Branding vs. Marketing: Which Do You Need?

At the recent StoryBrand Live workshop, Donald Miller said something that caught my attention:

"Multi-billion-dollar companies can afford to do branding, but what most small businesses need is marketing."

What does that mean? What’s the difference between branding and marketing? Is it true that small businesses need marketing rather than branding?

I went to Merriam-Webster. Here' what the dictionary says.

Definitions of Branding and Marketing

Branding: the promoting of a product by identifying it with a particular brand (brand: a public image, reputation, or identity conceived of as something to be marketed or promoted)

Marketing: the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service

Here's how I simplify these definitions:

:: Branding is promoting an image

:: Marketing is promoting a product or a service.

We often think of our brand as being our logo, colors, and fonts. Our brand can also include our personality, style, and philosophy.

Marketing is more about explaining our products and services to potential customers. Marketing requires clear communication and messaging. It’s how we train people to know what our products and services are—and how those products and services can help make their lives better.

Which do you need—Branding or Marketing?

Companies that are already widely known and understood can afford to focus on branding.  They can have logos and taglines that give no indication of what they do. They can have advertising campaigns that promote aspirational identities and emotions rather than specific products. Companies that focus their promotional campaigns on branding include these:

:: Starbucks
:: Apple
:: Budweiser
:: Coca-Cola
:: Toyota

But the rest of us? We need to educate our potential customers about what we do and how it can help them.

Marketing is Memorization

Another thing that Don Miller said at StoryBrand Live was this:

"Marketing should be an exercise in memorization."

The words we use when talking about our businesses create the foundation of our marketing. Our marketing messages should be clear and repetitive enough for people to memorize what we do.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that small businesses do not need branding. We need to define the image we want to display to the world. But the way that we will grow our businesses is with marketing.

And marketing begins with words.


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