People in the entrepreneurship and startup world use a variety of words to describe the actions they take to grow their audiences, build their platforms, and gain more customers and sales.
Marketing… branding… digital media… advertising… public relations….
But what do these terms actually mean? Are they all the same? Does every business need to focus on all of these concepts, or is it possible that only a few are necessary for your company?
At Aventive Studio, we have specifically noticed widespread confusion about the difference between branding and marketing. Here is our comprehensive overview of how branding and marketing work together, the difference between branding and marketing, and most importantly: how you can grow your business using both branding and marketing.
What is Branding?
Some people think that a brand is a logo or company name or color palette, and while those components are certainly expressions of your brand, they are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to developing a brand for your business.
Branding is the process of displaying your business to the public through your content and visual identity. Think of “branding” as the umbrella term that describes the combination of all the ways you communicate with your target audience.
Your brand is what your business stands for, and your company’s branding will include colors, themes, fonts, voice, values, target personas, positioning, and additional items that work together to create your long-term brand identity.
Another important term to know is brand strategy. A brand strategy is a long-term plan for your business that helps you achieve your goals by positioning your company as the best in its field. To create a visual identity that attracts your target market, it is absolutely necessary to start with a brand strategy.
Oftentimes companies approach graphic designers with one-off inquiries such as “Can you make me a logo? How much will it be?” without realizing that a random logo, combined with a few colors pulled from a color palette you found on Pinterest, does not equal a brand.
A brand strategist will work closely with you to identify the exact demographic and psychographic of your target audience, where to find them, what stories they need to hear in order to connect with your product, and ultimately what colors, shapes, imagery, and logo designs will attract them at an emotional level.
A designer can translate this information into stunning visuals such as product packaging, stationary and business cards, logos, websites, brand boards, and more.
Examples of Branding: The Honest Company
The Honest Company, also known as “Honest,” is a rapidly-growing natural product company that has created a strong brand that speaks directly to its target demographic of Millennial moms.
Honest sells an assortment of eco-friendly consumer products from diaper subscriptions to natural beauty and cleaning products to vitamins. The Honest logo, product labels, fonts, color choices, and photography all evoke feelings of safety, trust, minimalism and purity:
Customers feel a sense of relaxation and trust when they see the crisply designed product packaging, scent names such as “purely sensitive” and “gently nourishing,” and descriptions that assure the products are made without dyes, parabens, synthetic fragrances, and more.
These details work together to position Honest as a trustworthy brand with their target customers, many of whom are concerned about the impacts of household chemicals on their children and are willing to pay more to ensure a non-toxic home environment.
Content strategy is another important component of branding, and Honest uses its blog a to create informative content that connects with moms and reflects the company’s brand attributes:
Because Honest is clear on who their target is, what interests their target has, and how their target wants to feel when interacting with their brand, the company focuses on sharing informative and soothing content on self-care, baby health, pregnancy, and wellness.
What is Marketing?
Marketing is actively promoting a service or product. It’s promotion, the process of developing, selling, and providing a product or service to your target.
If branding is the overall experience that a customer has with your company, think of marketing as the individual tactics that your business uses to actively place your brand in front of customers and deliver your message to them.
Examples of marketing include:
- Sending an email to your email list
- Placing a flyer in Starbucks
- Pitching your product at the end of a webinar
- Creating social media posts that resonate with your target audience
- Recording a promotional video
- Gathering customer testimonials and using them in your content
Examples of Marketing: The Honest Company
The Honest Company has a memorable brand which serves as the foundation of their public image. To promote that brand, the company uses a variety of marketing strategies to ensure that future customers discover their brand, fall in love with their products, and ultimately make a purchase.
One marketing strategy that Honest focuses on is influencer marketing. Rather than just rattling off the benefits of its own products, Honest leverages the influence of well-known celebrity moms such as Ayesha Curry and founder Jessica Alba who share their stories of how Honest products have helped their families:
Honest also creates plenty of its own content for Instagram. The company posts quotes, uplifting stories, occasional product photography, “mom humor” memes, and adorable photos of babies – all of which resonate with its target audience:
So what is the difference between branding and marketing?
