The difference between branding strategy and marketing strategy

As a business, whether you’re just starting out, you’re looking to rebrand or change your business, or you just want to grow and sustain engagement, there are two parts of your business you need to get right: the branding strategy and the marketing strategy.

Unfortunately they are areas that many teams either fail to separate, or completely confuse. The two are closely connected, and arguably, you can’t have one without the other, but recognising their difference is key in allowing you to utilise them effectively.



What is a branding strategy?

Branding is the substance that makes up your business. It encompasses your company values, unique selling point, target audience and overall mission statement. Your branding strategy affects your audience’s entire experience with your company, and therefore must be carefully considered at the very inception of the company, product or service. Ensuring your branding strategy is well-defined means that audiences are clear about what your company is offering, not just in terms of product, but also in terms of value, culture and position. It can also help internal company relationships, by helping to align different departments, identifying opportunities and establishing guidelines for efficient decision making.


What is a marketing strategy?

So, if we imagine that branding is what your audience is consuming, marketing is the vessel within which you deliver the goods. It deals with how you communicate with your audience, and what you do to get your message out to customers. Marketing, put simply, is the active promotion of your brand. It is goal-driven and requires selecting target audiences, deciding on pricing, distribution, media and public relations, and how campaigns are executed.

Another key difference between branding strategy and marketing strategy is the difference between long and short-term commitment. Branding strategy is a long-term commitment to your audience, and branding should be consistent across all channels and campaigns. Marketing strategy can be more malleable, and might be influenced by time of the year, important news stories or social movements.




Since branding influences the entire way your audience views your product, it is important to get it right. One example of strong branding strategy come from luxury car company Tesla. With a base price of $71,000, it is more expensive than its rivals. As well as this, Forbes describe the company as: “one of those companies that doesn’t make sense on paper” due to it consistently failing to meet production targets. The way Tesla has managed to combat this has been by focusing on the brand’s unique selling point rather than the price. Tesla Motors produce high-quality electric vehicles, setting them apart from the other gas powered luxury cars, and lower-quality electric cars. Quirky features like ‘Ludicrous Mode’ – a new mode that will mean the Model S sedan will be able to reach 0-60 in 2.8 seconds – and the use of an app to control the boot, the car temperature, or even help with parking, mean that Tesla are viewed by consumers as a company that aren’t just offering a car, they’re offering the future of travel. This is supported by the futuristic looking logo, and the strapline: “It’s more than electric, it’s Tesla” featured in their branding guidelines.

As well as the company branding, CEO Elon Musk has been particularly clever in creating a brand of himself. Dubbed as the first CEO influencer, Musk has made a name for himself by utilising social media and being outspoken about his views on renewable energy and investing in the future, a very popular and bold stance in today’s society. By being hyper-communicative, Musk has added to the branding of his company, which gives the overall business longevity and authenticity.

An example of branding strategy that just didn’t quite get it right is the Discovery Inc owned Travel Channel. The channel, that broadcasts documentaries, reality TV, and other shows related to travel, decided to rebrand in 2018 to go with its refreshed viewing line-up.

Although the channel name on the TV guide remained the same, the logo missed out the vowels in ‘travel’. This meant that viewers who saw the channel advertised were looking for the “Trvl Channel” instead of the “Travel Channel”. It also received bad reviews from brand agencies and publications, with Brand New stating:

“They only had four letters to integrate and each of them look like they belong in different fonts, while the arrow shares none of the traits of the letters. “CHANNEL” underneath has its own agenda going, rocking some major ink traps. Based on the promo video, it looks like Travel Channel is now about haunted places and paranormal stuff but the scariest thing you will find in their programming is this new logo.”

Brand guidelines are essential to ensuring your company mission and your values are reflected in the way your brand is designed. Replicating that over channels can be difficult, but well worth the pay off, when done correctly.

Find out more about maintaining brand consistency across online and offline channels with our top five tips.



Once you’ve decided on your brand, how you market it is arguably the next most important consideration. One company that has shown a consistently thoughtful marketing strategy has been Nike. It’s branding is strong to begin with and themes of inclusivity and activism stand out straight away. On top of this, a simple and recognisable logo, the patented waffle-tread sole and the famous faces we attribute to the brand help to keep Nike relevant to a wide audience.

However, the way Nike has delivered its brand to audiences is what we should really be applauding. The company has embraced controversy, lending a voice to women in sports and the black lives matter movement, campaigns which have divided opinion but ultimately placed Nike in the public eye and increased online sales by 31%, in the case of Colin Kaepernick’s “Stand for Something” campaign with the company.

This strategy works so well as it taps into a younger demographic, who believe that brands should be more vocal in standing for a cause. By attracting a younger demographic, Nike are remaining relevant in a competitive market.

Using emotive content with a strong message that appeals to us a humans, Nike is able to use key social issues to drive leads to retail, all without linking or pricing a product.

Interested in brand activism and how you can incorporate this into your marketing strategy? Read our handy guide to brand activism here.

On the other hand, Dove, who have placed their brand as an inclusive place to celebrate diversity and all beauty, failed in their marketing strategy back in 2017 when their advert for their body wash was criticised for being racist:

The advert, which places a black woman as the “before” of a bizarre before and after image, outraged audiences across social media, with many people drawing parallels between this and the soap adverts of yesteryear.


Although Dove pulled the advert and posted an apology on Twitter, it was too late for the brand, with the hashtag #BoycottDove trending shortly after the advert landed. Of course, the intention of the ad was not to cause offence but brands need to be mindful of their creative and promote positive messages at all times.



Well, it’s easy.

First, get your branding strategy right. Consider what you’re offering to a customer and how you fulfil that. Create a well-defined creative to back this offering and support your mission, your values and your personality.

From there, you have the basis of what you need to create a strong marketing strategy. Take time to understand your audience and what they want and serve them content they’ll be interested in. Always value that, over your return and you’ll be onto a guaranteed winner.


Find out more about our work in branding by taking a look at the work we recently did for Everton’s, The People’s Project. Creating a local, football friendly brand to encourage public consultation results was no mean feat. Find out how we did it.

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