I thought it’s about time I answer this question.
I’m not going to say “once and for all” because some very smart people might disagree with me — and that’s fine. What you call these functions isn’t nearly as important as knowing the problems they solve.
But here’s my take, stemming from a formal education in business and a mix of marketing and branding experience spanning more than a decade.
Are marketing and branding the same thing? Not at all.
In theory, they’re actually quite close. But in practice, they are far, far away from each other.
The “academic” idea of marketing covers critical parts of business such as pricing, product delivery, and distribution. But walk into the marketing department of almost any large organization, and you’re going to find them in charge of only one thing: selling.
Most marketing people only ever get to touch the promotional side of a business. And marketing firms get sought out specifically to increase sales.
Want to know why I left the marketing world for the branding one?
Because being a marketer sucks when you have zero control over the value of what you’re selling.
Marketing doesn’t solve fundamental issues with your business, your offerings, or your organizational culture.
It’s like putting more gas into a broken down car and yelling “Drive!”
Like throwing more wind at a sailboat that’s taking on water.
Branding is what actually makes you interesting and worthwhile as a business. It’s driven by a larger purpose beyond profits.
Marketing relies on the compelling value proposition that comes from a having strong brand, and answers directly to the profits.
And, heck yes, profits are important!
But marketing can’t fix things like:
- Lack of direction
- Inferior or boring products
- Mediocre services
- Miserable staff or a disjointed culture
- Over-generalized strategy and messaging (because nothing’s actually different about you)
Branding gives the marketing people something inspiring to work with. Something worth selling.
Yes, you can add personality and promises to marketing campaigns to get some attention, but unless the rest of the organization meets up to that same standard, you’re still not going to be able to meet the ultimate goal:
A business that is loved by its customers.
That is why we brand.