Understanding the difference between marketing and branding

It is difficult to escape the words marketing and branding in the world today and it is easy to confuse them but marketing and branding are two different concepts and if you want your business to succeed, you need to understand the difference between the two. In this blog post, I will explain what marketing and branding are, how they are different and how they work alongside one another.

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The Bayswater Omnibus by George William Joy.


‘Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.’ ~ Walt Disney

Marketing is tools, processes and strategies used to promote a product, service or company, which enable businesses to find customers. Traditionally, marketing has been done in magazines and newspapers, in catalogues, magazines and flyers, on walls and lamp posts, on billboards, on public transport, in sports grounds and on the jerseys of the men and women playing sport, in window displays, signs and posters, on tv and radio and with telemarketing by phone and text message. Today such advertising still takes place but digital marketing uses websites, social media, adverts, videos and email marketing too.

Etymology online records the word marketing firstly in the 1560s as meaning the ‘buying and selling, act of transacting business in a market’ and in 1701 as meaning ‘produce bought or sold at a market’. Finally it records the business sense of the word as the ‘process of moving goods from producer to consumer with emphasis on advertising and sales’ in 1897.

Marketing is as old as time itself. The first printed advertising was recorded between 960 – 1279 and the first trade shows took place around 11th century A.D. The invention of the Gutenberg Press in 1450 saw the beginning of the mass production of printed advertising, while early trademarks and branding began in 1498, with the German painter Albrecht Duerer who created a distribution network of his works throughout Europe and undertook legal actions against those who illegally produced copies of his paintings.

In the 17th century, the first newspaper advertising appeared and the first advertising agency was founded in 1786. Sandwich men appeared in 1789 – these were people hired to wear advertising space on their body, in the form of printed cardboard on their front and back, while handing out flyers. Billboards, cinema advertising, radio and television advertising followed and as these mediums grew in popularity, companies began sponsoring shows and creating commercials, that allowed the companies to come into people’s homes with words, music and moving pictures.

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Branding demands commitment; commitment to continual re-invention; striking chords with people to stir their emotions; and commitment to imagination. It is easy to be cynical about such things, much harder to be successful.’ ~ Sir Richard Branson

Branding is different to marketing, in that it defines a company by creating a unique name or image for a product. It includes a company mission statement and values, the company logo and the unique selling point (USP), which distinguishes a company from its competitors, making it memorable to existing and potential customers.

Branding has always been about making your mark and depicting ownership. In the Ancient Scandinavian language Norse, the word ‘brandr’ meant ‘to burn’, while the word ‘brand’ originally meant a burning piece of wood. Branding has been recorded in ancient Babylon and at the time of the Magna Carta, guilds made it mandatory to brand goods with proprietary marks. In the 1500s, it became common to brand cattle in order to show ownership – branding marks were unique to the owner, simple, distinctive and instantly identifiable, just like the product logos of today. Other examples include slave owners who would brand their slaves and the Nazis who branded prisoners of war. So too, publishers use branding in the form of a colophon, the emblem, logo, or imprint that appears on the spine of a book and or on its title page.

Advertising agencies first appeared in England in the 1800s and companies began to promote their ‘brand names’ using packaging and slogans. Then at the beginning of the twentieth century, products such as Coca-Cola (1886), Colgate (1873), Ford Motor Company (1903), Chanel (1909) and LEGO (1932) were born. These brands were innovative and ahead of their time – the Ford Motor Company for example offered American made, gasoline-powered vehicles before anyone else and Chanel made suits for women at a time when they had only been thought of as menswear.

Before television, companies ran commercials during radio programmes, propagating the idea that their products could buy happiness and as radio become more popular, station owners looked to advertising as a way of making their businesses more sustainable. Branding developed with radio jingles, catchphrases and with companies sponsoring both advertisements and entire programmes.

Today the internet is involved in all aspects of advertising and marketing and it now seems there is little that cannot be given the branding treatment, from politics, to charities and even personal brands for celebrities, who have built careers from simply being themselves. To ensure they do not fall behind, companies must ensure they engage with the online world. Marketing and advertising agencies need to be able to create adverts and logos with a consistent look and feel to represent products, with both a nod to the past and an understanding of the present, that will appeal to audiences who are saturated with messages fighting for their attention twenty four hours a day. However, it is important to remember traditional marketing too, for as long as people can read, there will be a place for this also and there may be many who prefer this quieter and subtler form of communication.

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Working hand in hand

So, marketing and branding can be seen to work hand in hand, with marketing getting a customers’ attention and driving sales, while branding is a way to keep their attention and gain customer recognition and loyalty. Marketing will push a brand in front of people but to keep it there and have longevity, you need to build a strong brand. Branding is what will set your company apart from competitors and a well defined brand will help ensure consistency in your products and communications, which in turn, over time will build trust with your target audience – think Coca-Cola, Marks and Spencer, Virgin and the BBC.

Before putting a marketing strategy in place, focus on branding. Ask yourself, who are you as a brand, what do you do, what are your values and how will you communicate all of that to your customers? Marketing strategies and campaigns are temporary, with each having a beginning, middle and end. Branding on the other hand is the continuous work of defining your company, shaping the perception of your brand and ensuring you create long term relationships with your customers.


Further information

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