Branding vs Marketing: The Key Differences and How They Best Work Together

Nov 29, 2023 | marketing

Learn the key differences of branding vs marketing, as well as how to effectively use them together to bring more ease and enjoyment into your business.


Do you market first or do your branding? Do you need a brand to market? Can you just build a brand without marketing? But, aren’t they essentially the same thing?

The questions may seem endless when it comes to brand, branding and marketing because they operate in such similar spaces. And yet, they’re vastly different.

Of course, you can ask 100 different brand and marketing professionals on the differences between branding and marketing, and like the definition of brand, there are an endless amount of perspectives.

So, why not throw one more into the ring?

Today, we’re diving into all you need to know about branding and marketing, and how to effectively use them together to bring more ease and enjoyment into your business building efforts.

What is brand and branding?

Your brand is the perception of your business – how people think, feel and act. Branding is the collection of elements that shape how someone thinks, feels and acts towards your brand. Think logo, colors, typography, messaging and positioning.

It’s internal-focused and sets the foundation for your business’s external communication.

What is marketing?

Marketing is persuading someone to take action, said by one of my all-time favorite marketers, Seth Godin.

It’s more external-focused and puts the branding elements into practice to influence behavior.

Why does the distinction between the two matter?

Branding and marketing – it’s a nuanced but important distinction that’s worth understanding, if only for the sole purpose of being able to diagnose the all-too-common problem of getting clients.

The question, “Is it a marketing problem or is it a branding problem?” can be a pretty challenging one to answer if you don’t have a good handle on each one.

So often, we think we need to post more frequently, spend more on ads or purchase that new course, when in actuality, we need to take a step back and invest resources into our positioning or message.

What comes first, branding or marketing, and why?

As a brand strategist and designer, is it any surprise that my flag is firmly in the ‘start with branding’ camp?

Building off of the answer above, when you have a solid understanding of who you are as a brand, it makes marketing efforts so much easier. And, it gives you a reference point to come back to as you experiment, change, evolve and pivot.

Said another way, it’s extremely challenging to market a brand that doesn’t yet exist. Or, at the very least, isn’t fully formed.

Let’s go back to what marketing is – persuading someone to take action. If you don’t know who you’re trying to persuade, the action that you want them to take (and why) or why they should be taking it in the first place, it’ll be a little hard to market well.

Want even more branding support? Join the newsletter!

What are the common misconceptions about branding and marketing?

I MUST MARKET EVERYWHERE IN ORDER TO MOVE THE NEEDLE.

When you’re clear on what you’re all about as a brand, and more importantly, who you’re a great fit for, you realize that you don’t have to be everywhere in order to connect with your right audience. It’s absolutely not true that in order to build your business, you have to be on all the channels, showing up in all the places. Go where your right people are. If you’re showing up half-assed in five different channels but your market is only hanging out in one of them, what’s the point? Wouldn’t you rather go all-in on that one and magnify your marketing efforts? Work smarter, not harder, my friends.

I HAVE TO BE CONSISTENT, NO MATTER WHAT.

Yes, consistency is KEY. But a certain type of consistency. If you’re more concerned with making sure you hit that posting schedule than in sharing something that’s aligned with your overarching brand, you will likely wind up with lackluster results. Because yes, posting every Monday, Wednesday and Friday is important but if what you’re actually sharing isn’t consistent with what you’re all about as a brand, it doesn’t matter the cadence. Quality is way more important than quantity.

I CAN START MARKETING WITHOUT DOING ANY BRAND WORK.

Effective marketing is influenced and guided by your brand. Yes, you can go out there, show up everywhere, say all the things. But. But how are you going to connect to your right people with that approach? When you have your brand foundation in place, when you have clarity on who you are as a brand, you can then determine the right places to effectively market your business. Not just spouting shit off to anyone and everyone, but rather, showing up with value because you know what you need your brand to communicate.

I DON’T NEED TO MARKET, I HAVE A BRAND.

