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The Strategic Difference Between Branding and Marketing

March 7, 2024

Is branding marketing? And is marketing branding? Well, these two questions together form kind of a recipe for a debate, especially among the sales and marketing team across many professional set ups. In fact, it’s an age-old debate. Not just among newbie entrepreneurs, but also seasoned professionals including marketers, branders, and brand strategists.

The nice thing here is that this debate is not a ‘game’ of semantics. It’s not about splitting hairs. It’s not about which came first and which came next (like the chicken or egg). Whether it is marketing or branding, each of them have clearly distinct roles and both have different goals.

Here in this article, we’re going to understand the difference between the two in a clear manner, such that you’ll be able to explain and articulate it with utmost clarity, right from a high-school student to your colleagues and to your clients. And they will get it!

Let’s start with branding.

What Is Branding?

To understand what is branding, it is better if we first figure out what it is not.

So here it goes. Branding is not the:

Personality, or
Tone of voice.

And it’s also not the creation of any of these eight things listed above.

Here’s what branding actually is. Simply put:

Branding is the process of creating positive perception about a company, its products or its services in the mind of its customers and prospective customers.

The positive perception is created by using and combining elements such as the logo, overall design, vision and mission statement, and most of all, a consistent colour theme throughout all their marketing communications.

When companies carry out their branding effectively, it helps them differentiate themselves from their key competitors, and build a customer base that remains loyal to the brand.

Branding is the expression of everything that a particular brand represents, be it its:

Visual identity

As a business entity, everything that you express as a brand, and by whatever means – be it visually, verbally, or in writing – is branding. This means:

1) When you have a customer service rep on the phone with a suspect or prospect, you’re branding.
2) When you place an advertisement (online or offline), you’re branding
3) When you carry out SEO on your website, you’re branding
4) When you post a piece of content you’re branding
5) When you make a post on social media, you’re branding
6) When you carry out a display ad campaign, you’re branding, and

What Is Marketing?

Marketing is the promotion of a product, a service or the brand itself; in order to drive sales and increase the bottom-line. This means:

1) When you advertise (online or offline), it is marketing
2) When you carry out an SEO (search engine optimization) project on your website, it is marketing
3) When you carry out a SEM (search engine marketing) campaign, it is marketing
4) When you promote a specific content, it is marketing, and

In other words, when you do anything from the front lines of your business that is meant to drives sales, it is marketing.

When Is Marketing Not Branding?

Here’s the straightforward answer: Never.

Why? Because all instances of marketing is branding. To be more specific, any form of marketing at any of the touch points in the front lines of a business, an expression of the brand. And that, is branding.

When Is Branding Not Marketing?

So doesn’t that mean that all branding is marketing?

No. Not all branding is marketing.

And that’s the very essence of this article, so that you’re able to distinctly separate branding from marketing.

If there’s one thing you need to know about branding, it is that it has many forms of expressions, most of which is intended to culminate into a sale.

In other words, not all expressions of a brand are done with the intention to even promote a product or service, let alone a sale. It can also be done with the sole purpose of just nurturing a relationship too.

For instance, branding could be done solely for:

Customer service
Carrying out an email drip sequence
Educate customers or prospective customers with a “How To” video or article, or an
Ongoing content that informs customers about a product’s features and benefits

Any form of branding communication where there is an absence of call to action (CTA), like:

Call Now
Register Now
Buy Now
Book Now
Order Now, etc. …

… They’re all about only building a relationship. Not to close a sale.

Having said, nurturing a relationship will eventually result in sales. Yes. That’s true. However, that is not the intention when nurturing the relationship. The nurturing is done more from the perspective of connecting with the customers and prospective customers, so that a community is built for whom value could be provided – whether or not they transact!

So branding includes the marketing and the promotions, but it also includes all form of communication where there is no promotion and only nurturing.

Branding Vs Marketing

It’s pretty simple:

Branding wants a relationship.

Marketing wants a transaction. Period.

Just like all relationships, any relationship between people (father and son, mother and daughter, brother and sister, etc.), there is always a give-and-take; which is the transaction within a relationship.

But that doesn’t mean that relationships are only about transactions. As humans, we all know that it’s way more than that!

The same holds good for branding too.


Not all have the clarity or the ability to articulate the difference between the branding and marketing. But as a business, it is critical you get the distinction between the two with utmost clarity, so that you’re able to help every member of your team understand it well.

With a little bit of effort, chances are that you could build a deeper relationship with the members of your team, and also help them perform better in their role too.

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