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Branding vs. Marketing

Folks often use the terms branding and marketing interchangeably, which is confusing and misleading for those who aren’t in the industry.

I often have gotten questions about whether branding or marketing services would be most beneficial for small online businesses. 

Frankly, that’s a trick question.

They’re both crucial and deeply intertwined in a successful business strategy. 

First, let’s define both terms:

Branding: The purpose of your company and the promise it makes to its customers. Simply put, it is what people understand and expect your business to provide. This is communicated through consistent design choices such as color, imagery, layout, and logos. These come together to tell a story that is recognizable by your audience.

Marketing: As defined by the American Marketing Association, marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.

Essentially, branding defines who you are and what your business provides. Marketing is the tactics used to attract, convert, and retain customers. 

The two are used in tandem to develop a strong business strategy. 


Let’s break down an example of a company’s branding vs marketing. I got my required seasonal pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks last week, so they’re top of mind.

Starbucks, in its own words, is a people-business serving coffee. 

That is the essence of its brand. Starbucks created a location in between home and work where people can order coffee to their detailed specifications, enjoy a cafe ambiance, and have access to the same menu and offerings no matter where they are in the world.

That consistency is critical for any brand. Consistency generates trust, and trust develops into loyalty. 

This branding is seen in Starbucks’ marketing as well.

Take, for example, the mobile app. The Starbucks app is infused with the Starbucks branding, from the personalization to the color story, and the ability to customize every menu item. 

However, the app itself is a marketing tool. While the branding carries the story from an in-person experience to a mobile one, the app is used to promote offers, seasonal drinks, and store events. The app is also the core home for their loyalty rewards program. 

Starbucks is also known in the industry for its email marketing. This case study from Sendlane is an incredible deep-dive if you’re interested in learning more.

Again, in looking at its email marketing content, the company brand is clearly communicated both visually and through the content and copywriting.

They call out rewards, perks, and bonuses in email content, as well as upcoming releases, limited edition drinks, and promos.


All the content and promotional materials used in Starbucks’ email marketing is tailored to the user. The lists are segmented based on app usage, store visit frequency, and past purchases.

Do you better understand the difference between marketing and branding, now?

The two must be used together to successfully grow a business. Yet, understanding the differences and nuances between the two is important to developing tactics and strong messaging.

If you have more questions, reach out! I am happy to continue discussing this topic. :)

Valle Creative Consulting offers brand strategy, positioning, and messaging services. 

Nail down your brand identity and watch your business grow! 


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