Woohoo, you have a solid and kickass brand. What more is there to do? Because of course the Field of Dreams adage, ‘If you build it, they will come,’ works like a charm… If only. Unfortunately, you still need to market your business, even if you have all the branding items checked off the list. Marketing is how you tell people about the great brand and business you have. And, branding is what will make marketing a hell of a lot easier. But it won’t do the work for you – you still need to get out there and get visible.

I NEED #ALLTHETHINGS FOR MY VISUAL BRAND IN ORDER TO GET VISIBLE.

We often think that if we don’t have every single branding element dialed in at 100%, we cannot effectively market our business. I call BS (again) on this notion. Yes, a logo is important because it helps build brand awareness. And picking your colors and fonts are also important so you can create visual consistency. But beyond that, you really don’t need much to get out there and get visible. Is it helpful to have more? Absolutely. But if you’re not marketing your business because you’re waiting for all the graphics to be done and the website to be finalized and the color palette to be tweaked (again for the 100th time), you’re waiting too long. Get out there, share your message and start connecting with your right audience.

Branding vs marketing: what are the key differences?

Marketing explains how someone can hire you, branding is why they should.

Part of defining your brand’s strategy is to get clear on brand elements like your value proposition, purpose statement, brand beliefs and positioning. Together, these elements help tell the story of why your brand is the right fit to solve your ideal client’s problem. Marketing is then used to get the attention of that ideal client and influence them to take action.

Marketing grabs the attention, branding keeps it.

There are new marketing strategies being touted every day that can help you get someone’s attention. Post horizontal photos. Use stories. Sell a course. Use this type of opt-in. The possibilities really are endless. But in order to motivate someone to stick around, well, that’s where branding comes into play. Brand strategy elements like your mission, vision, values and beliefs all help tell the story of who you are as a business. And, when they’re created and communicated with intention, they are great supporters for keeping people’s attention and gaining their loyalty.

Branding is often the constant whereas marketing can quickly adjust based on culture and industry.

Remember Clubhouse and the craze that was everyone integrating it into their marketing strategy so they could capitalize on the latest trend? Or, when Instagram launched Stories. Or, when Facebook started groups. Or… You get the picture. Marketing strategies are nimble and can be adjusted with relative ease based on what’s trendy. Your brand isn’t intended to have that same flexibility. It’s meant to be the constant – so whether you’re showing up on Threads, making a video for TikTok or starting a Facebook group, the brand is steady, recognizable and telling the same story.

How do branding and marketing work together to support your business?

Branding without marketing, or marketing without branding is like cereal without milk or chocolate without peanut butter. Yes, each one is fine on their own. But together, they’re delicious.

Because branding is what generates the deep and ongoing connection with your audience, it’s a pretty important element to your business success. But also, having the best brand in the world doesn’t matter if no one knows you exist, so marketing is pretty dang important to your business success, too.

And when branding and marketing work together, it creates a strong and supportive force for your business.

Strengthens connection

Your branding naturally brings together like-minded people, people who share the same values, beliefs and interests. Marketing is what nurtures that connection by finding the right ways to reach and engage with them.

Go farther with more ease

You can post every day on social but if your content doesn’t align with your brand, it’s like building a house without solid footings. However, when you reference your brand guidelines for all your marketing efforts, you start with a solid foundation for your marketing to build upon. Everything from selecting the right marketing channels to tailoring your message is affected by brand and when it works together with marketing, your efforts will be far more effective and successful.

With that, happy branding 🙂

Want to dig in even more? Read these next!

Read this to understand how you an create a remarkable brand personality using seasonal brand theory and color psychology.

Learn how to develop an intentional and effective brand positioning strategy as a service-based business owner.

Follow this easy-to-implement brand strategy template to create a brand foundation that’s grounded in connection and meaning.

Learn how to build a brand that's fueled by meaningful connection:

Every other week, receive strategic brand building stories, resources and ideas to support your intentional business-building journey.