The difference between marketing and brand management

The difference between marketing and brand management

Early stage companies might feel that marketing and brand management overlap. But as you grow it’s important to understand how these two functions differ.

The line between brand management and marketing can be a little fuzzy. But there is a distinct difference between the two. While brand management is responsible for creating the brand itself, marketing handles the individual campaigns that promote the brand and generate brand engagement.

Companies need to understand what brand management and marketing are and where the two functions overlap and differ. Otherwise, they’ll struggle to build a strong, authentic brand that represents the whole business — it’ll just be a marketing tool.

What is brand management?

Brand management is the ongoing work you do to maintain a consistent brand identity. It ensures that everything your company produces – from digital collateral to physical products and human interactions – is on-brand. That includes all content, communication, products, events, sub-brands, and stylistic elements.

Your brand is the overall impression you leave with people, whether they’re your customers or not. It’s not your logo, color scheme, or products. It’s the feeling they get when they interact with your business online, over the phone, or in person.

Brand management is important because it shapes people’s impressions of your business. It includes:

  • Defining brand strategy. You define and formalize your brand values and mission, which guide the brand’s development over time. This helps employees to connect with the brand and builds brand equity internally.
  • Improving brand consistency and recognition. You create centralized brand guidelines detailing color schemes, fonts, images, tone, and values that everyone can use when communicating with customers and prospects. This helps your departments align on your visual identity and messages, to present a consistent brand image to the market.
  • Increasing brand engagement. You educate each department on how their individual roles affect how customers perceive your brand. Then, you give them the guidelines and resources they need to represent your brand correctly. You make all brand resources and materials accessible to everyone in the business, for example, on a shared drive or with a dedicated brand management platform.

Effective brand management strengthens your customer-facing brand by empowering every team member to represent the brand in their work — including your marketing department.

What is marketing?

Marketing is the process of getting people interested in your company’s product or service. Marketing involves:

  • Increasing awareness of your company and products. This is sometimes called increasing brand awareness and involves getting your product seen by a wide audience. Some common ways to do this include advertising campaigns, social media activity, and content marketing.
  • Identifying target markets for your company and products. You conduct market research and audience analysis to identify your target market for advertising campaigns and sales outreach. Commonly used market research methods include surveys, interviews, and focus groups. Then, you can use the insights from your research to put together your ideal customer profile and work out the best-fit target audience for your products.
  • Communicating your brand to your potential customers and target audience. Your marketing team creates and runs campaigns to generate and nurture leads. All of these use your brand visuals and messaging, which get your brand in front of target customers via your website, campaigns, and other marketing content such as emails or social media posts.

Marketing departments are often most involved in developing your brand, as they’re the heaviest users of your brand assets and messaging in their creative campaigns. In startups and smaller companies, this means the marketing team often owns the initial brand development, which is why it can be hard to understand the difference between the two functions.

Branding vs. marketing: What each team does for your brand

As companies grow, they often add a dedicated branding team to take ownership of brand management, strategy, and development. But marketing departments still have a lot of influence over your brand. Our State of Brand Ownership Report found that in a list of departments with the most brand ownership in a business, marketing teams rank #2 – second only to the CEO or leadership team. Here’s how each department contributes to the development of your brand.

Marketers are often the first owners of your brand in your company

Before companies have a dedicated brand department, it often falls to the marketing team to manage the development of the brand. This is because marketing teams create the materials and campaigns that are seen by the widest audience outside of the company. As a result, your marketing team understands the importance of brand consistency and how building a successful brand can distinguish you from your competitors.

For example, marketers know that it’s hard to establish brand recognition. Inconsistencies dilute brand messages and damage customers’ positive associations with your products. So, they create the first set of brand guidelines or creative guidance to help their own team achieve consistency across all their campaigns and assets. They lay the foundations for formalizing your brand and take ownership of its development in the earliest stages.

