Branding vs Marketing: Important Differences to Know

Branding vs Marketing: Important Differences to Know


Whether you’re the proud owner of a new business or working with a team of dedicated marketers who want to spread brand awareness about your product or service, you’ve likely heard of marketing and branding. Some may use the terms interchangeably, but true marketers know there are some key differences between the two. 

When pushing your brand online, it’s important to hone in on both your branding and marketing strategies. It may seem like an endless pool of terms, jargon and complications, but don’t worry — we’re going to take it slow. Instead of diving into the deep end, we’re putting on a life jacket and starting by getting our toes wet. By the end, you will be swimming circles around your competition. So let’s get started. 

What is Branding?

First, let’s start by defining the term “branding.” Here at Brafton, we like to look at branding as something deeper than just logos, color schemes and website design. If these marketing tools are the first things that come to mind when you think about branding, you’re not wrong. However, it’s so much more than that. Though backlinks, social media presence and promotional efforts are certainly part of it, branding should be a carefully cultivated identity and brand culture. 

When branding your company or product, it’s important to have a uniform and consistent perception of a company through elements like design and a reliable mission statement. Every action should work together to create a loyal customer base that is easily identifiable and helps you stand out from the competition. 

Why is Branding Important?

Your company’s branding is an extremely important consideration and impacts nearly every aspect of the business. According to a Zendesk survey, “87% of consumers said consistent branding across all online and traditional platforms was important.” 

Regardless of what kind of content your customers are consuming, from an email to the label on the side of your product, it should be clear that your company is producing it. This is called tone and voice, a big part of branding. It’s all about building a customer experience through strategic positioning. 

Branding can have a serious impact on your company’s bottom line. When you stand out from the rest of the pack, your brand suddenly benefits from this competitive advantage. By developing consistency, your business could get away with less investment, something that always helps the bottom line. When a customer begins to identify with your brand, you also have an easier time retaining customers with less effort.

So maybe you’re still not convinced that branding and brand identity is worth your time and energy. Keep in mind that even if you put no effort marketing-wise into cultivating a carefully thought-out brand, your company will still have one. Consumers will always associate something with your business, even if it’s something that you don’t particularly want.

Branding Gone Wrong 

Let’s look at an example of a company accidentally creating an unintended brand. Much to their chagrin, Spirit Airlines was once known as “the most complained-about airline in America.” While the company initially hoped to associate itself with inexpensive airfare by pricing the tickets very low, they had to make up the profits another way. Because of this, customers were generally shocked and displeased that they had to pay for nearly every other convenience. 

In an article published in 2016 by Business Insider, the author reported that their “one-way ticket went from $79 to $173.” Not only were the surprise fees damaging the positive association with Spirit Airlines and creating a poor brand image, but the flights themselves were notoriously not worth the expense. Here are some additional elements that contributed to this accidental branding at the time:

  • Only 20% of Spirit flights arrived on time.
  • More than 6,000 complaints regarding flight cancellations and delays were filed in 2015.
  • There were 3,000 complaints pertained to lost baggage in 2015. 
  • Poor leg room. 

Spirit airlines became the butt of every joke — not necessarily something that you want as a part of your brand, even if it does mean everyone is talking about the company. In 2018, Twitter even added to the joke with their feed called “Spirit Airlines is the new meme.” Here are some of the best (and funniest) Tweets, some of which have thousands of likes and retweets, a nightmare for the company’s brand.

Here is another example of a meme that took the internet by storm:

Unfortunately, Spirit airlines had accidentally created a brand that was associated with poor service, overpriced amenities and even dangerous travel. 

Rebranding 

If something doesn’t work, you always have the option to do a little rebranding. While it’s not the ideal step, it can be the saving grace for your company. As much as Spirit Airlines had a serious reputation problem, after many years of hoping that the jabs would go away, they decided to buckle down and do some serious rebranding. 

This year, Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines are merging into one airline, something that the parent company Frontier Group Holdings, Inc. was proud to announce. Then, in April 2022, Jetblue came out of nowhere with a $3.6 billion bid to compete with Frontier for ownership. 

So how do you go from being an absolute joke of a brand to having other companies throwing millions of dollars around to own a piece? It’s all about rebranding. Both Jetblue and Frontier saw the opportunity to rebrand Spirit Airlines and gain profit in the long run.

As Jetblue’s CEO Robin Hayes said, “Customers shouldn’t have to choose between a low fare and a great experience, and Jetblue has shown it’s possible to have both.” 

If you don’t take control of your brand, it might just take control of you. 

