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Marketing, Branding and Selling: What’s the Difference?

Learn the differences between branding, marketing and selling, and how each part works to build your business.

What are the differences between branding, marketing and selling? Marketers love words. Words are what we do. But to marketers, words are also fluid; they’re interchangeable. Any time you want an idea of how that might be, feel free to listen to the first two minutes of George Carlin’s Advertising skit. You’ll quickly get the idea. High caution on the language if you go any further, though.

The point is that while we live words, sometimes the lines between words blur. In the world of the marketer, no three words are used more interchangeably than marketing, branding and selling. They aren’t interchangeable, however. There’s quite a bit of difference between the three, and that’s what this post will cover.

The Differences Between Branding, Marketing and Selling

No matter how often selling is confused for marketing, or marketing is confused with branding, there’s quite a difference between their uses and processes.


Branding is the baseline of your business. Your brand communicates your company’s values to customers. It helps people build a clear picture in their head of what you stand for. Brand isn’t the “buy now” button. It’s the About Me page with your brand story. When marketing has made its last hurrah and the ad has stopped, branding is still there.

“Brand,” with the big “B,” is your logo and tagline, but it’s more than that. It’s the idea about your company that you want people to have. When they picture your logo or hear your name, your brand is what pops up next.

Think about a car. Better yet, think about your car. What kind of car do you own? -And when you answer that question, what’s the first thing you think of?

For example, most people won’t say, “I have a V90.” They’ll say, “I have a Volvo V90.” For you serious car enthusiasts, you don’t say, “I have a Levante.” No, no. Because it’s the brand that really says it all. “I have (pause for effect) a Maserati.”

Now, maybe marketing got out there and talked about how great a Maserati is or how it handles. Marketing says, “Buy me. I’m beautiful.” But the brand, the brand whispers, “Luxury. Sporty. Stylish. High performance.”

Branding has to deliver on its promise. If, for instance, your Maserati wasn’t really top-of-the-line quality, word would shortly get around. However, because your Maserati upholds what the company’s brand says it does, there’s a kind of awe when people see it. A whispered, “Wow, man, look at that Maserati.

This kind of follow through with branding turns customers into brand advocates. Cheerleaders. Die-hard “I’ll never buy anything but a Chevy” people. It’s vital for the success of the business, as well as any marketing plan put out there.


If branding is the idea, marketing is everything you do to reach out to people with that idea. Marketing reaches out into the unknown to find prospects. It finds the Sallys of the world that need vacuum cleaners and the Franks that need lawn mowers (or vice versa).

Although similar to selling, marketing and selling teams often times don’t even communicate in the same company. The words appear to be used to mean the same things, but the teams don’t talk. It’s a shame, too, because companies that integrate these departments and keep them talking to each other tend to have better performance.

After branding, marketing is the preparatory message. It warms people up for the sale using things like television ads or social media. Video marketing, snapchats, direct mail, it’s all marketing.

Marketing says, “Come on in and test drive a Maserati!” However, marketing has to work with what it has. For example, a carrot is orange. Marketing can’t sit there and tell you it’s purple. Why? Because when you get to sales you’ll find out that darn carrot is orange, just like you thought it was, and you stop trusting. -And trust is a big company builder.

In short, marketing brings the prospective customers in so sales can reach them better.


Eventually, somebody is going to come into your store or onto your website. At this point you step into sales. Now, while you’re not going to convince somebody that they need what you’re selling, you might convince them that they need what you’re selling.

For example, a thirsty person may need a drink. You, lucky salesperson that you are, happen to have a drink. However, so do thirty other people. Marketing lets people know that you have a drink. Sales convinces people that – out of thirty other people – you are the one who has the right drink for them.

Sales is the power of peaceful persuasion and perceived value. You aren’t trying to convince someone they want a drink after they just drank an ocean. You’re showing someone that your drink will quench their thirst better.

Branding, Marketing and Sales: The Triad

If you’re hoping to grow online, having this triad go to work for you will bring strong results, but you must use them correctly. In reality, they’re parts of a holistic whole; you can’t do one well without the other.

  • Branding tells the prospect about the company and product
  • Marketing points the prospect to where they can find the product
  • Sales tells the prospect that you have the best version of the product for them

Using these terms interchangeably is fine; use them however you want. But remember that they really aren’t the same. Understand the difference between branding, marketing and selling so you can apply them as they deserve. Each one serves an important part in the robust growth of your business.

If you need help with your marketing, branding or selling points, contact us. We’ll get you started on the road to success!

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