Skip to main content

Branding & Marketing

What’s the difference between the two, and why should you care?

When most people think about branding, they think corporate identity or brand design: the logo, the trademark, maybe a slogan or tagline. Most companies view branding like a subsegment of the marketing department and focus on its design value and ignore its strategic value.

But there is a new understanding that more and more businesses and creatives are growing accustomed to: which is that branding is the toolbox, and marketing is the most essential tool branding can utilize. 

Marketing is part of an overall brand strategy that determines the success of your business.

1: Branding is the secret sauce

In my former occupation as an online marketer, I always felt that if I was working with a well-developed brand, there was some sort of magic happening. It was easier to get interactions on social media postings, the click-through rates were above average, and the return of investment on digital campaigns performed high in the given segment.

On the other hand, if the brand was unclear or neglected, marketing was much more difficult. There was usually no community out there that already valued the brand and could be activated for marketing purposes.

Marketing works best when there is a well-crafted brand to work with; otherwise, marketing on its own is an art of momentarily being louder, more persistent or more manipulative. 

2: Some Brands don't do Marketing

Branding is the toolbox, and marketing is the most essential tool branding can utilize.

But there are brands out there that have done exceptionally well with very little Marketing.

To name two examples, you might be familiar with: Sriracha the famous hot sauce, and Trader Joe's the Aldi Nord owned American supermarket chain. The success of these brands weren’t forged by marketing campaigns.

The Huy Fong Sriracha Brand located in California grew its brand by simply exposing their product to a lot of the right people: starting with pho restaurants, Asian chefs, then chefs in general.

They started growing their brand in the 70s and managed to create a groundswell by developing an exceptional, simple and affordable product that everyone loved. Back then, of course, in a much less saturated market. Consistency of product and brand were enough to matter to customers in those days. 

Sriracha Huy Fong

Today, Sriracha allows user-generated content to do its work. Huy Fong CEO David Tran is known for saying he doesn't have time for advertising.

Like the film “Sriracha the movie“ depicts, fans have taken over to do Sriracha’s advertising for them.

From several viral videos, to songs, to Sriracha T-shirts you can find everywhere online, the brand is present and being promoted by the people that love it most.

That's the best kind of marketing, the kind your brand's community: your tribe does for you because of great branding based on a great product. 

sriracha t-shirt

Sriracha, the product name, isn't even trademarked because it's the name of a city in Thailand. But the brand holds such high value to its customers that Founder David Tran never worried about it. 

Trader Joe's is another example. Their only advertising is the: “The Fearless Flyer.” A monthly listing of discounts on popular products. It is distributed in print and digitally via newsletter and their website:

trader joes


fearless flyer

©Trader Joe's

This understatement and trader joe’s dedication to affordable but quality products has led to it being the favorite supermarket brand of many millennials. 

Now, you might say it's the products or simply delivering value that makes these businesses exceptional. But conscious of it or not, these companies are examples of masterful branding. Let me explain:

3: You are always branding

The truth is - whether you're aware of it or not – you’re always branding. 

As the Marty Neumeier definition of brand goes: “A brand is a person's gut feeling about an organization, product, or service.” People always have a gut feeling about your business – it’s important to make sure you're guiding that conversation with everything you say or do

For example, one of Sriracha’s many feats is how it is uncompromising in quality. David Tran its founder would never lower the quality to raise marketing dollars, he would never adapt the recipe. He also refuses to raise the price, which he could, considering the brand he built. But he says it should remain affordable. That is one of many reasons Sriracha is praised.

These actions in itself are disruptive. Which other sauce business would do that? What other product is better suited to hide what you put in than a sauce? You could easily be switching out things here and there to suit market conditions or run more profit.

Everything you say or do is branding. 

Your brand and your business are two sides of the same coin or, like Neumeier defines it, are two strands of the same DNA. 

Branding handles everything that relates to the external, the business relates to everything internal. But they are intertwined like a DNA helix and inseparable from each other.

brand dna

© Level C

Another way to look at it is: Branding is the quality soil around the tree that is your business. Marketing is like fertilizer.

If you make sure you have great soil in the first place, your brand can go a long way with only a minimal addition of fertilizer (marketing effort). 

4: How to use your toolbox

Branding is the toolbox, marketing the most valued tool.

You're always branding. But if you’re only marketing and neglect your branding, in a way it's like always starting from zero. You don't build up brand equity. It's almost like selling a commodity, like apples or carrots.

Marketing and branding aren't two different methods for the same result. It's not a question like, are we doing PR for the next campaign or social media?

marketing vs branding

Determined branding and exceptional marketing together are what allows businesses to thrive on the long term. Your marketing will be a better investment and much more effective.

Before you spend money on marketing, make sure you do your branding first.

Most interesting posts