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Branding and marketing – what’s the difference?

Jarosław Morawski

Imagine you’re walking down the street. You see a poster pillar with an ad promoting an upcoming concert on it. Then another one. And another one and another one and another one.

Marketing makes you think: „Wow! This concert must be huge. Maybe I will go and see it?”. Branding, on the other hand, helps you recognize the name, appearance and text written on the poster, helping you trust (or not) the promises of great fun that it makes.

Wait a second… how does it work?

Differences and similarities

Branding and marketing are two of the hottest buzzwords of recent years. They star in countless articles, trends, and forecasts – more often than not, they’re used interchangeably which blurs the line between original meaning of these words. Branding and marketing, although they work great as a team, serve different purposes and cannot replace each other. Understanding the differences and putting these two concepts to good use is the key to growing a successful business.

Marketing is a series of deliberate actions aimed at increasing sales. It is based on active promotion of a product or service. Through advertising, social media, events and sales, it puts stress on a brand’s existence on the marketing, usually focusing on key benefits. Marketing helps sell a product but doesn’t create values and emotions that stand behind it.

This is branding’s cup of tea. According to a popular definition, branding is a fulfilled promised. It’s a set of values that your brand represents as well as the way it is perceived by clients. Branding builds trust and authority. It produces not just the image of a brand but also long-term relationship with its fans. Branding exists before, after and during the marketing stage.

Branding and marketing, although they work great as a team, serve different purposes and cannot replace each other.

For example

Marketing may increase sales of a product or service but in any way will not create it. IKEA sells furniture and decorations in many countries across the globe. They advertise their products in different mediums – billboards, newspapers, online ads. That’s marketing. However, it is only due to well-planned, open and direct communication that we, the clients, know that we’re looking at an IKEA ad and not a call posted by a different furniture maker. Simple copy, numerous references to hearth and home and ecology, and warm color palette in the photos are just a few of many recognizable features of IKEA’s branding.

Who amongst us doesn’t have at least a couple of famous IKEA pencils? Catalogues filled with home decor inspiration have been sent to Polish homes since 1990, making IKEA furniture available at hand. The Swedish brand continues to grow and diversify its image, while staying true to its original values at the same time.

Just like appearance, way of speaking, tone of voice, and behavior can influence how we see another person, visual identity, style of communication and brand values create its image in our heads.

Wireless carrier Telecommunication Poland created a brand Heart & Mind that became incredibly popular thanks to creative TV spots, radio ads and unique apps and games. Betting the campaign on a brand hero turned out to be such a success that Heart & Mind continued to rule the billboards and ads after TP merger with French technology giant Orange.

Allegro, on the other hand, until a few years ago was just another middle man selling products from many different categories. Today it is a very well-known internet store with a recognizable image and communication. It achieved it, among others, through an award-winning ad campaign called „What are you looking for?” that became successful thanks to clearly outlined branding: strong emotions, brand exposition, and repeating visual themes. Watching an ad from this campaign leaves no doubt about the brand it promotes.

To be sure about the direction for your brand, it is good to get to know its personality. The following questions may help you do that – the answers will require you to analyze the situations and think of the reasons why your brand exists. Setting clear goals for your brand will not only help your clients understand it better, but also lay grounds for more efficient marketing.

  • What are your most important rules and values?
  • What makes your brand unique? Why should your client buy from you and not from your competition?
  • Why did you found this company? What’s your story?
  • How does your client benefit (or will benefit) from your brand?
  • What caused you to create/redesign your brand?
  • Why should the client believe your brand’s promise?
  • What are the emotional and functional benefits of your brand? How would you describe the unique selling proposition (USP)?

Give yourself some time and thoroughly consider the answers. You may want to talk to your employees and clients. There’s an explanation why all questions refer to your brand’s history and reasons for its existence. What we create inside, is also visible on the outside.

