Are you confused about the difference between branding and marketing? If so, you are not alone. For many, branding is simply the name or logo of a business. However, it is more than that, and in this article we will be breaking down the concept of branding and why it is essential for every business owner to understand it.

What is Branding?

The Oxford Dictionary defines branding as “the promotion of a particular product or company by means of advertising and distinctive design.” This definition is vague and surface-level, which is why most people remain unsure about the concept. In a nutshell, branding is the image and perception people have in their minds when they think of a business. Brandingmag provides a more comprehensive definition: “branding is the perpetual process of identifying, creating, and managing the cumulative assets and actions that shape the perception of a brand in stakeholders’ minds.” Branding considers the physical features that define a company and the emotional impact it has on consumers when they think of the brand. Branding is about who you are as a business. It represents your name, the logo, your company values, and what makes you unique. While a company’s visual identity does not change over time, branding is a perpetual process because markets and lifestyles are constantly changing, so a brand has to adapt to keep up with competitors.

Let’s use an example to explain this. There are thousands of companies that sell mineral water bottles. The product sold is essentially the same and tastes the same, so why do some companies stand out more than others? The answer is the brand. Each company develops its brand and reputation, giving a different meaning to the same product, water. For example, Evian represents freshness and youth, Fiji Water is natural and pure (and premium from the very fact that it is, after all, water from a faraway exotic place), VOSS is premium and clean. A person buys from a brand based on how they feel towards the company, and over time, they continue buying the brand they trust most and feel comfortable with. Therefore, branding objectives are to convince the public to purchase your products and services, retain loyal customers, and consistently deliver based on the brands’ principles and values.

Branding vs Marketing

On the other hand, we have marketing. Branding and marketing are undoubtedly related, but there are subtle differences between the two. As a business owner, it is crucial to understand the two concepts to apply them to achieve success efficiently.

Marketing refers to a set of tools you use to actively promote your company’s products, services, and brand. Marketing is the strategies you use to connect to a specific target audience and catch the customer’s attention. It includes search engine optimization (SEO), mobile marketing, social media marketing, TV, radio, and print advertising campaigns. A business requires suitable marketing methods to stand out from all competitors, whereas branding creates a long-term connection and builds loyalty.

Some may ask, which comes first—branding or marketing? Branding represents the core of your marketing strategy, so branding must come first. Before you consider what marketing tools to use, you must specify the brand of the business—what kind of image do you want to portray the company? How do you want to connect with the customers deeper so they keep coming back?

“Marketing is used to get a customer’s attention,
but branding is used to keep their attention”

While marketing strategies need to adapt over time and the type of messaging & advertising methods utilized vary not only based on the industry but also according to the latest cultural trends, branding is perpetual. Even when a new marketing campaign is put into motion, often partially or fully outsourced to advertising professionals, the business’s brand will not change. Branding can be moderately adjusted in relation to the company’s growth, but it should not be a total shift of your core principles and values.

However, one aspect where branding and marketing overlap is the brand logo and imagery. A company’s color palette, graphics, and logo embody the brand and underlie future marketing efforts. Hence, developing a logo and symbol can be challenging to represent the company when they have not entirely internalized their brand. Here are a few questions that can help the process of branding:

  • What is your business’s mission statement?
  • What are your core values and principles?
  • What makes your company unique versus competitors?
  • Why do you want to offer your products and services to the marketplace?
  • How do you want people to feel when they think of your business?
  • How do you want to portray your company, and how do you want customers to view the company?

Answering the above questions will help you truly embody the brand you want to develop and understand the differences between branding and marketing. Without branding, you may achieve success to a certain extent, but customers are likely to forget about the company after their first purchase. With branding, your success will be more substantial, and customers will become loyal and return for more if they connect with the brand.

Why is Branding Important?

A business’s branding can be more important than you may think. It can affect how people perceive your company; it can drive new business, build consumer loyalty, and raise brand value. In a competitive landscape, companies must invest in creating a positive reputation to stand out from the crowd and attract customers. Reputation is something that grows nevertheless. It can lead to a good or bad reputation based on the actions of the company and its’ employees. After understanding what branding is from above, you will learn why it is often recommended to focus on branding from the start of the business.

Branding attracts new customers

One of the most straightforward reasons for branding is to help a company gain more attention. A strong brand implies that people are likely to conduct businesses with you because they trust the brand and are familiar with it. When a brand becomes well-established and reliable, word of mouth will naturally be the company’s most effective and cheapest advertising tactic. When a business has a distinct logo, but the brand is incoherent and people do not connect with it, they will eventually forget it. However, an uncontrollable chain of proliferation will transpire when a company has a memorable brand and is well-known to provide high-quality products and services. Even if a person has no need for your products and services at this moment, the company’s positive image will likely convince them to come back to your brand in the future when they do.

Builds brand loyalty and trust

First, imagine why you buy a product from a particular company and why not from a competitor. It is most likely due to the trustworthiness and credibility of the brand. In any industry, we purchase a product and service from a company because we believe that the company will be capable of delivering based on its promises. Without a doubt, this is an area that requires much attention over time and can also be squandered very swiftly.

Trust is the gap between intent (wanting to buy) and action (buying) in competitive marketplaces. As the company continues to perform and the brand becomes credible, customers will continue to return for more. This phenomenon is known as brand loyalty.

One of the prime companies known for brand loyalty is Apple.

  • Apple has developed a brand that speaks quality and innovation by consistently delivering cutting-edge products and technology for decades, and also seeks to exhibit the aura of a luxury brand to avoid competing on price.
  • Despite the advancements of several competitors in recent years that have arguably surpassed Apple on the technology front, and despite those competitors investing heavily in marketing, customers who have been buying Apple from the start continue to support the company and repeatedly purchase from Apple.

Brand loyalty ensures that customers are devoted to your company no matter what competitors do to lure them away.

Improves employee satisfaction

Branding also provides value to your company internally. “Employer Branding” is a concept that should not be overlooked. It refers to the process of influencing your reputation as an employer amongst job seekers and employees. When an employee works for a company that possesses a strong brand that they stand behind, they are likely to be more satisfied with their job and will be more motivated to help the company succeed. Working for a positive and reputable brand will also make working for the company fulfilling and enjoyable, increasing employee retention. Improving branding and employer branding also helps attract top talent. Some companies with prominent brands invest in merchandise and apparel for the employees because it helps shape a sense of unity, which can translate into better teamwork and collaboration, or create word-of-mouth marketing opportunities around employees personal connections.

We hope you have found this article insightful. Check out the other articles on our blog for additional deep dives into such topics (and subscribe to our email notifications list if you’d like to know when a new article comes out). If you still need help with (re)branding your business, feel free to have a look at our homepage and get in touch with us.

Bottled water image credit: photo by congerdesign from Pixabay.
Über-hyped phone image credit: photo by Steady Hand Co from Unsplash.