marketing and branding

What’s The Real Difference Between Marketing and Branding Content?

Marketing and branding are two of the major buzzwords that we use in the industry. The confusing part is that non-industry professionals often mix up branding and marketing and use the terms interchangeably. There is a distinct difference between marketing and branding that can be easily explained. Before we jump into the differences we need to understand what each term means on its own. Both of them are powerful means of spreading information, but both have their own specific uses. Let’s clear up some misconceptions about the terms before we delve any further into their inherent differences.

What is Branding?

Branding is the process by which you reduce a company’s reputation to a single word. A brand is an easily recognizable representation of the particular company. Something that resonates with the user so that at a glance they know what they’re dealing with. Branding gives personality to a company and attaches an attribute to the company that appeals to the demographic of its core audience. Thus, companies such as Toyota are known for their reliability or Volvo is known for their safety records. Each of these brands have built their brands into easily recognizable traits that allow them to appeal to their customers in a unique way. It makes their business into more than just another faceless entity.

What is Marketing?

Marketing is a blanket statement that covers all forms of interaction with the customer as well as utilizing models in order to develop targeted advertising to reach out to a specific type of consumer. Marketing incorporates all forms of advertisement. In addition to this, marketing also deals with understanding the consumer or the audience and developing ways to utilize this deeper understanding.

Where do Branding and Marketing Meet?

Because these two disciplines are concerned with getting information out to the customer, they must meet at some level. Marketing and branding are both different facets of the overall content development strategy for a company. Your marketing should incorporate branding into it in order for you to cultivate customer loyalty. Branding allows you to represent your company in a certain light and build off the information that is gained by marketing. On the other side of the coin, marketing allows you to build a rapport with your audience and introduce them to your branded theme. These concepts go hand in hand, but they are not interchangeable.

What is the Major Difference between Marketing and Branding Then?

In a word, marketing is tactical whereas branding is strategic. I know what you’re thinking. “Isn’t tactical and strategic the same thing?” No, they aren’t, as Kissmetrics points out. Marketing is where the brand is presented and it contributes to overall branding. However, long after the marketing campaign has been exhausted the brand loyalty will remain. This is where branding and marketing part ways.

When we say that marketing is tactical, we mean that it deals with getting its payload of information delivered. It doesn’t try to shape the user’s long-term feelings towards the product, it simply gets in and convinces the customer of the benefits. Branding, on the other hand, seeks to embrace a more long-term view of the customer. By strategic leverage of the brand, we can eventually call upon the customer’s loyalty to the brand in order to close a sale. But this is something that requires you to give back to the customer. You need to cultivate your brand image in such a way that the customer associates an idea with your brand.

How Marketing Works Alongside Branding To Build Business

Do you remember those old TV shows where there would be a sleeper agent that needs a secret code to “activate” them? Marketing is a little like that. It discovers and “activates” buyers, encouraging them to close sales. Branding goes one step further by making those buyers into loyal customers. One of the most common examples of this is the market for Apple products. Apple has made an art out of branding and this has carried over into products in many different branches of the electronics industry.

Taking a look at the Apple target demographic, we see that their aim was to produce a product that was sold solely for its importance as a status symbol. Thus, their marketing spread the message that apple products are available, but the branded apple product was joined by its numerous sister products that fall under the brand. When the consumer sees Apple now, then it’s understood that they are paying for Apple’s reputation as something that the cool, the chic and the hip use.

Building brand loyalty is what branding does and by making loyal customers out of your one-time buyers, you develop a ready market and audience that are willing and eager to receive your content.

Which One is a Better Investment?

Both marketing and branding are good investments and have their own type of returns. Marketing can easily be done wrong and if so, it can become a money sink into which a lot of cash if poured but the returns are mediocre. Well-researched marketing gives great returns on investment but the success of the campaign depends as much on the amount of effort put into it as the amount of money. The returns are, of course, seen in conversions and sales. Branding, because of its status as a long-term investment, is usually easier to adjust as time goes by. Catastrophic failures in branding do occur, but these are usually due to bad planning as opposed a lack of funding. The return you get from branding is customer loyalty, something that can be leveraged over and over again. Marketing is necessary to make branding work, but your real benefit comes from having a loyal customer base to call on when releasing new products.

Development of a User Base

Not so far back, probably less than five years ago, a large volume of the marketing community was involved in “renting” their target demographic. They worked from the start of their campaign and then built it to the point where their customers would be converted through their methods. This method had middling success, but at the time was hailed as revolutionary. No need to hang around after the sale, no need to contact the client after the sale is done, and no follow up action to ensure that the client buys from the company again.

We have changed out outlook on how we interact with customers. Having a loyal following is far better for a company than simply renting an audience. Borrowing your audience means you have to return them to oblivion someday and that makes whatever effort you throw into a marketing campaign targeting these customers a moot point. Combining branding along with your marketing is how you retain these customers as a loyal following.

In addition to this, when you have a retained customer base, you create a series of customers that help to spread your brand. That’s utilizing earned media to its fullest. When a customer makes a statement that you put onto your website or blog about a particular product, the consumer has learned to take these with a grain of salt. However, when such a statement is made directly to them, it carries a whole lot more weight and can even convince them to buy your product. What you’re doing by cultivating a brand is creating a series of “brand evangelists” that spread the word about your products without you having to invest any extra time into getting the word out.

Giving Back To The User

The number one thing that you should be looking at from your branding and marketing perspective is to give back to the user. Recently, GE’s blog, GE Reports, was featured as one of the leaders in branding because of their unique approach. What GE does is to provide information to the clients, thereby focusing on a target demographic of people interested in science. This ties in well with GE’s vision of itself as a leader in technology and innovation. By providing content that appeals to their target demographic, GE is tapping into this set of users and cultivating them as a ready market for new, innovative products.

Interspersed with their scientific updates and news in the field of technology, GE Reports also allows GE to tap directly into their fan base with their advertising. GE has always been considered a leader in the world of technology and innovation, but it’s only recently that the everyday person could look at GE and associate their brand with something like this. That’s the power of what GE Reports does, and what targeted blogging in the name of branding can do for your business.

Branding Is The Way To Go

Marketing is necessary, we don’t doubt that. However, marketing by itself can’t develop an audience that is receptive to your message. Branding is what makes your audience interested in your message and prevents you from having to reinvent the wheel every time you develop marketing content. Use your marketing to develop your branding but don’t ever forget the distinction between them. This difference is important to define both terms as well as to figure out what you plan to accomplish with each. There are many companies out there that are skilled in creating content for both marketing and branding purposes. If you intend to develop your branding professionally, this is the direction you should be headed.

Photo credit: sjenner13 / iStock