When it comes to the war of branding vs. marketing, marketing might win a few battles…

But branding wins the war.

When used together, they produce significant, long-term results for your business.

A modern dashboard and car steering wheel baring the BMW logo is pictured, shaded in purple. BMW is a great example of why branding beats marketing.

Something We Can All Identify With

I like cars.

A lot.

I drive an old BMW that I bought last year—a 2008 that already had 64,000 miles on it.

I was ecstatic on the day I bought it, and I’m still stoked about that decision today.

I could have bought a new Kia for roughly the same price, but the thought never crossed my mind.


Why not?


Branding is why BMW got my business.

What the BMW Brand Accomplished

Branding is the image or reputation that comes attached to an organization and its product/service.

Through consistent messaging based on their overall brand, BMW has instilled in me a sense of who they are as a company and the care that goes into building their high-quality automobiles:

  • Performance
  • Craftsmanship
  • Reliability
  • Comfort
  • Status

That brand won me over with little contest from the dozens of competitors with decent reputations.

You might disagree with my taste in cars and make your choices based on criteria that are different from mine—no problem.

But, from a business perspective, consider this:

There are tons of BMW fans—devoted folks who buy a newer version every few years or drive one for 200,000 miles, telling everybody they possibly can along the way.

Those words of praise stick in the minds of those friends, family members, and co-workers who may have never considered buying a BMW before…

But they probably will think about it now—mission accomplished.

Where Kia’s Marketing and Advertising Failed

There are millions of Kia owners, and Kia’s making plenty of money selling inexpensive, reliable cars.

That’s great, but there’s a catch…

I’ve seen dozens of Kia commercials in the past few years that contained snappy slogans, neat visuals, and even serious discounts.

However, none of them were likely to turn me into a Kia enthusiast.

I don’t think I’m alone on that point. I have never heard someone swear up and down that they’ll never buy anything but a Kia until they die.

See where this is going?

Kia’s marketing may sell some cars today, but it isn’t selling a lifetime of cars through relationships with its customers—at least not yet.

Marketing may win a battle today, but branding wins the war.

Branding vs. Marketing: What’s the Difference?

The brand is bigger than any individual marketing effort or advertising campaign.

The brand is the overall “look and feel” of your organization—its reputation.

The brand is your overall message that drives home:

  • Who you are (and who your customers become when they associate with you)
  • What you believe in (and what ideologies, principles, or beliefs your customers hold, or take on for themselves, when they associate with you)
  • What problems you solve for your customers or how you make their lives better (including “invisible” problems, like improving status or displaying support/association with a group of people)

The brand sticks in potential customers’ minds when a product, service, or organization is mentioned, whether or not they choose to open their wallets and make a purchase at that particular point in time.

The goal is for them to remember you the next time they need what you offer.

Marketing—Your Delivery System

Marketing is a collection of tools that get your brand’s message (plus add-on tidbits like discounts or special offers) into people’s hands, including:

  • Blog posts
  • Social media
  • Email campaigns
  • Commercials
  • Print ads

What kind of results can you expect from these message-delivery tools if you don’t have a strong underlying message?

How effective is an announcement about a new product or service if the people seeing it have no real concept of who you are as a business?

Marketing loses most of its oomph unless the message it carries is clear and addresses the problems you solve for your customers.

On the other hand, when you have a compelling, engaging message that initiates a lifetime relationship of value, the game (and the numbers) swings entirely in your favor.