Branding vs Marketing - 4 crucial differences you need to know

James Grosch

Written by James Grosch

Curious about the difference between branding and marketing? Even though many people use the two terms interchangeably, there’s a very important distinction between branding and marketing. As we lay out in Elevation’s Guide to Brand Building, great brands need great marketing.

But great marketing does not make a great brand.

In this post, you’ll find out five key differences between branding and marketing. If you want to level up your brand or maximize your marketing, it’s important to know the difference.

Does branding mean marketing?

No, the terms are not interchangeable. Branding and marketing are related, but distinct. Branding is a combination of elements that make up a company’s identity, values, and outward appearance. Marketing consists of specific actions and strategies to reach customers, such as advertising and SEO.

What is branding?

Great Brands - Elevation Guide to Branding

Great branding is not only about how a company appears to the outside world. It’s about how it behaves and operates. It’s about how your company sees the world. Branding is a fundamental building block that should permeate product development, company culture, and every bit of messaging. If you nail your branding, your employees will buy into your vision. Your audience will evangelize for you. Your company will have a distinctive voice, point of view, and identity.

Branding gives people something to believe in.

Here are the elements that make up a brand:

  • Mission
  • Vision
  • Purpose
  • Values
  • Point of View
  • Verbal Identity
    • Name
    • Voice
    • Tone
  • Visual Identity
    • Logo
    • Colors
    • Typography
    • Photography
    • Graphic Design
    • Iconography
    • Motion Behaviors

What is marketing?

Screen Shot 2021-03-24 at 11_20_41 AM

Marketing is the active expression of your brand to attract customers, convert sales, and win new business.

There are so many different ways to go about marketing. Here are a few examples.

  • Paid advertising
    • Broadcast TV
    • Digital
    • Radio
    • Podcasts
    • Print
  • Content
    • Blog Posts
    • Branded Content
    • Educational Content
    • Videos
  • Social media
    • Instagram
    • YouTube
    • TikTok
    • Facebook
    • Pinterest
    • Mastodon
    • Twitter
  • SEO
  • Email/Newsletters

The key differences of branding vs marketing


1) Marketing is temporary. Branding is foundational.

Marketing is topical. Your marketing strategies should be focused on what is effective right now. Marketing is temporary, and should be constantly shifting based on changing factors in the market. With marketing, it’s important to keep up with emerging trends and new mediums.

Branding should be built for the long haul. Your branding is fundamental to who you are and why your company exists. If you hinge your entire identity around today’s hottest trend, what happens when the world moves onto the next big thing? You need to take a bigger-picture approach to your branding, as it will create a long-lasting relationship with your audience.

We wouldn’t go as far to say branding is forever. In fact, it’s important to refresh and keep your branding up-to-date. We have plenty of experience helping companies upgrade and reinvent their branding through brand refreshes and rebrands. With these projects, our goal is to always make sure that the brand is not only set up well for today, but equipped for tomorrow.

Branding needs to be updated much less often than marketing.

2) Think of marketing as a verb, and branding as a noun.

I know, technically they are both gerunds, but I’m talking metaphorically.

Marketing consists of specific actions you need to take to attract your audience/customers. When you market your brand, you advertise, you email, you post, you create content, etc. Great marketing requires an ongoing effort.

Branding is your identity. It’s your mission statement, your ethos, your values, your logo, your colors, your voice, your tone. Of course, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t actions and work that go into creating your brand and keeping it up-to-date.

3) Marketing is about attraction. Branding is about connection.

Marketing is about getting attention, making conversions, and attracting sales. Therefore, marketing efforts can often be tied to directly metrics and ROI.

Branding is about keeping that attention and making a long-lasting connection with your customers. This can make it harder to pin down metrics.

Let’s put it another way: Great marketing can mean someone arrives at your landing page and even purchases your product. Great branding can turn that person into a repeat customer, an avid fan of your brand, and a brand advocate and evangelist who tells all of their friends about your products or services.

4) Marketing should be an expression of your branding.

Your brand should inform your marketing. Marketing should incorporate and utilize aspects of your branding, such as your color palette and voice.

In this way, having great branding can make for more effective marketing.

However, it’s not a strict requirement for all marketing to fit exactly into your branding. Sometimes a brand can make a big impact by creating a piece of marketing that’s out of left field and unlike anything they’ve done before. As long as it still feels in line with the brand’s core values, these types of marketing stunts can make a splash. However, this is the exception, not the rule.

Branding Vs. Marketing FAQ

Elevation Guide to Brand Building - Orbiter

What’s more important, branding or marketing?

Both branding and marketing are vitally important, so we would never recommend a company to only focus on branding or only rely on marketing.

However, if you need to prioritize one, we would always recommend to focus on branding first. Because it involves aspects like your mission and your values, creating a strong brand will also help with your vision, direction, company culture, products, services, and, yes, your marketing.

Also, because branding should be foundational, you most likely need to work on your brand elements less often than your marketing strategies.

What comes first, marketing or branding?

Creating a strong brand should be your first priority. If you only focus on marketing, you will be constantly chasing trends. You’ll also struggle to put out marketing materials that look, sound, and feel like your brand.

Your marketing should be an expression of your branding, so you can attract the right audience to build deeper connections. In order to be the most effective with your marketing, it’s best to have your brand in the best shape possible. So we always focus on brand first.

Is branding better than marketing?

Even though it’s should be your first priority, branding is not inherently “better” than marketing. That’s like saying a solid foundation is “better” than the building standing on top of it. Don’t think in terms of better or worse.

Great branding alone will not attract customers or grow your audience. Great marketing is equally important to your longterm success.

How do you make a brand great?

If you want to know where to start building a great brand, we got you! Check out Elevation’s three part Guide to Brand Building, complete with exercises on how to build your Brand’s Core, Atmosphere, and Orbiters.

How do you create marketing as an extension of your brand?

If you are looking for ways to create marketing that attracts and engaged audience, check out our Guide to Building Brand Orbit through Strategic Content. Building an engaged audience is the most surefire way to supercharge your brand. People who not only follow you, but interact with you, share your message, and buy into your mission. We call this Brand Orbit.

The success of a brand can be defined by the tendency of orbiters to stay near. A successful brand captures and retains the attention and the imagination of its target audience. This ultimately leads to a community of loyal supporters.

Branding vs Marketing Conclusion

Understanding the differences between branding vs. marketing is crucial for anyone looking to build a successful brand. Remember that marketing is temporary, while branding is foundational.

While marketing may attract customers in the short term, branding creates a long-lasting relationship with your customers. By focusing on your brand first and using it as a foundation for your marketing efforts, you can create a powerful connection with your intended audience.

If you're interested in learning more about the differences between branding and marketing, check out Elevation's Guide to Brand Building.

Topics: brands