Branding vs. Marketing: an artificial debate on comparison

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Recently I came across a post on LinkedIn which listed key ‘differences’ between branding and marketing. The post got a lot of comments (both positive and negative), was shared widely and debated. It’s another matter that there were several claimants to the authorship of that comparison (which was not pitting one against the other of course, just drawing a comparison. Anyway, I am digressing.

Marketing terminology: leaving a lot to interpretation

While there are many articles explaining the origin of the word brand one cannot say for sure who and in what context, used the word ‘branding’ first. In my view, it is one of those words whose meaning and usage is open to interpretation as it lacks a specific, agreed definition. In the course of a conversation regarding an ad campaign words such as ‘messaging’ and ‘positioning’ could prop up. Both of these words in that context could refer to the ‘single minded proposition’ of the ad. The word ‘branding’ is in that realm – people can use it to convey many things. ‘Omni-channel’ too is a coined word but it is not ambiguous and conveys that it a mindset to have a brand optimise its presence across channels such as print, TV, digital and more.

I have seen clients react to a film or a print ad with the comment, ‘branding is weak‘. In the case of a film that comment could mean that the brand is not repeated enough times in the film and hence viewers may not recall the brand. Or the worry could be that viewers may attribute it to the wrong brand (misappropriation). In the case of a print ad it could mean that the logo is not big or prominent enough. See the problem with ‘branding is weak’? One has to probe the client further to understand their specific concerns whereas they might think that they have conveyed all the problems by using the word ‘branding’.

It is another matter that worrying if the film will be memorable and be associated with the right brand should have happened at the strategy and scripting stage and not after the film is produced. It also points to the fact that the marketing & advertising industry suffers credibility issues from not having universally accepted (in the industry) specific terminology or jargon. The medical, legal and several other professions have specialist industry specific terms. Anybody using such is an industry insider or considered to be one. I am digressing again.

I also did not realise that reams of articles have already been written on the topic of differences between branding & advertising. In my view, this is a forced, artificial and manufactured comparison – the proverbial ‘apples & oranges. Moreover such debates will only serve to obfuscate and ‘jargonise’ the industry when simplifying is the crying need. Many in the marketing world use branding to refer to the brand identity or visual guideline system too.

Branding: an all-encompassing continuous process

In my view, while the word is used even to connote visual identity exercises – ‘branding’ and re-branding’ (revamp of a brand identity) to represent ‘branding’ – it is the summation of several marketing initiatives and communication exercises.

Among the few good explanations of branding:

The branding process is the systematic approach used to create, communicate and strengthen a firm’s brand. It consists of a number of sequential steps. These steps may vary depending on who is implementing the process and the specific outcomes the firm is trying to achieve.


Comparing marketing & branding is like listing differences between cardiology and angioplasty: one is a discipline and other is a process. During the branding process which helps brands create a preference in consumer’s minds, there could be several marketing initiatives such as a theme campaign, a tactical or topical ad, a new visual identity and so on.

Another article outlines the various stages of a branding process: Research, Strategy, Brand Identity, Brand Tools, Brand Launch and Brand Building.

The process of branding is a continuous routine of building and improving the brand to meet the demands of the current market, creating a strong perception and prolonging the company’s lifecycle. It is a systematic approach that adopts the methodology and defines the brand strategy template to realize marketing goals.


Nevertheless, I do see folks a lot more knowledgable, erudite and accomplished than me genuinely believe there is a difference between the two. Maybe the debate will rage on and have hundreds more articles published – like this one.

Do share your views. If you liked reading this post, consider reading my weekly compilations of creative ads – and occasional opinions on industry trends, a ritual of mine for the last few years.

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