Branding vs Marketing vs Growth

Sometimes, when we start getting to know a prospect, and we start discussing their pain points and needs, we notice there are misconceptions about the overlap of branding, marketing and growth. Where do they each fit within the big picture? How do they interact?

“Brand first, market second” is the way a lot of professionals describe the difference between branding and marketing. Growth, as a newer field of marketing, has yet to be included in a punchy adage (we hope we’ll get there).

At Growth Guild, this is how we define some of these terms:

A brand is the promise you make to your customer. Strong brands can identify a product and differentiate it from its competitors, while at the same time creating an emotional response. The name, visual representation, tone of voice or a combination of those comprises a brand identity.

Branding is about positioning the brand to fill a need, meet an expectation, build trust and relationships. It’s a strategy you - as a company - use to “connect” your product or service with your brand values in order to make it stand out from the competition.

Brand Strategy is the long-term plan that develops a successful brand and meets a set of goals. A well-defined and executed brand strategy affects all aspects of a business and is directly connected to consumer needs, emotions and competitive environments.

Marketing is finding and growing a market for the brand that leads to growth. Usually, marketing efforts are focused on the top of the funnel: Awareness and Acquisition.

Marketing Strategy is determined by business goals, and involves segmenting markets, selecting target audiences, determining pricing, packaging and distribution, integrating media and executing creative campaigns.

Growth Marketing is a field within marketing that focuses on the entire funnel, not just the top, and looks to attract more engaged customers. The idea is that by guiding people through the funnel, we can help with a key factor for growth: customer retention.

At Growth Guild we are proud to be fearlessly creative and willing to measure everything, pivot when something doesn’t work and admit failure while at the same time getting customers who will stick around for your brand. We focus on the customer journey through the entire funnel, and can help you iterate fast as part of your team; but we are not a branding agency.

This is by design. While we feel that a brand identity and strategy are absolutely necessary for a company to align itself and its offerings in order to succeed, our collective experience and personalities make us better suited for the marketing side of the operation. The way our internal processes are structured allows us to quickly iterate or pivot; while a branding process requires periods of deep embedding into the culture of the company and oodles of research (of the market, the user and the product) and we can’t be both nimble when it comes to day-to-day market behavior and adherence to long, introspective processes based on past market data. If we wanted to operate consistently and with excellence, we had to choose one.

If you absolutely feel like a rebrand is the next step for your company, we are prepared to recommend someone out of a diverse portfolio of branding agencies and designers who would do a phenomenal job; or we can recommend for our partners in very early stages to perform an internal branding exercise that would allow for an organized branding effort at a fraction of the cost of a “real” brand (somewhere around two separate 90-minute sessions, plus a bunch of sticky notes).

Hopefully, you find this primer useful. Additional reading about the difference between marketing and branding can be found here—and a great synopsis of the balancing act between can be found here.

GrowthAstrid Storey