There is a lot of confusion around branding and there are also multiple definitions. So what exactly is branding? Decades ago, branding was explained as a name, slogan, sign, symbol, design, or a combination of these elements that were used to identify a company and the products or services they provide. The brand was set apart from the competition by these elements. Today brand is a bit more complex and and holds a crucial spot in one’s marketing. Today I am going to give some helpful tips on the differences between marketing and branding. I will also discuss the importance of branding.

Marketing is your message. Your brand is who you are.

When both are done right, your brand is your identity and your marketing is your story. Branding is the unique, authentic, singular value you offer to your customers. It permeates the culture of your company, and it is communicated to your customers every time they see, feel, touch, or experience your brand—not just when they experience a marketing message. Branding comes first, marketing second. If you have a logo, a package design, or a slogan, you may think you have a brand. What you actually have are a set of marketing materials and messages. Once you feel that you have defined your brand value in the marketplace, then should you move on to developing that brand—followed, last of all, by crafting a marketing campaign.

You own your marketing; your consumers own your brand.

Compared to branding, marketing is easier to control and to comprehend. You write the headlines, you choose the art, you post the Tweets. You measure conversions or awareness and determine whether your marketing is a success or a failure. The something that happens between your marketing efforts and your customers’ actions—that’s branding. While your marketing, customer service, and other consumer touch points influence your brand, you cannot manufacture brand value by yourself. Many business owners think they can control how their brand is perceived by the masses of consumers; however, they cannot.

The consumer is the judge and the jury.

A business owner must know the difference between branding and marketing and it’s best not to confuse the two. Marketing is storytelling. The most powerful branding happens when you listen, not when you talk. Your consumers will tell you what your brand is—or what they desire it to be—because they know what they want. The strongest brands listen to their customers, and let their values, hopes, and desires define the brand’s position—then create a marketing strategy that communicates value through simple, creative, show-stopping executions.

That being said, the word “branding” evolves with the behavior of consumers. Think of it as the mental picture of who you as a company represents to consumers. It is influenced by the elements, words, and creativity that surround it. It’s the perception that a consumer has when they hear or think of your company name, service, or product. To sum up what a Branding should do: branding is not only about getting your target market to select you over the competition, but about getting your prospects to see you as the sole provider of a solution to their problem or need.

These six points are good objectives that good branding should strive for:

  • Delivers a clear message
  • Confirmation of your credibility
  • Motivates the buyer to buy
  • Creates a user loyalty
  • Emotionally connects your target consumer with your products or services

Let’s finish by addressing an important issue related to branding and color perception. There have been numerous attempts to classify consumer responses to the different use of colors (using surveys). But I feel that color is too dependent on personal experiences and opinions to be universally translated to specific feelings. However, there are messaging patterns that can be found in color perceptions. For instance, colors play a fairly large role in purchases and recognition. In regards to the role that color plays in branding, the relationship between brands and color hinges on the perceived appropriateness of the color being used (in other words, does the color “fit” what is being sold). This means that colors influence how consumers view the “personality” of the brand in question (we can see this in fast food, retail, and corporate businesses.)

Additional studies have revealed that our brains prefer recognizable brands, which means color is incredibly important when creating a brand identity. The era of the 1960’s was the branding explosion — from cigarettes to soap — and this era has shaped modern marketing. Understanding how those marketing campaigns began explains why branded products are so pronounced today. The shift from plain products to name brands has been gradual. One could argue that it grew out of the standardization of quality products for consumers in the middle of the 20th century, which required companies to find a new way to differentiate themselves from their competitors. In the 1950’s, consumer packaged goods companies like Procter and Gamble developed the discipline of brand management (or marketing as we know it today) when they noticed their competitors improving the quality of their products.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s, brands like Tide, Kraft, and Lipton excelled in their marketing and set benchmarks for all brands today. This marked the start of almost 50 years of marketing where “winning” was determined by understanding the consumer better than your competitors. The brand mix is more than the logo or the price of a product. It is also the packaging, the promotions, and the advertising, all of which is guided by statements that are precise in wording and positioning.