The purpose of branding is to build connection, attract interest, and create a reputation for your business over the long term.
Occasionally a business will rebrand due to a pivot or because the company realized it never had a solid brand strategy to begin with. Rebranding is only done sparingly, and outside of an occasional rebrand the branding of a company will not change much over time once it is created.
Even if you have never bought a product from Honest, after seeing their branding materials you likely associate their brand with attributes such as safe, trustworthy, and nontoxic. Three months from now, when your sister announces that she is looking for a baby shampoo that has less chemicals and fragrances, you may recommend that she look into Honest – even If you have never personally used the company before. That reputation and positioning Honest created in your mind is the result of their branding.
Marketing, on the other hand, is what pushes people over the edge from knowing what a company stands for to actually buying their products. While branding stays consistent, marketing tends to fluctuate as it involves experimenting, testing new methods and platforms, launching new product lines, and evaluating metrics to determine which promotional activities are working best.
If your sister goes to the Honest Instagram page and sees her favorite celebrity telling a story of how Honest products helped her family, and that story nudges her to sign up for their promotional deal to buy some baby shampoo, that is an example of marketing in action.
How does advertising fit in?
Advertising is paid promotion: any time your business pays to position your products or services in front of potential customers, you are advertising. Advertising falls under the umbrella of marketing and not branding.
Advertising is an important concept for businesses as it can boost your company’s visibility and reach in crowded markets, especially in the online space. Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, as well as search engines such as Google and YouTube, offer advertising opportunities that result in potential customers seeing your company’s content and promotions ahead of your competitors.
Online targeting of advertisements has become increasingly advanced which helps companies focus their energy and budgets towards customers who fit into their demographic. Offline advertising opportunities include billboards, direct mail campaigns, sponsorships of in-person events, and promotional spots in local newspaper, TV, or radio outlets.
For advertising guidance, it’s best to work with a marketing or advertising firm that has experience and success with running paid promotions for their clients. While a brand strategist will be able to provide ideas of advertising platforms where you can find your target, the details of setting up and monitoring advertisements are outside of the scope of branding studios.
What are the relationships between marketing and branding?
Branding and marketing work together, and both are critical to business success.
If a company has marketing but no branding, everything they share feels haphazard and inconsistent. The business might be posting online… but to what audience, exactly? What types of products are they even selling? Why do the colors and tone sound different every time? This is a confusing experience fo potential customers.
When businesses skip the branding component and rely solely on marketing, their audience usually doesn’t understand their message and value. If you find yourself saying things like “Our products are so amazing, but why is no one noticing them?” it’s probably because you need to refine your company’s branding.
But even if you have a strong brand, it will still take grit, tenacity, action, and marketing to deliver your brand to your target audience – whether that occurs through advertising, or networking events, or publishing blog posts, or any other medium. Marketing is a necessary tool to attract your ideal customers by showing them what your brand can do for them.
Think of branding (and specifically brand strategy) as the foundation, and marketing as the day-to-day muscle power of your brand. When both elements work together effectively, magic ensues.
Which comes first, branding or marketing?
Branding comes before marketing. If you try to execute marketing without a foundational brand strategy, your efforts may work at first, but they will hit a plateau once you exhaust your initial circle of buyers.
Sometimes companies don’t realize they need a brand strategy until after they have already existed for a few years. This is very common, and if your business has been operating without a brand strategy for the first few years – it’s never too late to pause, regroup, and develop a brand strategy.
If you are looking to scale, grow, or expand your business for any reason and you have not yet worked with a professional to develop a brand strategy, that one step could massively jump-start your forward progress.
Are you ready to take your business to the next level? Building remarkable brands is what we do here at Aventive Studio, and you can learn more about our unique brand strategy process here.
Schedule a call with us to learn how the Aventive Studio team can help you craft a brand that your customers will remember.