Branding and marketing are, in a sense, the same thing.
On the one hand, they’re approached the same way and are built on the same principles. That is, they both do what they exist to do by asking the same questions and prioritizing the same things. One the other hand, they go together and are two sides of the same coin, or the positive and negative ends of a magnet. To a certain degree, you can’t do one without necessarily doing the other. Doing both together well is the time-tested, infallible formula for business success. Doing one or the other poorly is wasting time, money, energy, or all three.
Practically, however, branding and marketing can be legitimately categorized in terms of strategy versus tactics—that is, as message and communication versus vehicles and promotion. While branding is what we are saying, and marketing is how we are getting that message out into the world.
Or, in the words of James Heaton, “Branding is a pull, and marketing is a push.”
“Branding is what we are saying, and marketing is how we are getting that message out into the world.”
For example, a local community organization may decide to hold an event. So, a communication system is developed that visually and verbally conveys the event and what it’s about, and that also appeals to a particular target market. That is branding. Printing up a bunch of flyers, promoting the event on social media, making a website for the event, running some digital advertising, etc.—all of that would be marketing.
Branding is a pull. It is a visual and verbal message that accurately reflects who or what it represents, and it appeals to the people who are ideally those we are trying to attract. Marketing, on the other hand, is a push. It is comprised of the tactics and vehicles you use to get the brand in front of as many people as possible.