Branding vs marketing: what's the difference and which should you choose for your business?

July 14, 2021
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engage - Branding vs Marketing - What's Best for Your Business?

Branding vs Marketing: What's the Difference and Which Path Should You Choose for Your Business?

Branding vs marketing — while all businesses understand the need to focus on both of these elements, it can be difficult to know how to strike the right balance between the two. In this article, we are going to nail down some definitions to help you understand exactly what you are working with, and then we are going to look into how to achieve the right strategy for your business.

What Is Branding?

Branding is all about identity. When your customers — or anyone else for that matter — look to your business, what they see is your brand, as this is the public face you present to the world.

As such, building a brand, at least in the early stages, is something of an introspective process. You will need to look within your organisation and answer key questions based on what you see.

For example:

  • What is unique about your business?
  • What are the core tenets and values that remain true to your business?
  • What emotional reactions do you want to instill in your audience?
  • What kind of company culture do you want to foster?

These questions help to provide a fundamental understanding of what your business is all about, and you can use this to build your brand. Of course, after these fundamentals are defined, you can begin to build more concrete, technical aspects based on this. For example, which colour scheme best represents you? Or, how are you pricing your products based on your target demographic?

What Is Marketing?

Marketing is focused on raising awareness and spreading the word. The public needs to know about your business, your products and services, and what you can do for them. There are a number of ways in which this can be achieved, including:

  • Traditional print, radio and television marketing
  • Inbound digital marketing, attracting customers to your e-commerce store with content and SEO practices
  • Outbound digital marketing, reaching out to customers online via mailing lists and other media
  • Event-based marketing built around specific locations and dates

These are just a few examples, but they all revolve around the common theme of promoting and raising awareness.

Where Do Branding and Marketing Differ, and Where Do They Overlap?

Branding versus marketing implies a kind of opposition, as if one can exist without the other. In fact, this is not really the case. While there are significant differences between the two disciplines, there are also substantial overlaps.

Let's take a look at the differences first:

  • Branding begins with an internal process designed to understand the identity of the business. Marketing is more externally focused, aimed at building awareness in the community.
  • Branding is fundamental to your business and won't change too much, while you can choose to market different products in different ways.
  • Rebranding, or changing your brand, is a big project. Marketing strategies, on the other hand, are more flexible and can evolve with relative ease.
  • Branding is reflected in all of your business activities, from the products you launch and the design of your promotional material through to the way in which you interact with customers. Marketing is more product-specific; while your branding will always influence your marketing, the latter will not necessarily influence the former.
  • Branding is sometimes described as a way to retain current customers, while marketing is aimed at bringing in new business.

What about the similarities?

  • Both branding and marketing are crucial to the relationship you have with your customers — both need to be optimised to foster strong relationships with your audience.
  • Both branding and marketing exist within a 'marketing strategy'. Marketing requires a solid brand platform to build upon.
  • Both branding and marketing draw upon the same aesthetic palette. For example, your marketing materials will deploy the same colour scheme as your website's homepage and your company logo. This colour scheme is a key part of your brand and your identity.

Branding vs Marketing vs Advertising vs Sales

What about if we add more aspects to the mix? What about marketing vs branding vs advertising, or sales?

We can start by defining what advertising and sales really are. These terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are in fact distinct concepts.


Advertising can be considered a component of marketing. Marketing is an umbrella term that refers to the preparation of a product or service for the market, including analysing customer demand and need, raising the profile of what your business provides, making the product known to the audience segment, and then assessing the response. Advertising refers more specifically to the third element in this list — making the product or service known. Advertising is always a form of marketing, but marketing is not always advertising.


Sales is often defined as the next step after marketing. While marketing and advertising generate interest and move the customer along the path to conversion, sales is geared towards actively achieving that conversion. It is the final step of the conversion process, although marketing activities will continue beyond this point.

Choose the Best Path for Your Business

Choosing your path is not so much about selecting whether you need to focus on marketing, branding, advertising and sales. As we have seen, all of these elements are crucial to success in your field. Instead, it is about deciding how to deploy these components together in one unified strategy. There are a few things you need to bear in mind as you go about this.

  • Branding is the foundation for everything — marketing, advertising and sales all build upon this.
  • You will need to run your operations to a specific sequence:
  • The development of your brand
  • The beginning of the marketing phase
  • The advertising section of the marketing phase
  • Sales, with a view to achieving conversion
  • Ongoing marketing, post-sale
  • Each operation will need to be built upon data, and a thorough understanding of your market and your audience.
  • While branding requires an introspective approach, you will still need customer engagement data to understand what your audience wants to see and what they expect from your business.
  • Marketing — including advertising — relies upon data, keeping costs down and increasing revenue by developing an efficient strategy based on measurable metrics.
  • Your sales team needs to know precisely how to nurture customers and secure conversion, and this of course is also dependent on data.
  • Your business is not static; it will grow and evolve over time. This means your operations will evolve too, although they will be affected in different ways. While marketing, advertising and sales may see big changes and take major leaps forward during your company's development, branding evolution will be a much slower process. In fact, the core tenets and philosophies of your business are unlikely to change at all.

Getting More Out of Branding and Marketing with engage™

One of the key areas of overlap between branding and marketing — and advertising and sales to boot — is data. You can't achieve success if you do not have a solid foundation of insight and understanding. The engage™ platform can help you get closer to your audience and to individual customers, providing you with the understanding you need to really get the best out of branding and marketing activities. Reach out to our team today to take a free tour of the app and platform, and find out more about how the solution can work for you.

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