The 4 Key Differences Between a Brand and Branding

The 4 Key Differences Between a Brand and Branding

Separated by a mere three letters, there’s a world of difference between the words “brand” and “branding.”  Too often, they are used interchangeably and interpreted in many different ways.  Common terms associated with both words include “naming,” “identity,” “tagline,” “packaging,” “advertising,” and so forth, mainly centered around tactical elements.

In our experience working with organizations in the service sector, the difference between the two ideas comes down to this:  A brand is a destination, where you want to end up, while branding is the journey or the roadmap to get you there.

There are other important differences between the two terms, some dealing with dollars and others that just make sense.

A brand is a goal; branding is a strategy.

From the breakthrough book, “Positioning – The battle for your mind,” (Trout and Ries), establishing a market position is a goal, it’s where you want to end up.  Similarly, owning a brand (position) is where you want to be in the minds (and hearts) of your customers.

Branding, on the other hand, is the multi-phased process of securing that position and includes key strategies around the developmental, operational, promotional, organizational, and cultural building-blocks of brand development.  This Blog has a dedicated post on these steps if you’re interested in learning more about these phases.

A brand is an asset; branding is an investment.

As it is often written, brands are the most valuable assets that companies possess.  According to Millward Brown, a worldwide market research company, brands account for more than 30% of the market value of companies in the S&P 500.  Relatively new branding companies such as Nike as well as the old guard like Proctor and Gamble have quantified the value of their respective brands and list them as assets on the balance sheet.

Branding is an investment of time, money, and other resources that organizations make in order to establish a well valued brand.  While promotional dollars account for a considerable portion of this expense, there are also operational and cultural investments that are made in order to deliver on the brand promise and protect its value proposition.

A brand is external; branding is internal.

Brands reside in the minds and hearts of your customers.  They provide more than the features of the product or service you’re offering.  They create a unique benefit with a layer of excitement, inspiration, and comfort.  Mostly, they are defined by your targeted consumers who choose to buy and become engaged with your brand.

Branding a product or service starts on the inside – from an exploration of core competencies to market research with key audiences.  The process, as stated above, continues with operational and cultural enhancements that continue to keep the brand premise front and center within the organization so the brand promise rings true with consumers.

A brand creates fan loyalty; branding inspires stakeholder equity.

Great brands have many great fans.  Apple lovers will not only buy every new gadget the company creates, but they’ll stand in line for hours in order to be the first to own a new device.  Brand fans also sport clothing and other “branded” items as well as engage in activities that support and feature their brand.

Branding includes strategies that inspire stakeholders, from employees to Board members, and create a sense of pride and ownership in the organization.  There have been many amazing examples of these types of programs that have been launched from diverse companies such as John Deere and the Cleveland Clinic.  If you have a chance to check out their on-line videos that are a component of the internal campaigns, they are well worth watching.

As more organizations seek out their approach to marketing, it is important to sort out the distinctions between brand and branding.  You, the marketer, will be intimately involved in the journey of branding while your consumers will choose to engage in your brand.


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