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What is the Difference Between Branding & Marketing? What’s More Important?

Can one survive without the other?

When we think about branding and marketing, we typically think of them as two separate systems that work together to help companies get known and attract customers.

Surely, you can recognize the importance of both branding and marketing, but is one more essential than the other? Should branding come before marketing, or vice versa?

In this video, Chris sits down with brand strategists Melinda Livsey and Fabian Geryhalter to discuss the difference between branding and marketing.

This conversation stems from a rather “controversial” video from Donald Miller, the author of Building a Story Brand. In the original video, Miller explains that companies should not even think about branding before they’ve hit a certain amount of annual revenue, and that marketing should always come first.

This sent the creative community into a bit of a frenzy, and Chris, Melinda, and Fabian take a deep dive to try to see Miller’s point of view.

What is Branding?

We usually stick to Marty Neumeier’s definition of branding: A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or organization. Brand is not what you say it is—it’s what they say it is.

As Fabian puts it, branding is what establishes the “why” behind a company. From there, you can establish a look and feel, and differentiate the company through positioning.

What is Marketing?

Marketing is advertising. It’s the all-encompassing strategy of promotion and communication a company has with an audience.

Here’s a definition of marketing taken from Allan Dib’s 1-Page Marketing Plan:

“If the circus is coming to town and you paint a sign saying ‘Circus Coming to the Showground Saturday,’ that’s advertising. If you put the sign on the back of an elephant and walk it into town, that’s promotion. If the elephant walks through the mayor’s flower bed and the local newspaper writes a story about it, that’s publicity. And if you get the mayor to laugh about it, that’s public relations. If the town’s citizens go to the circus, you show them the many entertainment booths, explain how much fun they’ll have spending money at the booths, answer their questions and ultimately, they spend a lot at the circus, that’s sales. And if you planned the whole thing, that’s marketing.”

Which is more important?

Well, that answer is not so cut-and-dried. Both are extremely important for any company to succeed. Marketing and branding require companies to understand the customers; anticipating their needs, connecting with them, and developing a relationship.

What do you think? Do you feel branding should come first, or marketing? Watch the full video above, and see if your perspective on the subject changes at all.

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