on capturing all things love? Let it shine through! Epik Weddings uses marketing messaging like, “Our award-winning photographers make your day last forever by telling the story of your love for generations.”

Get the branding right with Bareknuckle. 


Get Branded!

We partner with ambitious business owners who are ready to roll up their sleeves and build something extraordinary. Hop on the line for a quick 15 minute call with a Bareknuckle Brand Strategist to see if your brand needs branding.

branding vs marketing

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