On the surface, it seems like Miss Details is all about branding. So when we start talking about marketing, some of our clients get confused.
“Wait a minute—I thought you only did branding, not marketing!”
“I already have a marketing team—do I really need help with my branding?”
“Branding and marketing… aren’t those just two different words for the same thing?”
This last question is one of the most common we encounter here at Miss Details. And it’s not surprising—branding and marketing often get lumped together within entrepreneurial jargon! But although they’re interrelated, they are, in fact, two distinct areas of your business. Moreover, understanding the nuances between the two can help you refine your strategy, prioritize your needs, and move confidently to the next stage of your business. So, what is the difference between branding and marketing? How do they interact? And which should your individual business focus on first? This blog will answer all those questions and more, so let’s dive in!
Distinguishing Branding From Marketing
Before we can understand the subtle differences between branding and marketing, we need a basic working definition of each. And if you think you already know these definitions, stick with us—we promise laying this groundwork will pay off!
Marketing is an umbrella term for all the tools, processes, and functions you use to promote your business. Marketing might focus on a particular product or service you offer, or it might promote your company as a whole. You can think of marketing as action-oriented: it’s a series of specific actions your company takes to get your audience to take action themselves, whether that’s engaging with your brand on social media, downloading a lead magnet, or, ideally, making a purchase. Examples of marketing include: TV commercials, print or digital advertisements, flyers, signage, and even making phone calls to potential clients.
Branding, meanwhile, is a little more enigmatic. It’s the process of defining who you are as a company. And while some aspects of branding are tangible—your logo, your web design, the fonts and colors you use in your marketing materials, the words you do and don’t use in your copy—much of the magic of branding happens on a more philosophical level. Getting clear on your mission and vision, your core values, your positioning—these are the intangible, yet invaluable, aspects of your business that will set you apart from your competition and keep your audience coming back for more.
Now that we’ve established our working definitions of branding and marketing, let’s dig deeper into the distinctions between them.
Marketing is formulaic, while branding is emotional.
There are hundreds of templates and methods for building an effective marketing strategy, and for the most part, they can be applied to any business. But there’s no silver bullet strategy when it comes to branding—because instead of being based in numbers, it’s based in emotion. Understanding how your audience feels lies at the very heart of branding—which brings us to our next point.
Marketing is determined by business, while branding is determined by customers.
Of course, many of the initial steps of establishing your brand—defining your mission and core values, for instance—will happen within your company’s walls. But one of the great paradoxes of branding is that, while branding is the outward expression of your business’s identity, that identity is in large part determined by your audience. Consumer perceptions, experiences, and emotions all play a critical role in shaping your brand. Thus, building a strong brand depends heavily on building strong relationships with your audience base.
Marketing is a sprint, while branding is a marathon.
Marketing is mainly concerned with relatively short-term results—such as driving sales by using a particular ad campaign. In contrast, branding is in it for the long run. For instance, say you see a billboard for a local sandwich shop. The picture of the sandwich looks delicious, and you need to grab lunch somewhere anyways, so you stop by. That’s marketing. Now, when you get to the sandwich shop, you find that the workers behind the counter are friendly and attentive, cracking jokes with you as you order. They make sure to give you a coupon for 10% off your next purchase when you check out. You leave not only with a delicious sandwich, but with a smile on your face at the pleasant interaction you just had, and with definitive plans to return. That’s branding.
Here’s one last note to help you understand the difference between branding and marketing. There’s a well-known moment in the Tarantino film Django Unchained, when Leonardo DiCaprio’s character says, “Gentlemen, you had my curiosity; but now, you have my attention.” Although the film obviously has very little to do with entrepreneurship, the quote beautifully sums up the distinction and relationship between branding and marketing. Marketing sparks your audience’s curiosity in your business—but branding captures and holds their attention.
Which Comes First: Branding or Marketing?
Once you establish the distinction between branding and marketing, the next question is obvious: Which should I work on first? The relationship between branding and marketing has a definitively chicken-and-egg quality in that it’s tough to distinguish which comes first. However, there is a correct answer: branding should always come before marketing.
At first, this might seem backwards. After all, we’ve just established that marketing is the more actionable of the two concepts—it’s rooted in sales, and concerned with immediate results, while branding is more ephemeral. If you’re thinking this means marketing should be your first priority, and that you’ll get around to branding when you have more time or a higher budget, you wouldn’t be the first entrepreneur to assume so—but it would be a mistake. To help you understand why, let’s use a colorful metaphor.
Let’s say that instead of an entrepreneur, you’re a painter. In this case, you can think about your canvas as your brand, and your paints as your marketing. You could purchase the most high-quality, beautiful paints available in the art store—but if you don’t have anywhere to put them, you’ll end up flinging your paint around and making a huge mess. You need a rock-solid foundation, or canvas, on which to paint your marketing efforts.
Branding is also fundamental to the consistency of your marketing. To take the metaphor a step further, let’s say you were a painter known for working in the impressionist style. You wouldn’t suddenly produce a cubist painting—the abrupt change in style would confuse new viewers, and alienate your established audience. Similarly, all your marketing efforts need to be firmly rooted in your brand identity. If you don’t first clearly establish that brand identity, your marketing efforts will feel disjointed and confusing to your audience.
If you’ll allow us one more artistic metaphor: Branding is recording a song. Marketing is playing that same song on different stations, over and over again.
What it Means for Your Business
So, you know the difference between branding and marketing, and how they interact with one another. But how do both apply to your business? And what are the next steps you should take? The answer depends on what work you’ve already done in both areas. Pick out which of the three scenarios best describes your business for guidance on your next steps.
- If you haven’t done any work in branding or marketing… Your next steps are clear. As we established above, branding may be the most intangible aspect of marketing—but it’s also the most fundamental for your bottom line. Take the time to fully establish your brand identity before diving into ordering flyers or designing ad campaigns. It may seem counterintuitive, but it will pay off in the end! For expert guidance in jumpstarting your brand identity, ask us about Miss Details’ Brand Snapshot service.
- If you’ve done the work in establishing your brand identity… Congratulations! You can move on to the more tangible, formulaic aspects of marketing—letting your audience know you exist, and piquing their curiosity to find out more. But don’t abandon all the hard work you’ve done in your branding—remember, every piece of your marketing should clearly and consistently reflect your brand’s identity. Not sure where to start? Take a look at Miss Details’ Strategic Marketing Consulting for one-on-one coaching and advice.
- If you’ve started marketing but haven’t worked on your branding… Don’t panic! You wouldn’t be the first entrepreneur to skip over establishing a brand identity before diving into marketing. All you need to do is take a step back and dedicate some serious time and energy to your branding before creating any new marketing materials or campaigns. Once you’re grounded in your brand identity, you can consider whether your previous marketing truly reflected that identity, and what you want to change going forward. You may even have done some branding without realizing it—you can find out with Miss Details’ Brand Checkup, which will give you a fresh, self-guided perspective on what your brand already brings to the table.
Play the Long Game
Often, entrepreneurs are all about results—the sooner, the better. But when it comes to branding and marketing, it can take time to truly see the fruits of your labor. There are plenty of methods for measuring your branding, but it’s important to be patient throughout the process. Once you’ve established a rock-solid brand identity, you can infuse it into all aspects of your marketing, and acquire not only your audience’s curiosity—but their lasting attention as well.
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