There are very few questions clients ask more often than the difference between branding and marketing.
It’s always hard to answer this question and to make it even harder, I’ve decided to answer it here in four hundred words or less.
The fundamental difference between branding and marketing is their relationship with time. Branding takes a long-term view while marketing focuses on the short term.
Branding creates customers by earning people’s attention long before they need the product or service we offer. Then over time, it turns that awareness into trust, then loyalty. Your brand, in short, is your reputation, which is built and maintained over time.
Marketing focuses on making it easy for people who are already looking for what we offer to get exactly what they need or want. Anything your company does to facilitate this process of converting interest into sales is marketing.
To illustrate, think about all the TV commercials automakers run on repeat for years to ensure that their specific brand remains top of mind whenever the moment comes for us to buy a new car. Now think about the promotions they run and the experience they create at their dealerships to entice us to choose them when we are finally ready to buy a new car. Branding enables us to know which car we want, and marketing determines which car we ultimately get.
The best companies in the world spend a disproportionate amount of time and money on branding– trying to earn the attention and trust of those who don’t need what they offer yet– because they understand that the number of people interested in their services now will always be smaller than the number of those who might be interested later. And if they don’t speak to those who might be interested later, over time, the number of those interested now will stagnate, or worse, dry up.
Many businesses have this backwards. They lack the clarity and perspective that comes with an uncertain future, which of course is accelerated by a hyper focus on short term metrics.
In The Long and Short of It, Les Binet and Peter Field recommend a 60/40 split in favor of branding activities. Whatever the split we choose, to succeed, we need to excel at both.
Ultimately, if we improve our relationship with time we can more readily balance short term and long term needs of those we seek to serve.