Branding Vs. Marketing – which is more important

Throughout my career I have often witnessed debates over which is more important, branding or marketing.  And, in each of these debates, it became clear that the “debaters” were using both terms interchangeably when indeed both are, and must always remain, mutually exclusive.

So let’s start with a clear definition of each:  A brand is the perception people have of what to expect from a company and its products and/or services.  For example, most of us would intuitively know what to expect when staying at a Ritz Carlton or at a Holiday Inn.  Both are successful brands but both deliver unique expectations from each other.  The same would be true of smart phones; there are those that, for example, favor iPhone and those that favor Samsung.  Both are good brands and both have loyal followers with clear perceptions of what to expect from their “favorite” brand.  That’s called loyalty, the goal of any brand.

At its core, a company’s brand is its promise of what people should expect when purchasing that brands’ product or service. Stated another way, how that brand will enhance a particular aspect of their life.  For example, if you run a mortgage company consider the many life cycles that create a need for a mortgage: first time buyers that are frequently candidates for FHA loans, move up buyers, jumbo buyers, relo’s and move down buyers.  Consider focusing and building a brand promise around unique buyer segments versus trying to be a lender to all.  The more unique and the more consistently a company delivers upon that promise the more likely they will create a successful and memorable brand.  And, over time, that brands’ perception and success will expand in large part by their customers returning time and again to experience the same promise and thru those customers telling others of their experiences. Brands succeed through consistency and fail by inconsistency of delivering upon their brands promise.

So now, let’s look at marketing and its definition.  Simply stated, marketing is the process used to deliver the message of that brands’ promise into the marketplace. It is the process of carefully identifying the target market for a brand and utilizing the best channels to reach those prospects including print, radio, TV, public relations, social media, outdoor, digital, web, trade shows and even skywriting if good prospects are congregated at an event.  Every one of those channels must showcase and reinforce the unique “promise” the brand offers.

So there you go, branding is creating a perception and marketing is taking that perception to market.  Each needs the other to succeed. Now, going back to the headline and answering the question of which is more important; I would have to vote for brand.  The reason is that marketing a scattered brand that does not have a clear promise is simply a waste of money.  Creating a brand that can pierce through all the rhetoric in the media and clearly communicate its value proposition through its marketing strategy will withstand the test of time and prevail no matter what economic conditions exist.  Do you agree with my vote?  Send your thoughts to