Have you ever spoken with someone who uses “branding” and “marketing” interchangeably? For whatever reason, they don’t seem to understand that these are two different concepts?
It can be frustrating — especially because each term is unique and important in its own way. And for a company to be successful, they need to utilize both branding and marketing techniques. One without the other just doesn’t make sense!
While marketing refers to the strategies, campaigns, and processes that you use to promote your business to consumers, branding is the process of defining your brand — what your mission is, what your values are, and what makes you stand out.
But which one comes first, and how do they build off of one another? This article will take a look at the differences and similarities between branding and marketing — as well as provide an example for better comprehension.
Branding vs. Marketing: The Main Differences
As previously mentioned, branding and marketing have a good deal of overlap, but, ultimately, they are two different concepts.
Of the two, branding has to come first — after all, how can you promote your business if you don’t know who you are? Thus, it's the process of defining and building your brand. Everything from your logo to your brand mission to your chosen colors — they are all integral components.
At the end of the day, branding is what makes your company unique, it’s how you stand out from the crowd. It’s also what allows consumers to recognize and remember your company. Therefore, it makes complete sense that branding comes first when dealing with these two important concepts.
Next, let's define marketing. Similar to branding, marketing is a process used to connect with consumers. However, it’s far more focused on promoting your products and services, aka driving sales. And while branding generally remains consistent, marketing techniques can (and should) change over time.
You should always be looking for new, cutting-edge ways to promote your brand and gain consumers’ attention via marketing research. So while branding and marketing exist in a highly symbiotic relationship, they are not one and the same.
How Do Branding and Marketing Build Upon One Another?
Now that we are all on the same page concerning each term’s definition, let’s discuss how they build upon one another and work together toward a brand’s success.
While branding takes precedence when create a brand, it’s usually your marketing materials that consumers notice first. A great brand identity is one thing, but if you aren’t able to attract consumers’ attention via marketing campaigns, then what’s the point?
In an ideal setup, your marketing materials set the stage and introduce consumers to your company — piquing their interest and inviting them to learn more. However, it’s your branding that maintains their focus and encourages their loyalty.
After all, an eye-catching ad is just the first step — you need to convince consumers that your brand is special and worth their investment. And it’s also branding that drives retention and keeps customers coming back for more. From positive brand associations to high levels of brand preference and trust, strong branding is what makes for happy, loyal customers.
All in all, it’s vital that your branding and marketing strategies go hand-in-hand — where one feeds into the other and vice versa. Marketing should draw consumers in, good branding should keep them coming back. Marketing should be flexible and adaptable, branding should be consistent and reliable.
Where one may falter, the other should excel. Of course, it’s not always easy to find the perfect recipe for both strong marketing and excellent branding. But many companies have — and to elucidate this point, let’s consider the following example.
Case Study: Amazon Kindle
Source: Business Wire
Amazon is a behemoth of the industry. Selling everything from electronics to books to groceries, this brand has its hands in many markets. It’s also the world’s largest e-commerce platform, meaning it has a bit of an unfair advantage over its competitors.
Representing a sub-brand of the Amazon monopoly is the Amazon Kindle — which offers both a physical e-reader and an app.
The Kindle e-reader allows users to buy, download, and read eBooks instantly from Amazon’s marketplace. Whereas the Kindle app can be downloaded onto many different devices and provides access to the same Amazon library.
For the purposes of this case study, we will be focusing on the Kindle e-reader.
First, let’s discuss the Kindle’s branding — aka what makes it unique among the competition. As part of the Amazon brand, it positions itself as easy-to-use, cost-effective, and accessible.
While those brand associations are accurate and beneficial to the Kindle’s success, that’s not really what makes it stand out. Compared to other digital eBook experiences, the Kindle has some special USPs.
First, the Kindle offers an e-ink display, which looks almost exactly like a real book. To be fair, Amazon did not invent e-ink technology — that honor goes to MIT’s Media Lab. But of all the available e-readers on the market, the Kindle has been the most successful with it.
To simplify a somewhat complicated process, e-ink uses microcapsules filled with white positive particles and black negative particles, which are manipulated by electrical fields. To produce its monochromatic text, the e-reader applies differently charged fields to different parts of the screen — and voilá, a page from a book.
Again, the e-ink display is not unique to the Kindle itself. But as the most well-known e-reader that uses this technology, for many consumers, the e-ink display is unique to Kindle.
Next, there’s the fact that because an e-ink display is used, the Kindle doesn’t strain readers’ eyes or emit any harmful light. Reading eBooks on your phone or iPad is convenient, but it can quickly tire users and even damage eyesight over time. Thus, the Kindle is better for users’ long-term health — something other digital eBook mediums cannot boast.
