Branding vs marketing: Which one is more important? (blog cover)

Branding vs marketing: Which one is more important?

September 15, 2021 · 7 min read

The terms branding and marketing are often used interchangeably. While the two do work in tandem, the difference between branding vs. marketing is important to distinguish. 

Understanding how the two differ and overlap can help you better collaborate and use both to your advantage in your digital marketing strategy.


Branding vs. marketing vs. advertising

Since advertising is also often confused with branding and marketing, let's start by exploring the differences between branding, marketing, and advertising.

Branding defines who you are as a company. Your brand identity encompasses several elements that shape your core values, mission, differentiators, and key messaging points. Your branding reflects these essential elements to visually communicate who your brand is and what it stands for from a design perspective.

On the other hand, marketing is a set of strategies and processes that you use to build brand awareness, engage your audience, and promote your products or services. Marketing activities are the actions you take to reach your target audience and move them along in the customer journey toward buying.

Marketing and advertising often go hand-in-hand, but they are not the same. Advertising is the set of activities you do to advertise or promote your products or services. While marketing can have many different goals like spreading brand awareness or increasing customer and lead engagement, advertising's primary focus is to sell.

No matter what your marketing campaign is for or what your brand is advertising, your branding will remain consistent across social media and marketing platforms. 

Think of your branding as the culture and messaging behind your business — something that is long-lasting and permeates throughout your content marketing. On the other hand, marketing is the way to promote or communicate that personality and message.

Speaking to your target audience

The difference between brand strategy and marketing strategy

One of the key differences between branding and marketing is how you strategically approach each. While both are part of a company's overall business strategy, brand strategy is developed for the long term. In contrast, marketing strategy takes into account several factors that may change throughout the year, including quarters, holidays, and trends. 

(That's not to say that marketing strategy isn't a long-term commitment. It’s just more malleable than brand strategy.)

Brand Strategy

A brand manager will focus on brand-building and fine-tuning messaging and visuals until they best represent the brand values, culture, and personality. Brand strategy development may include:

  • Creating a visual brand identity that aligns with its purpose, values, character, and vibe while also appealing to its target customers

  • Developing a strong, unique brand voice that communicates brand personality and values and connects with the target market

  • Identifying areas of differentiation that can be used to help the brand stand out as it relates to visuals, messaging, and culture

  • Determining how to keep branding consistent across channels and marketing activities to build recognition and brand loyalty

  • Building brand guidelines that document all the branding elements including visuals like logos, colors, fonts, and written elements like tone, messaging, and naming conventions

While the marketing strategy revolves around bringing target customers to your brand, the brand strategy is what keeps them there. A strong brand will appeal to the target audience and help create loyal customers.

Want to learn more about creating Branding Guidelines? Check out Brand Guidelines: The secret weapon behind memorable brands.

Marketing Strategy

Marketers build a strategy around the marketing tools and tactics that will help them get and hold the potential customers' attention along different touchpoints. The marketing strategy takes the brand strategy into account while developing a guide for all marketing efforts.

Marketing strategy development can include:

  • Using market research to understand the target audience, including what they want, what's important to them, their buying behaviors, and marketing or buying preferences

  • Identifying which online marketing channels to focus the team's attention on for best results and return on investment

  • Creating a marketing plan with marketing tactics (email, social media, SEO, etc.) that are likely to be successful based on the research and data available

  • Determining key performance indicators and choosing metrics that align with these KPIs to measure the success of marketing campaigns

  • Looking at data to determine what's working and what isn't, and then taking that information to refine the marketing plan for best results

The brand strategy helps shape and form the brand itself, but the marketing strategy gets the brand in front of its target audience.

A group of digital assets floating in the clouds

Branding vs. marketing: Which comes first?

Branding should always come before marketing. If you think about it, you can't market something that doesn't exist. So if you have not yet developed a strong brand, then it's nearly impossible to create effective marketing for that brand. 

Once you've decided who your brand is (purpose, vision, values, mission, etc.), what it's bringing to the marketplace, what it looks and sounds like, and how this will be communicated to your audience, you can then strategically put together a marketing plan. However, in order to make smart decisions about your marketing, you need to have a clear idea of your branding first.


How to use branding and marketing together to take your business to the next level

At the end of the day, branding and marketing need to work together to attract ideal customers, communicate your value, and get them to buy. While marketing drives sales to your business, branding drives the recognition and brand loyalty that turns one-time buyers into repeat customers.

Effective marketing will get your target audience's attention. However, if you want to keep their attention, you need a solid brand that they can connect with. People buy from brands that they can trust and believe in. No matter how great your marketing is and how much traffic it drives to your website, potential customers still need to have that connection with your brand if you want them to buy.

The one major area where marketing and branding overlap and work together is design. When it comes to visual elements, marketing and branding need to work together to create a seamless experience for leads and customers. 

Branding has to be consistent across marketing campaigns and channels if you want to build recognition and brand loyalty. Using the wrong brand colors, fonts, logos, or imagery in marketing materials will confuse your audience. Design teams will always need to be conscious of brand and marketing strategies when creating branded visuals. 


How Air works for branding and marketing teams

Air supports both branding and marketing teams by giving them a centralized and organized space for their content. Based in the Cloud, Air allows teams to access their content anytime, anywhere, making it an excellent choice for remote or teams. It also offers an iOS and Android app for teams that work on the go.

Papier Air board

Visual Workspace

Air's Visual Workspace makes it easy for marketing teams to visualize content assets to plan social media posts, create mood boards, or develop presentations. Designers can track changes and updates so that the marketing team is always using the most up-to-date version of a file. This helps keep your content and your team on brand across marketing campaigns and channels.

Demonstrating Air's search capabilities

Air also makes it easy for both branding and marketing teams to find what they're looking for by allowing users to navigate their workspace like a search engine. With Smart Search, both branding and marketing teams can jump in and locate creative assets on their own and even bookmark their favorites. Built-in features like smart tags and image recognition also allow design teams to spend less time manually tagging images. 

Collage of two Air sharing modals

Seamless Collaboration

Branding and marketing teams can collaborate on projects with designers across their organization with Air's Seamless Collaboration features. Design teams can give and receive feedback in the form of comments or discussions and asset approvals. They can then share these creative assets with any team member through public boards with advanced user permissions that allow users to see what the design team wants them to.

Ready to try Air for your design team? Sign up for free, and your first 5GB are on us!

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