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Separated at Birth — The Difference Between Brand Strategy & Marketing

What's in a brand strategy?

These are the kinds of pseudo-philosophical questions that keep business owners up at night. 

To understand brand strategy better, let's start with the 'brand' aspect: What makes up a brand? When we speak about brand "identity", we start to approach the idea of a brand as a person — and, in fact, this comparison can help immensely. 

A unique brand identity, like an individual's identity, is made up of the voice of the brand, the tone it sets, the theme it chooses, its messaging and how it chooses to convey its messages (light? playful? serious? innocent? curious?), how it visually presents itself and what choices and decisions it makes in alignment with these cross-functional aspects of an identity.

But to keep it easy, think of it in this way:

  • Brand strategy is who the business is. 
  • Marketing strategy is how the business expresses who it is and what actions it takes to showcase that.

Often, it's the sphere of 'how' where brand strategy and marketing often get confused. The question becomes 'If 'who we are' is wrapped up with the 'how', how should our business define the difference?'

It's not as convoluted as it first appears and, yes, you can definitely have a clearly demarcated checklist. Let's take a look. 

The difference between what you do today & leaving your mark in tomorrows world.

Brand Strategy

Before your business can get to the details of the 'how' — such as getting found using SEO, creating ad campaigns, or strategising and implementing sales funnels — you've got to zoom out and articulate, the driving values and principles behind your product or service. 

This is the brand.  

A brand strategy is something responsive, flexible, open to change — that defines your business's purpose, its positioning in the market, the values by which you operate, the vision you're trying to create through your company's service/product, and the target customer who resonates with and shares in these concepts and ideas. 

Included in a brand strategy is the brand's visual identity. Remember those aspects of an individual's identity we discussed above? Voice, tone, and "visual presentation" are part of a brand's signature identity. This comes through in messaging, via copy, logo design, interactive user elements, fonts, typography, formatting and style guides.

Brand strategy is the unitary DNA, the guiding soul of a business, which helps you, thereafter, make focused and clear decisions based on this standard. 

You'll be able to ask, "Does this campaign align with who we are?" or "Does this logo really capture what we value visually?" or even, "Based on our brand strategy, we want to send this message and use this copy, versus something else."

It's like a compass and a map. Complete with Google Business reviews and street views, if you'd like. 

It's only based off of this identity that your marketing department can operate at all.

Marketing Strategy 

So how do you express your brand's identity and strategy? What actions will you choose to take to get the word out? What are the tactics and techniques you'll be using and where will you be operating?

That's marketing strategy and it can occur in various formats, including content and inbound marketing, digital campaign development (using Adwords, Google Display Network, Facebook Ads), social strategy (posting, type of posts, schedule), PR, omnichannel marketing, email marketing and even print/catalog marketing. 

These are the vehicles that move your brand message from within to without, towards your ideal audiences and customers. 

You can use a blend of these strategies or focus on just one or two. It's a combination of brand strategy plus budget, customer data, tech trends and campaign customer data that drives your pivots. 

Marketing strategies include:

  • Establishing KPIs, metrics, and goals for your campaigns'
  • Narrowing down user personas, based on a blend of customer surveys as well as incoming data in the first phases of your business
  • Performing a competitive review to make sure you're developing your messaging alongside your brand strategy with enough competitive edge 
  • Creating editorial calendars and publishing schedules for use on various content marketing platforms include blogs, guest posts, live events, social media networks, etc.

For more thoughts and insights on how to align your brand in your organisation please visit our article on Brand Strategy vs Business Strategy. 



Somehow both of these things are true at the same time: Supreme sells $40 graphic T-shirts to hyped-up teenagers, and Supreme is worth one billion dollars.

This shows the real value in branding – it’s not the marketing that created a global community, and it’s not the PR activities that made the partnership possible with artists, photographers, designers, musicians, filmmakers and writers who defied convention and contributed to its unique identity and attitude. It’s the personality of the brand that made all things possible. Yes, the marketers and PR agents took the brand and gave it a platform to be seen and heard, but the reason they can sell exclusive T-shirts in excess of $400 is the brand.

The Essence of this Brand is in its Founder

The Supreme brand is worth one billion dollars, its brand essence sits in the hands of its founder and CEO James Jebbia

View our Brand Transformation Case Studies.

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