This month, we’re diving head first into all things branding with our Abridged Branding Bible for Startups. In the process, we’ve done a whole slew of research into what helps a startup brand stand out, and we’ve noticed a common bit of confusion that keeps popping up: people seems to sometimes forget the difference between marketing and branding.
Let’s try to rectify that, shall we?
1. Branding is identity. Marketing is promotional.
If your brand were a person, how would you describe them? Would their home be decorated according to a minimalist aesthetic, or covered in vibrant colors? Would they be an introvert, or a chatterbox extrovert?
Branding is a businesses’ core identity.
It includes values, experiences, personality, interests and characteristics. And while your interests and hobbies may change, your identity sticks as an inherent part of who you are. The Airbnb’s brand identity, for example, is defined by a logo that mirrors the shape of a belo—the symbol for belonging. The rationale is they want users to feel like they can belong everywhere.
Marketing, on the other hand, involves engaging in promotional activities like advertisements, social media posts and blog posts to gain a wider audience. So if we go with Airbnb again, we’d see that their marketing efforts include Instagram posts that show the different places that customers can stay across the globe.
2. Branding has no formula. Marketing is measurable.
Branding has no formula. You can build an identity that attracts customers, but there’s one way to define your path to success – it has to come from a place of authenticity and rootedness.
Fortunately though, you can measure a brand’s marketing impact. The number of likes, social shares, conversion rates, and other relevant metrics serve as your barometer to determine whether your branding appeals to your target audience or not.
Dennys Diner’s brand persona, for example, is funny and witty. As for their strategically crafted humorous posts and captions? They help set the brand apart from the many diners in the world, and they do it pretty well, if those 17k+ likes are anything to go by.
3. Branding is perception. Marketing is direct communication.
Branding is based on perception. It taps into your customer’s thoughts and feelings, as opposed to simply telling them to buy your product. In essence, branding says, “This is me. These are my beliefs and interests. This is who I am. If you like or support me, buy my products and spread the word.”
A customer’s impression of your brand is what sticks, which means it’s important to carefully determine the characteristics you want to highlight and express.
Patagonia’s mission, for example, is to “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”
And they put their money where their mouth is. Their Worn Wear event is the embodiment of their mission statement, showing their support for the environment and discouragement of over-consumerism.
Marketing, on the other hand, is a more direct and explicit effort to influence people to buy a product through videos, ads and sponsored content. Though the message may be discreet, the impact is almost always measured by the number of sales it generates. Here’s one of our favorite examples of great marketing from the Dollar Shave Club:
4. Branding is a long-term commitment. Marketing is based on short-term goals.
Branding is about delivering a promise or long-term commitment. You tell customers to buy from your business with the promise they’ll get XYZ in return. By consistently communicating the same promise and quality, branding becomes an inherently long-term objective; something you gradually craft, build and evolve over months and years.
Rolex, for example, brands itself as a luxury watch manufacturer, and their Instagram posts consistently highlight the premium watches customers can expect from their brand.
Marketing, on the other hand, is a short-term strategy. Your campaign could last for several months or a year—but it will eventually end. When that’s done, the results will be measured weekly, monthly or annually, and your marketing strategy will evolve or change accordingly based on data and sales.
Calvin Klein’s #MyCalvins campaign has been widely successful at promoting their underwear line. Its goal remains the same, but its execution has changed throughout the years.
The 2015 #MyCalvins campaign was used to promote the provocative virtual language of sexting.
Whereas the 2019 #MyCalvins campaign took a completely different direction and went viral thanks to celebrities like Kendall Jenner and Shawn Mendes featured in the ad.
5. Branding increases followers. Marketing discovers and encourages buyers.
Good branding pays dividends in loyalty. Your brand identity could attract advocates, loyal customers and employees, and it’s important to foster a relatable identity that resonates with wider audiences that will turn into loyal customers.
Take Gymshark, which has gained a cult-like following thanks to its community of sponsored followers. Each of their Gymshark athletes are content creators who are the personification of a customer’s desire to achieve a fit physique.
If branding is the foot in the door, marketing is your way of keeping it wide open. Marketing inspires people to stay loyal through ads, content and campaigns. So though it’s often hard to stay fit and healthy, Gymshark motivates users through Pinterest boards with workout videos, challenges and inspiring athletes.
Want to take a deeper dive into all things branding? Don’t forget to check out our Abridged Branding Bible for Startups as well as the great articles we’re pushing out weekly on our blog! And don’t forget, you can always stay on top of best practices by signing up for our newsletter. We publish great content every week so you won’t miss a beat.
Article written by Monique Danao