Marketing vs. Branding: What Comes First?

Whether you have been a business owner for years on end, or you’re just getting started, you probably know that getting the word out about what you do and building loyalty are both important aspects of building a successful business. If you’re not sure where to start, you’re not alone.


Marketing and branding are terms that are often tossed around interchangeably, making it confusing when you are trying to figure out which one to focus on and when. 


What Is The Difference Between Marketing & Branding? 


The concept of marketing vs. branding is tricky because they are actually two separate concepts that rely on one another to succeed. Here we break down the definition of marketing, the definition of branding, when to focus on each, and how you can use both of them to take your business to the next level. 


Marketing has one goal: to generate interest in the product or service you offer in your business. It takes shape in the form of tools, strategies, and processes to promote what you do (think Google ads, social media, etc.). It is the action or activity that you take to communicate the benefit of your product or service to your target audience (customers or clients). Marketing is what gets people in the door, so to speak. 


On the flipside, branding is about defining who you are and what you represent. Branding takes shape in pieces like your website, your logo, and your voice. It is your mission, your culture, and your message—what makes you and your company unique, special and helps you stand out in a crowd of competitors. Good branding builds loyalty, makes you recognizable, and keeps customers and clients coming back year after year because you are you


What Comes First: Marketing or Branding? 



We all know the age-old ‘chicken before the egg’ scenario, and many people like to apply it to the marketing vs. branding argument. There is a very simple answer to this question, though: branding always comes first! 


Before you can start marketing your business to your target audience, you need to know what you’re marketing! Think about your relationship with your target customers like any other relationship: how will you attract the perfect partner if you don’t even know who you are yet? If you don’t know what your interests are, or what your values are, or what is important to you? You can’t because without defining those qualities in yourself, you won’t be able to define them in anyone else. 


Branding: How To Do It Right


If you’re still confused about branding, think about the difference between Starbucks and Tim Horton’s, both of which have a very loyal following who will not stray to the competitor. How do you tell the difference between Starbucks and Tim Horton’s? It’s their logo, their consistency in flavour and the culture they represent. They market to different audiences, and they’re both really good at it. But, before Starbucks decided on their infamous logo, they sat down and answered a whole lot of questions about themselves! Before you plan a marketing strategy, you must establish your brand. How? You need to establish a few things first: your purpose, your personality and voice, your culture, and your values. Start by asking yourselves questions like: 


  • Why did I want to build this business in the first place? 
  • Who do I want to help? Why? 
  • How do I want to be perceived by my clients, customers and the general public? 
  • What values do I want to govern my business by (choose 3 – 5)? 


Start with general answers, and then get a little bit more specific. The answers to these questions will help steer you in the right direction as you make choices about things like your website design, your logo design and colours and the type of content you share on social media, which gets us to the next stage: marketing! 


Marketing: Communicating Your Brand To Your Target Audience


Now that you have a better understanding of who you are, who your ideal customer is and what your business stands for, you can start thinking about marketing strategies. By having that branding in place, when you begin to establish your marketing, your existing and target customers will better be able to recognize and relate to what it is you are trying to sell them. 


Combining a top-notch marketing plan with a truly authentic and well-thought-out branding foundation will set any business on the path to success. So, there really is no ‘marketing vs. branding’ because together, they will take your business to the next level. If you need a hand developing your branding or marketing strategies, Forty Four is here to help! Whether you are just beginning or hoping to rebrand your business, we will be with you from start to finish.