Branding and Marketing: Independent or Interdependent for Business Success?


For someone who is a business owner or a business professional, understanding and knowing the difference and relationship between branding and marketing is very important to your company’s success.

As a marketing professional in the trenches of this world every day, I often hear conversations that blur the two words together and it got me thinking, why do I hear this so often and why is it important to differentiate branding from marketing and how do they interconnect?

What is branding?

We usually think of branding as a big piece of the business equation. Business owners are often familiar with the word and the basics of what it stands for. They might even understand that the brand is the perception of your company as seen through the eyes of your customers.

(A brand is built by your company’s actions, missions, and values over a long period of time.)  

As a business owner or marketer, you can steer your brand in the right direction by establishing a solid foundation and identity of who you are and what you stand for. Tell the story of why your company exists and what its purpose is.

One of my favorite examples is TOMS Shoes. The company’s founder, Blake Mycoskie, was traveling in Argentina when he noticed how many children did not have shoes on. He realized that he wanted to help in some way so when he got home, he started TOMS Shoes which was built on the idea of selling a pair of shoes and donating another pair of the same shoes to a child in need.

The truth of branding

A successful business often starts out with one good idea and through trial and error, customer feedback, and competitor research, the product offering may evolve or change entirely to match what the customer wants or needs. Your customers will ultimately shape your brand into what they need or want it to be.

A little scary?

That’s the reality of having a business and what most business owners don’t realize.

Some decide to invest in expensive tools and marketing channels before establishing a strong business plan. Part of branding your business is the business plan and setting standards for how the business will operate, who will own what functions, and how things will be handled and communicated to customers.

One of the smartest pieces of marketing and branding advice I have ever heard was that your company’s brand starts from the inside and works its way out.

Your brand is conveyed in every touchpoint the customer has with the business.

One big misconception in business is that the marketing team can create the brand for the company via logos, messaging, and authentic design and print collateral. Although this is common practice and essential in building or starting a business, this is not branding. These are marketing materials and messages.

How is marketing different than branding?

Marketing is the doing part in the relationship between branding and the sale. It is where action takes place, messages are deployed, and results are analyzed. Marketing is pushing out a message to the right people to get sales results.

Brand identity should always be established first in a business and at the core of every marketing strategy, but marketing is just as important as branding. Unlike branding, marketing is the method you use to engage with and reach your ideal customers.

You decide what story you are going to tell and how you’re going to tell it. Marketing is about identifying, anticipating, and satisfying customer requirements profitably. It can be thought of as the ‘push,’ where Branding is the ‘pull.’

Marketing focuses more on attracting new customers to your company and convincing them to buy from you. It’s important to note that none of your marketing efforts will work if you have not gained the trust and loyalty of your customers through your brand positioning strategy.

In the corporate world, there will always be someone to keep you accountable for making decisions that involve money and in your own business, that someone is you!

This is why purposeful marketing that is closely aligned to your brand positioning strategy is absolutely vital to a business’s success. Marketing is costly and depending on past successes or failures, non-marketers can be very skeptical of a marketing strategy or the idea of investing more money into a campaign. This is why great marketing is both a science and an art.

Traditional vs. digital marketing

As a solopreneur you may feel overwhelmed and inundated with calls and emails from local radio stations, newspapers, and magazines offering you advertising to get your name out there. Traditional marketing is normally the first route that new business owners consider because honestly, these channels will be knocking down your door.

Since the pressure to make it is so great, it’s easy to fall victim to investing tons of money on ads that never reach your desired customer. In this moment, the most important question to ask yourself is: is my ideal customer reached through this channel? If you don’t feel secure in your answer, do some secondary research online or conduct your own research.  

Digital marketing is a whole different animal. In digital marketing, there is data that helps measure ROI to help a business make important decisions like whether to continue to invest in the channel or choose a different means to promote. It will be easier to convince investors or even other businesses to partner with you if there is a way to anticipate and track your results, show data trends, and exhibit numbers to show campaign results. It is only human nature to trust what we know and can see and be fearful of what is mysterious or not clear to us.

Branding and marketing strategy

As a business owner, if you understand what role branding plays in your business and then what role marketing plays, you can build a stronger business strategy. Branding should both precede and underlie any marketing effort.

Brand recognition will encourage the right customers to buy from you, but it doesn’t directly ask customers to buy from you like a call to action in a marketing campaign does. That doesn't mean it’s wrong to directly ask customers to buy from you in your advertising or marketing campaigns.

In fact, you should be sending out these messages, tactfully. Well-known and well-liked companies like REI, Dove, Apple, Express, and Amazon all have something in common — they have amazing brand recognition and loyal customers and they also continue to attract new customers with creative and focused advertising and digital marketing campaigns.

You might wonder when to focus on branding and when to focus on marketing in your business. The simple answer is that you should always be working on both, simultaneously, because they work together to accomplish two main things: a loyal customer base and continual sales growth.

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Meet the Author: Kaitlin Flor

As an undergrad in college, Kaitlin studied Journalism and Mass Communications which made her recognize her love for connecting with people and telling their stories. 

For the past eight years she has worked with several small business owners on developing their brands and marketing strategies in industries such as food and beverage, law, event management, and fitness. She also took a stab at sales for a digital marketing agency. Her creative flair led her back to her current gig which is writing and crafting succinct and consistent marketing messages across appropriate media channels for an international manufacturing company.

Aside from work and career, she enjoys burning extra energy through skiing, hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, and yoga. Kaitlin is a certified ski instructor and children’s race coach and loves coaching her mini ski buddies during the winter weekends.

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