What is Marketing?

Now that you understand what branding is, it’s time to wade a little deeper. The term “marketing” is a broad idea and there are many different elements that fall into the category of brand marketing. To put it briefly, “Marketing encompasses the strategies and tactics brands use to promote their products and services to consumers. Everything from market research to writing ad copy falls within the realm of marketing.” 

Our marketers like to break the idea down into the 7 Ps of marketing:

  1. Product: Highlight what you are selling, whether that be a tangible object or a service.  
  2. Price: To remain competitive, update the pricing to reflect the current market in your chosen industry. 
  3. Promotion: Share your brand and service through paid and unpaid advertising.  
  4. Place: Make sure that your customer knows where they will be able to find your product or service. 
  5. People: From customer service to human connection, customers value being treated like an important part of the business. 
  6. Process: Marketing relies on the entire process is seamless, from creation to completion.
  7. Physical evidence: It is important to have physical evidence of your brand, even if it mostly operates in the digital space. 

Marketing comes down to understanding the value of your product or service and using a set of processes and tools to share your company with the consumer base. 

Branding and marketing are not the same, though they should work together to create a successful brand. You can think of branding as a marketing strategy and marketing as the bigger umbrella term. With every advertising campaign and new product launch, the brand should be at the core of the marketing strategy. Let’s take a closer look at how branding and marketing work together to create a successful company. 

How Branding and Marketing Work Together

You’ve got the basics down now, and we’re taking off the life jacket. Don’t worry, we’re not in the deep end yet — but it’s time to trust yourself a little bit. While branding and marketing are not synonymous, they do build on each other. 

Advertising and promotional efforts should communicate the intended message to your customers. This is only possible if the brand, with its voice, culture and personality, has already been established. Without a consistently strong brand across all platforms, your brand strategy will likely fall flat. Even if the marketing campaign is successful and recruits new customers to buy the product or service, it’s the branding that will keep them there. The positive association carries them through the customer journey and increases retention in the long run. 

Similarly, your team may have spent plenty of time and effort creating a well-rounded brand that conveys the true intended culture to a specific target audience. But if the marketing strategy is not well-thought-out and targeted, the established brand will fall on deaf ears.

To boil it all down, it’s the branding that will ultimately define your company. The brand marketing strategy will drive that message as far as it can go. One will not be successful without the other and both deserve vital attention, something that will boost brand loyalty.  

Ways to Improve your Marketing Strategy Through Branding

Branding can help your team create a more successful marketing strategy that has true legitimacy. As we mentioned before, marketing is only strengthened by a consistent brand that has both brand recognition and a positive association. 

Red Bull Energy is a master of this idea, from their marketing campaigns to their sponsorship of athletes. Instead of associating themselves with college students who are desperately chugging their product to stay awake for a last-minute cram session, Redbull sponsors extreme sports, from cliff diving, rock climbing, break dancing and Formula One, something that gives the brand an inherent “cool factor.” 

This branding feeds directly into the company’s marketing strategy, where they share the amazing endeavors of their sponsored athletes as a TV commercial, like in this video: “Meet the athletes progressing women’s freeride MTB.” The video shares a very human story while simultaneously building the brand association with extreme sports, all of which inherently expands a larger marketing strategy. Now, their customer base is even more convinced that a sip of 111 mg of caffeine will certainly “give them wiiings”. 

So maybe you’re not an international Austrian energy drink company with a brand value of $16.99 billion. You may need a little something to jump-start the brand. Check out these “8 Fun & Useful Branding Exercises to Grow Your Business.” This is a great part to start, even if you need to begin the process of rebranding. 

From there, you can work to implement some branding tools that will improve your overall marketing strategy. Here are some examples: 

  • Hubspot: Many marketing strategies call for email campaigns, and this is a great tool to cement your brand with every open.  
  • Canva: Some teams are stumped because they’re unsure how to proceed with certain design elements. Canva is a great option for beginners and small businesses to cultivate a visual brand. 
  • Semrush: Search engine optimization is an important component of any marketing strategy and Semrush can help you get where you need to be. 
  • Instagram: This is a great example of social media that had the opportunity to incorporate paid advertising and visual branding. 

Branding and marketing are both complex ideas that require specific attention to detail and rely on someone who is tuned into the quickly changing space. Every year brings something new that needs to be implemented into your current marketing and branding strategy. 

Are you ready to slip into the deep end? It’s time to put your knowledge and skills to the test. To learn more tips and tricks about branding, subscribe to our newsletter. 



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