It’s something worth fighting for. A well-designed brand creates customers who are loyal for long years. Assume that you sell computers. Marketing will help you get a customer who will buy one device. But branding will make sure that every other computer bought by this person will come from your store, not the competition.

It will happen under one condition: your brand must fulfill its promise. If the very elemental values of your brand is quality, you must be sure that your customers will not be disappointed by your product. Does the computer meet his expectations? Are all other models equally good and reliable? The brand’s promise should be unique but possible to fulfill and follow up. If your product is what sets you apart, focus on keeping up the quality. Even the most creative branding will not solve serious problems at the roots of a company. Pretty graphics and nice words will not make the bad first impression disappear.

Making and fulfilling a promise is just the beginning of the image-building process. You must make every effort to keep the word given to your clients. Your relationship with them is the very basis of any branding. You must mind and nurture it, investing time and energy into solving their problems and offering highest quality products and services. It’s worth it – your ultimate goal is to deepen your brand’s value which directly translates into position on the market and success of any marketing actions.

First branding

If marketing is tactics, branding is strategy. For this reason all marketing actions – advertising campaigns, events, logistic operations and changes in the distribution – should be based on key branding values. Every email, call from a client and ad banner impacts how the clients see your brand. If your brand is inconsistent across these mediums, its image among clients will be just as unclear.

Branding is an important step that should follow the initial idea and founding a brand. To save time, health and money (it can be easily lost on trying to do things on your own), trust the specialist and work with an experience branding studio. At Holy Sheep!, right after starting a new project, we do a thorough analysis on the client’s market position and communication. This allows us to define the situation and existing standards that later become the stepping stone for describing the brand’s unique values.

Every email, call from a client and ad banner impacts how the clients see your brand.

A completed rebranding project is a good way to show true value of a well-designed identity. There are various reasons why brands decide to change themselves – usually they want to start fresh and reach new clients. Codee, a small software house from Wrocław, asked us to completely redo its dated, unattractive image. While working on this project, we focused on unique brand values that we managed to presents in a new logo and web design that just bursts with energy. The result? Significant increase in traffic and many compliments from existing and new clients.

If the foundations are good, a rebranding may not be necessary. Starting the branding before launching the brand onto the market is simply profitable. A well-designed visual identity is flexible and doesn’t require additional investments when the brand grows in later stages. Minimal, open identity that we designed for Bombshe helps the brand experiment with different themes, builds trust and authority, and draws attention. It was noticed by Showroom – a famous Polish fashion platform that added Bombshe to its portfolio. Professional visual identity turned out to be not just an effective marketing tool but also a successful vehicle for driving sales. Thanks to Showroom, Bombshe benefits from steady promotion and growing popularity of their dresses. As you can see, branding – especially when created at an early stage – gives an advantage or increases chances for success (as attested by many other our clients).

However, without proper foundations, even a new brand may be forced to go through the rebranding process. Making changes to an existing image is a demanding process that costs plenty of time and money.

Success = branding + marketing

Marketing is the most successful when paired with solid foundations created by branding. Although trends and statistics can produce a promising marketing strategy, they will suffice if the clients feel no attachment towards a brand.

Marketing helps reach out to clients but branding makes them come back for more. Consistent and considered communication creates a timeless relationship with a client and gains his or hers trust. Your company may achieve success without branding but it greatly increases the chances and guarantees more meaningful and long-lasting effects.

Yes, branding costs money. Identifying your brand’s unique features, designing the visual language and defining communication style is a process that requires months of work. However – like qualified employees or to-quality equipment – branding is an investment in quality. Lack of clearly defined brand personality or inconsistent opinions about its direction lead to never-ending changes to visual identity, shortage of loyal clients and smaller profits when compared to bigger, better-branded competition. Branding is an expense but lack of it is even worse – it’s a loss.

Drop us a line!

Can we help you out? If so, speak to us. Don’t delay, expand your brand with us. Let’s talk about what we can do today.

Piotr Synowiec

Peter Synowiec

[email protected]