What's the difference between marketing and branding?

Isabella van Reeuwijk, Head of Strategy

Alright, let's cut to the chase: this is marketing. Actually, it's online marketing. See, I came up with that title so you'd find this blog post through Google. It may not be the most creative one, but it's SEO friendly (‘SEO’ stands for ‘search engine optimization’). And since you've ended up on this page, I'd say mission accomplished. Great, right? And now that I have your attention, let me tell you straight away that this title is not branding.

See, there’s a huge difference between marketing and branding. In my experience, many people find this confusing — especially because the two terms are closely interrelated. Whereas marketing is your shout-out to the world, branding is the foundation for your marketing. Branding represents who you are; the heart of your business. People experience that through all your brand communications, including marketing.

Although branding and marketing are fundamentally different, I like to consider them close friends. But no matter how inseparable you and your bestie are, you are not them. Similarly, marketing isn't the same as branding.

Many clients initially approach us with a marketing issue. For example, they need a marketing strategy, an (online) marketing campaign, website optimization, email marketing, content creation or that one spot-on sales presentation... Of course, we can set up and implement all these things. First things first, though. We'll start by asking the million-dollar question: Who are you? (And by ‘you,’ we mean ‘your organization.) What does your brand stand for? What makes it unique? What's your story? And how do we make sure your brand connects with your target audience in such a way that people join your fan club?

Often, the answers to these questions don't just present themselves on a platter. The answer exists, but it's difficult to put it into words. How to get to the core of your brand and communicate its essence through marketing? We never devise your brand story — we just need to unearth it together. Once we've done that, we continue to expand the foundation of your brand, your target audience, and your distinctive qualities. Because no one out there has a story like yours. And that... makes you unique!

So, branding is really important. And if you ask us, it's indispensable in case you want to grow. Many entrepreneurs and companies assume everyone knows who they are: their customers, their suppliers, and all people who work for them. But you know what? They often struggle to articulate it. Sure, they've heard of it. But they don't get the gist. That makes it pretty difficult to present yourself to the world and claim that unique market position. And in our vision, that's what marketing is all about: ensuring your brand is visible and presenting yourself to the world in a spot-on way. Want to do that successfully? Then you'll first have to articulate who you are.

Briefly put, branding is the foundation you build before you engage in marketing!

A brand strategy helps your target audience understand who you are (and that's how you create fans!)

Marketing allows you to bring your company to your target audience's attention. The goal is to highlight your product or service through different channels. But what's the exact message you convey?

First comes branding, then comes marketing

If you struggle to tell people who you are and what you stand for, it might be tempting to study your competitors. Watch, learn, and be inspired — right? Well, not exactly. It's a pretty dangerous ‘strategy.’ Think about it: they probably sell the same product or service as you, so if you model yourself after them, you don't have a differentiator. And then you'll have no choice but to compete on price. You will turn into one of those companies whose bargain-hunter customers leap from one party to the other. Not exactly loyal customers, are they? Those are the ones the average company tries to avoid. It's much more fruitful to create fans: ambassadors who voluntarily promote you simply because they're endlessly excited about your company.

Wonder what you need to accomplish that? Your own brand! And you'll have to pull out all the stops — flesh out your underlying values, a brand story, a vision, and a mission. All these things are reflected in your brand promise and identity, but we'll discuss those below. First, I'll provide a practical example to make branding more concrete.

No two veggie juices are the same

A while back, we decided to work with a client that sells veggie juices. They offer top-notch quality and service. Plus, they had a website and smartly designed bottle labels. We'll use some marketing lingo and say those are some strong unique selling points (USPs). But let's face it: competitors also offer these USPs.

If you're a consumer looking for a veggie juice, you'll just grab bottles from competing brands and compare them. All veggie juices look the same to you. Each one is cold-pressed and suitable for a detox, and you can order the whole bunch of ‘em online. Price is the only distinguishing factor — unless one vendor stands out with a brand story that evokes positive feelings. As humans, we prefer not to make reason-based decisions. We like those feelings to guide us. We want to feel good; connect; identify with the product or service we're going to use.

As a company, you want to show the characteristics that make you unique. That's how you make sure your target audience has a choice.

With that in mind, we worked with our client to authentically establish their brand in the market. Their product — cold-pressed veggie juices — was only bought by people who wanted to detox. Based on the brand's goal (‘Feel good about yourself every day’), we positioned the products for daily use — at the time of day when you most need that vitamin boost. We came up with a new brand name that fits the new positioning: Daylr. We linked the products to moments of the day. And here's the creative concept we devised: There’s something good in every Daylr.

Then, we made sure to clearly substantiate and articulate why Daylr is the better choice compared to competitors, such as Juicebrothers, Sapje, or Frecious. It is 100% healthy and natural: fresh from the greenhouse and pressed by the grower — with no added sugars. And you buy it at a fair price, as it should be easy for everyone to make this healthy choice.

With such clear positioning, you give customers a good reason to opt for your product or service. They know what you stand for and what you provide to them. And there's a strong sense of identity within your company,  which makes it very easy to communicate.

Here's the bottom line: your marketing efforts support your brand. But it's your brand that makes the difference.

Your brand on a single sheet

If we map out your branding journey together, we set out to find your brand's beating heart. Why do you do what you do? Where are you headed? What's your dream (which may currently seem unattainable)? In our workshops, we do some deep, proactive, and purposeful digging to answer these questions. Our clients find this approach inspiring.

As of recently, we've intensified the branding process. You can now also choose to jointly arrive at a tangible result in 1, 2, or 3 days: your brand's blueprint. We call these days ‘Pressure Cooker Workshops.’ They respond to a current market demand: to achieve great brand results with your team ‘under pressure’ — in a short period of time, briefly disconnected from the outside world.

Based on the sessions, we filter the brand's essence and elaborate it in a document. But since we have a hands-on mindset, we summarize your entire brand on one page (as part of the report): your brand's blueprint! One slide provides a concrete overview of your higher purpose (why you do what you do), your vision, your mission, your personality, your brand values, and your goals including clearly defined drivers. It's practical and ready to use. I am a go-getter, so this really suits me as a person. And it reflects HLO Branding's company philosophy, too. For we like to go beyond where regular branding processes usually end. Don't expect abstract jargon or general advice from us. We make things as tangible as possible. For example, we clearly define drivers and establish steps to be taken, linked to deadlines.

Now, this might make you go, “Well, that sounds interesting”—I mean, you're still reading this, right? But I can sense your next question: “What does all this look like in practice?” We are happy to provide you with a useful overview of elements you can use to build your brand.

Download the components you need for your brand's blueprint below!

How to bridge the gap between branding and marketing?

Like I wrote above, branding and marketing are close friends. They can't do without each other. Once you've got your brand's blueprint, your marketing vehicle is good to go. Now, you just have to accelerate.

Your marketing team can now communicate your brand in a very consistent and relatively easy way. A solid tunneling approach for conversion and lead generation are still important. But when it comes to communications and campaigns, you don't have to reinvent the wheel. You just use it differently each time. That makes your brand stand out better and helps you get more out of your marketing!

What about your brand?

Back to those veggie juices. Would you like to know more about the ins and outs? Have a look at the Daylr case study. Feel inspired? Don't hesitate to contact me for a free brainstorm session. Let's discuss those two best friends that join forces to strengthen your brand: (HLO) branding and marketing!