Branding and Marketing: Chicken or the Egg?

Branding. Marketing. The two terms have become so indistinct and nebulous that it’s hard to know where to start. In this article, we’ll make meaning of the mush that other marketers might tell you, giving brief but poignant insight into branding, marketing, and the relationship between the two.

Branding Defined

In an article published on, our founder, Dave McIndoe, explained why no business is too boring for branding. You don’t have to be a big retail name to reap the benefits of having a thoughtful and strategic brand. Professional services firms, industrial manufacturers and just about any business-to-business (B2B) company should all invest in branding. That said, the bar is set even higher for consumer-focused brands that are targeting the masses.

With or without a branding strategy, your brand will evolve. All the more reason you should be an active participant in its development.

So, what exactly is a brand? It is the combined visual representation of your organization as well as the energy that surrounds it.”

The three main areas we include in this description are the creative, the internal, and the written. The creative is the imagery, logo, and general “look and feel,” while the internal is the purpose and mission behind your existence. The written encompasses your brand voice, including syntax, style and tone. To sum it all up, consider branding to be every element, emotion and idea that someone experiences when they cross paths with your company.

Marketing Defined

Marketing, meanwhile, is more of a moving target involving many different tactics. Your website, blog, social media channels and email list are typically the best places to start building a foundational marketing strategy, but they’re only the beginning. When you bring in more refined strategies such as retargeting, geotargeting, display advertising and traditional advertising, the options and combinations become endless.

Which Comes First?

In another article for Forbes, McIndoe likens branding to being a “prerequisite.” The context is in comparison to rebranding, but the message is the same when we talk about marketing. Regardless of which one you call the chicken and which one you call the egg, branding should always come before marketing. We’ll explain why in the next section.

How Does Branding Affect Marketing?

Many business owners don’t realize the influence and value of a brand until they see one take shape for their company. Put simply, your brand permeates every aspect of your marketing. Every touch point is a chance for you to strengthen the brand image. If you do it right, every customer is a potential brand loyalist. At first, you might be tempted to think of the brand as the body and marketing as the brain. We’d be more inclined to say it’s the other way around – the brand drives the marketing.

An article on The Balance echoes our sentiment, writing that a brand “serves as a guide to understanding the purpose of business objectives” and “enables you to align a marketing plan with those objectives and fulfill the overarching strategy.” Any time a client comes to us with a marketing struggle, we first take a step back to determine if it’s actually a brand struggle. Again, marketing is essentially a matter of aligning tactics and executing a strategy, whereas branding is more introspective. Marketing says, “Here’s how we’re going to connect with our customers.” Branding says, “Here’s why our customers should want to connect with us.”

Choosing a Branding Agency

Most companies hire a creative marketing agency to bring their brand to life. And because branding and marketing go hand in hand, it’s best to partner with an agency that brings it all–branding, marketing, advertising, strategy and production–under one roof. That’s exactly what Netwave is able to do, and a big part of why so many of our clients come to us for all of their branding and marketing needs. Learn more and see examples of our branding services here, and contact us for an initial brand discovery session, on the house.