The rise of online businesses and online marketing has blurred the line between the two which is all the more reason to know the difference between marketing and branding, especially for online businesses.
Large corporations will often have a marketing and branding department making a clear distinction between these two disciplines.
Medium-sized companies will often have a marketing department and outsource their branding.
However, this a very outdated approach to marketing and branding where the two specialties are considered an island that functions independently.
The rise of digital marketing and online entrepreneurship, where companies are small—lean—but mighty, have pushed towards a more fluid approach.
An approach where the difference between marketing and branding isn’t so boxed but instead work in synergy.
Is Branding the Same as Marketing?
Marketing and branding are directly correlated but not quite the same.
During my research for this blog post, I realized that the confusion regarding the difference between marketing and branding stems fro the fact that there is no clear, universal, definition of the two terms.
Additionally, the way we do business and the way we communicate has changed significantly over the past years.
Marketing & Branding Defined
For the purpose of simplifying, I’m going to use the wholesome definition of Philip Kotler. He’s considered the ‘Father of Modern Marketing’ and my marketing education is based on his theories.
“Marketing is the science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit. Marketing identifies unfulfilled needs and desires. It defines, measures and quantifies the size of the identified market and the profit potential. It pinpoints which segments the company is capable of serving best and it designs and promotes the appropriate products and services.”
Defining branding is a bit more difficult as there aren’t any scholars that I could find that worked specifically on this subject.
But, the American Marketing Association defines branding as follow:
“A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers. The legal term for brand is trademark. A brand may identify one item, a family of items, or all items of that seller. If used for the firm as a whole, the preferred term is trade name.”
I find this to be a fairly outdated definition of branding.
David Aakker, who’s quite an authority in this field, gives a more modern definition. He defines it as,
“A set of assets (or liabilities) linked to a brand’s name and symbol that adds to (or subtracts from) the value provided by a product or service…”
As you can see these are completely different definitions, but what they both have in common is that branding is the ‘added value’ of a naked product.
Liquid soap is the naked product. The logo, colors, packaging design, and emotional attributes are the added value—the branding.
To summarize, marketing is the strategic process of bringing specific value, in the form of a product or service, to a group of individuals with specific needs, while branding is the strategic process of adding more value to the product or service in order to make it more ‘marketable’ and distinctive.
What Comes First?
This question sometimes feels like the chicken or the egg type of dilemma. The problem is that companies, especially online businesses, have adopted their own approach to marketing and branding.
I believe in a create-test-optimize-repeat approach. Based on this ideology, I believe that branding should always come first.
If we look at the above definition and analyze the difference between marketing and branding, we can conclude that marketing is primarily the delivery of product/service to consumers. Before you can deliver, you need to create though.
Now, I know that we should always have a consumer-centered approach. Meaning, creating something based on consumer needs.
However, in order to offer value, we have to build a business and offer a service/product based on our own expertise and purpose instead of only looking at profitability.
That means creating a product or service first, do a real-market test, and optimize based on user and market feedback.
This is the same approach startups use because this is how you create market disruptions. If we need to base the initial product/service development on consumer needs, we wouldn’t have AirBnb or Uber right now.
In order to create you need branding to add value. You need a branding strategy to define the emotional associations with your brand.
Once you have a valuable product then you can start delivering it through marketing.