These often get confused when talking about marketing. Although the words are very similar, the meanings are distinctly different. Here’s the lowdown:

Brand is not branding

The difference is that one is a marketing tool and the other is an action:

Many people use these two words interchangeably and this is biggest misunderstanding. Other mix ups are calling advertising branding – it’s not, it’s about promoting the brand; and calling marketing branding – it’s not, it’s about reaching and communicating to your target audience.

The fact that many graphic designers don’t know what branding is or how to accurately describe it, makes matters worse, particularly because businesspeople expect them to know. Some designers use brand and branding interchangeably, reinforcing confusion instead of providing clarity.

A brand is a thing (noun). Branding is an action (verb). This is more than just semantics—it’s about fundamental understanding of a core marketing tool.

You might also like:

5 things to avoid when branding your business

What’s in a name – how to approach naming your business

What do we mean by branding as an action?

Branding is the activation of a brand, building a library and arrangement of visual tools specific to the company [logo / logotype, colour palette, key messaging / strap line, imagery, graphic treatment and tonality]. These, together, visually and verbally communicate the brand concept (what i call the core idea) in tangible and useable tools. . It starts by creating a strategy, establishing your market positioning and brand identity tool kit. Their use is outlined in the guidelines for consistency.

Consistent brand communication, brand awareness and presence in the market builds recognition and trust with consumers.

It is therefore best to build a resilient and well thought out branding tool kit for longevity and avoid having to refresh or rebrand too often (this can be confusing for consumers and expensive too!).

What, then, is brand?

Your brand is the result of the branding activation: it is a set of expectations, perceptions, associations, stories etc. That, together, are the deciding factors in consumer minds for selecting it. It is built over time and covers a multitude of factors such as branding, your values, purpose, actions, behaviours, culture, your voice… It’s big!

It is how people identify you over others, know and understand you, and remember you.

How this is important

Brand is a very powerful tool that works far beyond pure marketing communications. If crafted correctly it can inform every facet of your business, align your team towards a clear, common goal and effect how you do what you do by establishing why you do what you do.

Understanding these fundamental differences between brand and branding will help you build a stronger brand as you can see the power brand can have and the function of branding within that.