What We Get Wrong About Branding And Marketing

Confusing branding and marketing could be the reason your brand isn’t growing. Here’s how to get back on track. (Image source: Unsplash.com)

Most marketers are also tasked with branding. But what we get wrong about branding and marketing is what separates the successful brands from those stuck in a rut or never quite fully getting out of the gate. Marketing automation platform Kissmetrics differentiates the two concepts by stating that, “branding is the core of your marketing strategy.” This is fundamentally correct, but it doesn’t tell us how to do either effectively. Can the two be worked on at the same time? Is one more creative and the other more analytical?

What if your branding is off in the first place? Or maybe it just needs to be realigned. There needs to be some sort of North Star to determine if we are on the right path. We achieve measurable success when we think systematically about the steps we take to use branding and marketing to ultimately reach our goals.

They are parts of a chain reaction, not two separate events.

If we drew a parallel to baking, branding is the Pinterest-worthy photo of what the finished cupcakes should look like and marketing is a recipe for said cupcakes. And I say “a recipe” instead of “the recipe” because if we’ve learned anything from Food Network’s ‘Cupcake Wars’ it’s that there’s more than one way to make a cupcake. Branding is a strategy, marketing is a tactic and many different tactics can ultimately achieve a goal.

Planning to get things done for your business is a chain reaction where goals meet strategies, objectives and tactics. A goal is a broad outcome, a strategy is an approach to achieve a goal, an objective is a specific measurable step towards a strategy and a tactic is a tool or activity used to achieve an objective. Getting the order incorrect in this process is the first misstep towards low sales and overall brand purgatory. If my goal is to revolutionize the haircare industry, (notice that “sell more products” is not my goal because it is not broad enough) then creating a mobile-first shopping platform that recommends products based on the weather would be my strategy. Getting to $1 million USD in my first year would be an objective (here, “sell more products” is not my objective because it is not specific enough) and using targeted Google ads would be my tactic. Marketing is a means to an end. In order to succeed with it, you need to know where your brand is headed.

Successful branding is not just visual and successful marketing is not just an algorithm.

The Internet would have us to believe that successful branding is a well-curated Instagram page and successful marketing is plugging and playing into the latest tech platform. But each requires both left and right brain thinking. Yes, your branding includes your logos, packaging and photography but there should be some strategic thinking behind those choices. And your marketing should leverage technology, but there needs to be some creative alchemy to make the experience unique to your brand.

On the customer side, both should seem effortless. It should feel like you branding naturally fits into the lives of your customers and your marketing is part of a conversation they are already having. Because when those things come together, they’ll be more likely to click, buy, and share. On the back end, you’re consistently checking the purchasing data, reviewing customer sentiment, aligning your brand with influencers and cultural trends that share your values and a readjusting your marketing to environments where your product or service feels native. There’s a whole team of analysts, strategists, conceptors and creators under that trench coat with two thousand likes. And they understand how they can uniquely give the customer what they want (branding) and where exactly to reach them (marketing).

Branding is timeless. Marketing is current.

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Your high school guidance counselor was right about some things. The world is moving fast. Technology has advanced us to the point where the barriers of entry for creating a new brand, or revamping an old one, can be shattered with the right suite of phone apps. That ultimately leads to increasing competition for whatever goal you’re trying to achieve. And for some, that is when panic sets in. That panic can cause companies to scramble to try new marketing tactics without making sure they align with the underlying brand strategy. Should we release new Youtube content everyday? Should we invest in chatbots and voice? Are we finally off Snapchat? What do we do if Facebook shuts down?! The answer to all of these questions — and the many others that will pop up when new shiny tech arrives — is, “what will achieve our goals?”

If we don’t have the right foundation in place with our branding, before we take on marketing, we will never achieve the big disruptive goals that make headlines, make our bosses or investors happy and ultimately increase our bottom line. The steps are there, we just have to make sure we start on the right foot.


Shani is the founder and lead strategist of Jamila Studio, a branding & marketing studio helping product brands identify and nurture their most valuable customers (MVCs).

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