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  • Writer's pictureKesha Lien

Brand & Marketing: Understanding the Major Differences

Hands writing down the different elements of brand and marketing.

More often than not, marketing just isn't enough. It won't separate you from the competition. And marketing alone won't build trust or loyal customers. That's because these are the outcomes of brand building – not marketing.

Unfortunately, many companies skip this part. They end up dumping precious time, money, and effort into design and social media and get so caught up in marketing that they lose sight of why people buy from them in the first place. What's more, brand and marketing are often used interchangeably, like they mean the same thing. So it's hard to have a clear understanding of what each means.

Here's my take on the significant differences between brand and marketing.

3 Major Differences Between Brand & Marketing

1. Marketing is what you say about yourself; your brand is what other people say about you.

When marketing your product or service, you tell people how good it is and that they should purchase it ASAP. But your brand is your identity. It's what drives your marketing strategy. It's what makes your company "tick."

You have complete control over your marketing, but your brand lives in the minds of your audience. It's how you're perceived. Your company has a brand, whether you intentionally shaped it or not. But it's up to you to shape it in a way that's meaningful for their audience.

If you do nothing, you're leaving it up to the public at large to decide who you are, what you're about – and how much you're worth. The assumptions don't have to be accurate; they just have to exist.

Brand is just a perception, and perception will match reality over time. — Elon Musk

2. Brand is a long-term growth strategy; marketing is goal-oriented, more short-term, and tactical.

Marketing changes rapidly; brands don't. SEO, social media, and content are all tactics to achieve a goal, whether to make more sales, drive more traffic to your website, or increase your social media followers. Once you've completed that goal, you move on to the next one. But your brand stays with you for the long run.

Let's look at a real-world example of how lasting a company's brand is to its customers. Once upon a time, Gap decided to change its logo to create a new, modern image. But they got backlash because their customers had grown accustomed to the simple, classic blue box design they trusted for more than 20 years.

Of course, a brand goes way beyond a logo, but this just illustrates the longevity of a brand's image and the importance of staying true to your vision.

Marketing strategies will evolve based on trends, time of year, important news stories, or social movements. But a brand will stay relatively the same.

Let's talk for a moment about being branded versus brand-led.

Branded businesses have logos, websites, and a social media presence that checks all the boxes, but they are defined by their product or service – not by who they are. Fifteen years ago, this approach may have worked. But today, differences between goods and services have become relatively indistinguishable. And without a meaningful brand identity, many businesses have fallen victim to commoditization – meaning they compete on cost.

On the other hand, brand-led companies have identities that give them a competitive advantage. They can resist certain market forces and command a premium. They don't have to give in to certain trends to keep up with other companies. They can just keep being them and still have success.

#3 Marketing drives sales; brand-building drives recognition and loyalty.

When you're marketing your product or service, whether on social media, through email, or internet ads, your ultimate goal is to drive sales. With some luck, you gain a few customers. But what keeps these customers coming back? What turns first-time customers into loyal customers? Your brand.

There are a few things that result from decisive brand-building:


Building a solid brand helps foster brand awareness. Brand awareness represents how familiar your target audience is with your company and how well they recognize it. Is it memorable? Can they identify it easily among other brands? If your brand is strong enough, inspires human connection, and has its own unique story, you'll go a long way in building awareness.


Marketing brings recognition, but it rarely creates lasting trust. According to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report, 81% of consumers across the globe said they need to be able to trust the brand they buy from. Like I mentioned above, you can get plenty of customers from a well-executed marketing campaign. But that doesn't mean they'll keep buying. In fact, according to the 2019 report, 67% of consumers agree that a good reputation may get them to buy a product, but they'll stop buying it unless they start trusting the company.


The way I see it, an intentional focus on your brand is the best solution for building customer loyalty, while marketing is excellent for getting your company out there in front of people. Marketing lets people know your company exists. A brand lets people know that your company matters. Customers are only loyal to brands that make a difference in their lives or stand for something that matters to them.

Now What?

We have discussed the differences between brand and marketing. Now, what's next? Marketing is here to stay, as businesses want to get noticed by their target audience. But with today's stiff competition, marketing alone isn't enough to get over the hump. That's why pioneering a lasting brand identity that compels and inspires is becoming more and more crucial for long-term success. It's time to invest in a long-term brand strategy to help your company become a trailblazer in your industry.


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