Branding and marketing: what’s the difference?

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Many companies, big and small, do not understand the important differences between brand and marketing. Mark McCulloch, of Spectacular Marketing, explains why the two are important, but in different ways

Brand and marketing, and the difference between the two, is not just misunderstood in business. It is misunderstood in most companies and even in their own marketing departments.

I have worked as a general marketer and a senior brand manager and I wanted to give you an easy guide that will help you navigate your way between the two areas and see their potential to improve your business.

Branding is my real passion. It was when I started working with the brand guru, Robert Bean of Northstar Partners, that I started to understand what branding was really about. Robert worked at BT as head of customer communications when the “It’s Good to Talk” campaign was launched. In addition, his work on the Honda brand turned into the “Power of Dreams” campaign. So he is to be trusted.

Branding: a promise delivered

Robert’s definition of a brand is that it is a “promise delivered”. This is the best definition of what a brand is that I have come across in my career. You make a promise to customers and colleagues with everything you do and, to be successful, you must deliver on that promise every single time. The idea that a brand is a badge, a name or a colour is just a tiny fraction of what a brand actually is.

Your brand is “only everything” within your company. As a result, it’s imperative to define what it stands for. You have to identify your target audience and what they want, say why you are better than your competitors and come up with a short statement that describes your brand’s purpose.

Some businesses know what they are from day one and as long as they stay small and keep the same employees, then they may not need to repeat this exercise. However, for most firms, things change – sales drop, people leave or a competitor threatens your patch. Then what do you do? If you define what your brand stands for then it becomes easier to make decisions – who you should hire, what products to sell, how your communications should sound and even what your office environment should look like.

The key to unlocking the power of your brand is involving your employees. Take them with you through this process and have a brand expert on hand to help guide you. This does not need to be costly or take up too much time. However, once this is done, it could set up a brand strategy for your business that lasts for years.

What marketing delivers

Marketing is defined by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as “The management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably”.

Marketing, then, is an integral part of your brand. It helps you to communicate the promise that you want customers and prospects to know about. Your marketing should also be based on your brand positioning, personality, values and tone of voice that have all been defined and communicated among your staff.

In essence, marketing is what you do to get your message or promise to customers, while your brand is how you keep the promise made through delivery to customers and colleagues.