The best way to view marketing and branding is to see them as close partners who rely on each other. Much like a relationship, one has skills the other does not and vice versa, but when they come together it’s magic. You can thank good branding for the positive perception of your product or service, you can thank good marketing for the visibility of your brand. The success of a product or service is not only based on good marketing but good branding as well. Finding the sweet spot between the two is where success lies.
At the highest level, marketing is about attracting the people you want to attract and repelling those you don’t. It’s about targeting your audience and strategically selling them on your product or service. Branding is about so much more than your logo, color palette, and fonts. Branding is about understanding how you are perceived out in the world and then shaping that perception for a given audience. The two are closely related and it is no wonder at all why people might be confused.
There is often a distinct overlap between branding and marketing but in the end, there are some key differences that highlight why they are each so important. Whenever I meet someone in marketing, my assumption is that his/her/their job is to attract certain people to whatever is on offer. Because time and resources are finite, a business or organization cannot market to everyone so the marketing person’s first job is to find and focus on the right people (which means letting go of the wrong people), figure out how to reach them, and decide how to spend the money they have to see the greatest return on investment.
If you are a marketing person for a mega-brand like Coca-Cola, you are marketing both to your customer and potential customers who are receptive to drinking sweetened carbonated beverages. You do not concern yourself all that much with the water drinkers. To change people’s minds on a brand so distinct and enduring would be immensely difficult, if not impossible. You are also not concerned about the brand since it’s already been so heavily established.
Marketing has changed drastically over recent years and has become more dependent on data than ever before. With the advent and implementation of the internet and social media, people have more choices than ever before. This has made marketing more technical than ever- it’s not just based on good instincts and experience, it’s based on millions of data points that are being collected constantly. Marketing people are relying less and less on creativity and more and more on ‘big data’. Branding and marketing are veering farther and farther away from each other in this sense.
Turn to Branding. It’s about understanding how audiences perceive a company and then shaping how the target audience perceives whatever you have on offer. Your brand is your most important marketing tool because it shows your customers who you are and what you have to offer, and how you are different from your competitors. Marketing and branding work together which is why they are often conflated. The reason they are separated is that the skill sets for one are different than that of the other. One large stipulation is that you cannot have marketing without a brand, whereas you can have a brand without marketing (although it probably won’t be successful). They typically don’t work well without each other.
Marketing people are generally not designers. A simple definition of marketing is that it is the act of promoting and selling your business’ product or service. Marketing people do not know how to translate strategy into real stuff…but because they are upstream, and marketing is so closely related to sales and sales is so closely related to leadership, they are generally hierarchically more important than the branding folks.
Data-driven marketing people have a different set of skills that do not typically overlap with what has historically made brands so successful and enduring: good branding. If we take Coca-Cola as an example again we have to acknowledge that design has been one of their most important factors, not necessarily their recipes or marketing efforts. In essence, marketing is an extension of your brand. It is said that branding is what drives marketing because branding is strategic and marketing is tactical.
Brand strategy is where design and marketing really come together. Defining your brand can be time-consuming, difficult, frustrating, and in the end, rewarding. This is where hiring a stellar firm can help. Firms that specialize in brand strategy can oftentimes be the best bang for your buck. You are not only getting strategy (and therefore marketing help) but you are also getting great design. Brand strategy is a holistic view of your brand and how it is–or how you would like it to be–perceived. Once you put in the brand strategy work, only then can you start on things like your logo, color palette/fonts, tagline, and overall brand personality.
Designers may be marketing people but marketing people are generally not designers. They might be copywriters, particularly for business to business kinds of copy. Designers are creative problem solvers and often they must incorporate other skills into their repertoire. When you hire a designer you rarely just get design. When you hire a designer you get a concentrated, streamlined, and diverse set of skills. Since branding is more than just design, designers end up knowing more than just graphic design. They know what works, it might not be driven by data but instead by years of experience and a keen eye. When you hire an experienced designer or firm you end up getting not just design but strategy as well.