Brand managers define and document your brand

As your brand matures, it becomes too much for your marketing department to manage. At this stage, companies often create a dedicated brand management team. Brand managers take the lead in formalizing your brand. They work to define:

  • What your brand looks like: logos, color palettes, and visual style
  • How your brand sounds: your brand voice and tone
  • What your brand stands for: your values, mission, and purpose

They’ll likely involve other departments in this process to ensure they authentically represent the brand and what it means to everyone. Then, once they’ve defined your brand, they’ll document everything in company-wide brand guidelines. These guidelines are intended to give everyone in the business the information they need so they can use your brand resources themselves.

If you have a dedicated brand manager (or brand department), your marketing team can relinquish ownership of your brand. Instead of doing the work to define and develop it, they can use and represent it externally – just like any other team in the business.

Marketing teams bring your brand to life for potential customers

Think of your marketing department as the power users of your brand. They are the people who will use your brand assets most often. To maintain brand consistency and brand recognition, they’ll need to regularly access and use your logos, color palette, icons, and visual elements in their marketing campaigns and communications.

For example, the guidelines for your brand tone of voice are used to create social media posts, write scripts for YouTube and video ads, and draft blog content. Color schemes in your brand guidelines are infused into your email newsletters and used to advertise sales and charity events. And multi- or omnichannel campaigns are developed to integrate new products seamlessly into your brand.

Marketing teams may also use your brand to build an emotional connection with your existing customers, for example, through the tone and visual style of your regular marketing emails, newsletter, or social media activity. This can help to build long-term brand loyalty, as “88% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its product or services.”

Brand managers are the internal champions for your brand

Branding teams manage the internal engagement, use, and development of your brand. This includes:

  • Managing the creation and organization of brand assets and materials (often in centralized brand management software or just in a shared drive)
  • Communicating any updates or changes to the brand, such as when new assets are available to use in upcoming campaigns
  • Encouraging brand adoption across every team by educating each department on their role in communicating the brand to your customers

They champion the brand internally and help everyone in the business understand your brand’s importance. The strongest brands are co-owned by everyone in the organization, rather than just one person or department. So, brand managers aim to get everyone involved in developing the brand. This makes the brand more authentic because it combines many people’s ideas, values, and perspectives.

Brand authenticity matters to your potential customers. They’re savvy enough to tell the difference between a brand that’s living out its values and one that’s just talking about them. In fact, 88% of consumers say “authenticity is important when deciding which brands they like and support.”

Marketers build brand awareness outside the business

For many new customers, their first encounter with your brand will come from an advert or piece of content your marketing team has created. Unfortunately, 46% of consumers “can’t tell the difference between most brands’ digital experiences.” Marketing departments work hard to build brand recognition and awareness so customers can spot your products alongside your competitors.

They do this by running advertising campaigns that get your brand in front of a wide audience, for example, advertising on LinkedIn and YouTube or running display adverts. These get your brand spotted by as many people as possible to generate brand awareness.

Then, they run retargeting campaigns so that people see your brand multiple times. This helps to establish brand recognition over time. As customers don’t often differentiate between one brand and another, repetition and consistency of visuals and messaging are essential for differentiating your brand from competitors and building that familiarity for your customers.

Brand managers build brand equity within the business

Brand managers increase internal engagement with your brand so that every team knows how to represent and communicate the brand externally. They give every department access to brand assets, tools, and guidelines for creating on-brand materials and customer experiences. So, whether a customer sees a social media post or spends half an hour on the phone with customer support, their experiences are consistent with their expectations of the brand.

Consistent customer experiences help to establish trust in the business, which builds brand equity over time. Brand equity is the value people place on a business based on their perceptions of its quality. Companies with high brand equity can charge more for their products than a competitor. Customers consider that brand the best option, so they are willing to pay more for it.

Brand management is the foundation to build your marketing campaigns on

In small companies, brand and marketing often go hand in hand. A strong brand enables your marketing team to create more impactful campaigns but will also allow departments across your organization to innovate and branch into new territory without losing your brand image.

But because brand management plays such a critical role in the development and maintenance of a brand, it’s important not to blend it with your marketing work. A dedicated branding team frees up your marketing department to focus on revenue-generating work for the business. It also helps to increase brand adoption and engagement internally.

Oskar Duberg
Oskar Duberg
Senior Brand Content Specialist