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Brand Strategy vs Marketing Strategy: The who and the how

As a small business owner, you know that you have a brand, and you know that you need to market it. Slip your CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) hat on for a moment, and let’s consider the brand strategy vs marketing strategy. Do they overlap at all? If so, how?

TL;DR answer: Branding and marketing strategies are distinctly different but equally important to your business’ long-term success. While both are critical components of your overall business plan, they serve unique purposes and require different tactics.

Let’s dive into some of the details.

What is a brand strategy?

A brand strategy is your business’ long-term plan to define its core values, establish a unique position in the marketplace, and project your message to as many potential customers as possible. Having a solid brand strategy in place helps you differentiate from your competitors and create a particular image of the company in the minds of your target audience.

A great brand strategy helps:

  • Elevate your credibility and reputation
  • Improve customer relationships
  • Develop your company culture
  • Increase brand awareness

A brand strategy incorporates several different brand components:

What is a marketing strategy?

Your marketing strategy is your secret weapon for achieving growth and success. It’s all about grabbing your audience’s attention and guiding them toward a sale.

A solid marketing strategy helps:

  • Drive more leads and sales
  • Boost your market share
  • Improve profitability

Your marketing strategy comprises various campaigns, each using different channels like social media, content marketing, email marketing, or SEO. The success of each campaign is measured against its goals and objectives, giving you relevant insights to adjust your strategy accordingly. As such, your marketing strategy ensures you’re not just throwing things against the wall to see what sticks; it gives you a solid plan of action based on your brand strategy.

You may also be interested in: Break Free From the Checklist Mentality: The importance of a digital marketing strategy

What’s the difference between a brand strategy vs marketing strategy?

As you probably noticed in the above definitions, there is some overlap between brand and marketing strategies—ultimately, the intent of both is to serve your overall business goals. The main difference, however, is that a brand strategy shapes who your company is and what it stands for. In contrast, marketing strategy is all about how and what you communicate. Another key difference is that your marketing strategy evolves as the marketing landscape changes, whereas your brand strategy rarely changes (when it does, it’s typically due to a major business pivot). In short, think of your brand strategy as the foundation that drives your marketing strategy.

What comes first: marketing or branding?

For any business, branding comes first. Your brand is who you are; it’s the core of your marketing strategy and your long-term promise to your customers. That’s why, before you start marketing your product or service, it’s essential to have a clear brand position and message that reflects your values consistently across all channels. Once you have a strong brand identity, you can develop marketing strategies and campaigns that build authentic connections with your customers.

You may also be interested in: 5 effective digital marketing strategies for small businesses in 2023

Let’s look at an example from a familiar brand

A company like Starbucks has had the same core branding (brand strategy) for decades. But how they communicate with their audience (marketing strategy) changes frequently. The company’s marketing and branding strategies work together to improve its market share and support its growth.

Starbucks embraces its brand values to create a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome. A general brand strategy for Starbucks would look something like this:

Mission: With every cup, with every conversation, with every community, we nurture the limitless possibilities of human connection.

Primary target audience: Males and females, including professional employees and students aged between 22–60 years; serious coffee drinkers and non-coffee drinkers who want a place to socialize or conduct business.

Brand positioning: Starbucks has positioned its brand around coffee culture and a world-class retail environment.

Visual identity: Starbucks’ logo design hasn’t strayed far from the original version, but today’s familiar icon is nonetheless the result of a series of evolutions. The green and white logo has now become so recognizable that Starbucks didn’t even put the company’s name on the latest iteration. (Have you ever noticed the hidden detail?)

Starbucks’ marketing strategy brings the brand to life. Have you heard of the Starbucks Stories campaign? It’s an entire website dedicated to telling stories that relay the brand’s social impact. These stories are shared across the brand’s social media channels, emphasizing the commitment to teamwork, solidarity, care and support that forms part of the brand’s strategy.

How brand strategy and marketing strategy work together

When looking at brand strategy vs marketing strategy, keep in mind that they work hand in hand to achieve your business goals. Your business strategy lays the foundation for your brand strategy, which then guides your marketing strategy. Marketing aims to bring customers to your door, but it’s also an effective brand strategy that keeps them coming back.

Optimize your strategies for success

The key takeaway is that small businesses (not just Starbucks!) should invest in developing both a strong brand strategy and a well-rounded marketing strategy. When thoughtfully crafted and aligned, they can work together to increase customer engagement, brand loyalty, and long-term growth. Get in touch with our team today if you’re looking to develop or refine your brand or marketing strategies. We’d love to help you get your brand on the right track. Start with a free marketing discovery call.

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