Additionally, because the Kindle does not refresh its screen as a typical phone or iPad does, it has a particularly long battery life — meaning users only have to recharge it every few days or weeks, depending on the frequency of use. Compared to devices with LED screens, this is a huge advantage.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Kindle exists within the Amazon ecosystem. As USPs go, that means it’s able to offer consumers a flawless end-to-end experience. With ties to authors, publishers, reviewers, and other book retailers, the Amazon Kindle had its hands in almost every area related to ebooks.
But what does that mean in practice? As Dheeraj Nanduri points out in his article “The Kindle Success Story”, being a part of the Amazon empire comes with some huge advantages. He explains, saying:
“Kindle didn’t stop with just the physical e-reader but also had apps for all the common mobile operating systems. So, Amazon was making Ebooks accessible to all.
"An avid reader would purchase a Kindle physical e-reader. And, people who didn’t buy the Kindle e-reader could always download books on their phones through the app. Amazon was involved in the Ebook market in every way.”
Kindle has branded itself as the go-to e-reader for anyone who loves the look of a real book, but hates the bulk and inconvenience of carrying them around. It’s easy to use, convenient, and long-lasting — making it stand out in its market.
To be fair, Kindle doesn’t need to do too much marketing to remain competitive — as it’s pretty much dominated the e-reader market. However, the Kindle has been advertised in some fun, creative ways over the years.
Let’s take a look at some of the most memorable ads.
Back in 2010, Kindle released a marketing campaign that included a series of ads about recognizing the signs that it’s time to get a Kindle. From eyestrain to the discomfort of heavy books, Kindle focused on its main USPs and brand differentiators to grab the attention of consumers.
In terms of branding, each ad includes Kindle’s logo at the bottom, but, otherwise, the campaign was more focused on piquing the interest of potential customers by lauding Kindle’s unique highlights.
Source: Alex Smith Design
In 2017, Kindle launched a new ad campaign that focused on the “All-New Kindle”. With a smaller, lighter design, more storage, and 3G capabilities, the revamped Kindle was marketed heavily on many channels.
Source: Alex Smith Design
From tube ads to billboards, this marketing campaign was wide-reaching. Clearly, Kindle wanted to speak to their target audience at various stages of their daily commute and in their regular routine.
Thus, this campaign also was featured in newspapers and magazines — reaching avid readers in their natural environment.
Interestingly, these ads feature Kindle’s branding a good bit more. With the logo omnipresent and the brand's color palette of black, white, and yellow used almost exclusively, it seems that Kindle was testing a more integrated approach to its branding and marketing.
Now that they were more of a household name with higher brand awareness than in 2010, they could lean into their branding more to inspire trust and recognition in consumers.
Source: Ads of the World
In 2019, Kindle released a series of sleek, minimalistic ads, seen above. These ads provided a whimsical, visual representation of one of Kindle’s main USPs — convenience. After all, a Kindle user has access to hundreds of books without having to lug them all around.
Once again, Kindle’s branding is minimal, with its logo design present in the bottom right corner. However, the inclusion of a slogan is helpful and leans more towards their branding. And when this phrase becomes associated with Kindle, seeing it on ads will increase brand recognition.
Bonus Insights from Latana
Based on survey data collected with our brand tracking, software we were able to identify what consumers considered to be Amazon Kindle’s top brand values and associations in 2020.
In terms of said values, we found that 34% of respondents aged 16-25 said that the Kindle gave them “a sense of comfort” and 24% of those aged 26-40 said it’s “a place for people like me”. Clearly, Kindle has done a good job of creating a product that feeds into their overall branding — comfort, belonging, and ease of use.
Considering Kindle’s brand associations, 49% of all respondents said that the Kindle provided “good value” and 36% said it’s “trustworthy”. Again, it’s clear that Kindle’s branding efforts have not been in vain, as their top associations match up well with their own USPs.
Since its arrival on the market, the Kindle has evolved a good bit. With different editions available — some of which are on their 10th or 11th generation — Kindle positions itself as a solid choice for a wide range of consumers.
It’s also a great example of how a wildly successful company uses both branding and marketing to move its products and services forward. While branding strategies establish the “who, what, and why” to improve brand recognition and consideration, the marketing plan grabs consumers’ attention and drives leads.
No company can be successful without utilizing both branding and marketing. Each one should support the other, creating a well-rounded brand marketing strategy that not only attracts the attention of new consumers but keeps them coming back for more.