There are a million and one ways to market your business today, but many of them fall into two major categories: brand marketing and content marketing.
Both are important parts of any comprehensive digital marketing strategy, but they have significant differences you should be aware of as a marketer or business owner.
But before we go deeper into the differences between these two marketing concepts, let’s first get on the same page with their individual definitions.
The basics: What is brand marketing? And what is content marketing?
Brand marketing focuses on building and maintaining the public perception of your company’s brand.
For example, Salesforce might want buyers to think of them as a leader in customer relationship management (CRM) software. And Apple probably wants people to think of them as the innovator and trendsetter in consumer electronics.
To shape their brand’s perception this way, they’ll use brand strategies like product packaging, social media posts, and design elements — anything that can help communicate their brand messaging and spread brand awareness.
Content marketing, on the other hand, focuses on attracting a target audience, converting them into paying customers, and keeping them as customers. The process involves providing entertaining and/or educative content in the form of videos, blog posts, social media posts, and more.
So, even though these two marketing practices seem similar on the surface, they differ especially in terms of the goals they help you achieve. I’ll go into more detail about their differences in the next section below.
4 major differences between brand and content marketing (with examples)
There are several major differences between brand marketing vs. content marketing to consider when developing a comprehensive digital strategy, but I’ll list four of them below:
– Identity building vs. product marketing
– Reach vs. depth
– Generalized messages vs. targeted content
– Traditional media vs. digital media
Let’s dive into these in more detail.
1. Identity building vs. product marketing
While brand marketing focuses on building an identity for your company, content marketing is about being in the right conversations with the right people at the right time, and providing them with information that helps them make an informed decision about your product.
For example, when marketing software company HubSpot creates a blog post about “best sales strategies,” they’re doing content marketing — because they’re providing a resource that helps potential customers understand how to do something and learn about something HubSpot does.
Anyone who reads the blog post forms a sort of teacher-student relationship with the brand and may decide to buy their software in the future, especially when they feature their products in the article like this:
In contrast, if HubSpot creates a LinkedIn video featuring their brand in a funny situation, they’re doing brand marketing.
Here, their goal is to make buyers familiar with the brand and give them an emotional connection to it. A good, real-life example is their recent TikTok series on #CorporateTok:
With a post like this, they’re not looking to convert someone to a customer — they’re looking to create an emotional connection with people in their industry and establish an identity for their brand.
2. Horizontal vs. vertical influence
With brand marketing, there is usually a tradeoff between “horizontal and vertical influence.”
You’ll often reach people from various fields, professions, and backgrounds — people who may or may not be interested in your product or service. That’s what horizontal influence looks like. And the advantage here is obvious: quickly reach a wide audience and build brand recognition. The disadvantage, though, is you may not be reaching the right people and your message may become diluted.
But with content marketing, it’s often possible to have both horizontal and vertical influence, meaning you can reach a large audience with detailed information about your product.
Or you may have more vertical than horizontal influence, meaning your focus is on reaching a particular audience and providing highly specific information.
For example, Salesforce’s Team Earth campaign, where they encourage businesses and professionals to take part in environmental initiatives around the world, has a pretty wide amount of reach (horizontal influence) but not so much depth (vertical influence) in terms of the campaign’s relation to their product.
Conversely, their Dreamforce conference has both reach and depth in terms of the product: it’s a pretty large event, but several parts of it focused on educating attendees about topics relating to Salesforce’s products, services, and solutions.
This way, Salesforce is using a good dose of both brand and content marketing to reach its target audience.
They reach a wide audience with their Team Earth (brand marketing) campaign, while their Dreamforce conferences, blog articles, and YouTube videos help them use content marketing to get their target audience’s attention, reach a more narrow market segment, and drive new customers.
3. Generalized messages vs. targeted content
Remember my point about horizontal vs vertical influence? Well, to have any form of horizontal influence, brand marketing often relies on generalized messages that appeal to a wide audience.
And to have vertical influence, content marketing takes a more targeted approach, creating content that is specifically tailored to the needs and interests of a particular audience.
Here’s an illustration I’ve drawn up to further paint a picture of how generalized vs targeted messages work:
While the generalized messaging you’ll use with brand marketing can help you reach a variety of people, targeted messaging (which you get with content marketing) is often more effective in building relationships with customers and ultimately driving sales.
And research has shown that consumers are more likely to engage with and remember content that applies to their specific needs. For instance, 80% of 1000 respondents in an online survey said that they are more likely to do business with a company if it offers personalized experiences.
4. Traditional media vs. digital media
A lot of what we know as brand marketing today is done with traditional media.
A recent, and great example of this is Gong’s 25 billboards city-wide campaign celebrating their employees.
A billboard like this is not directly selling the company’s product, but it’s helping the brand build affinity with people — whether or not those people are their target customers. That’s pure brand marketing. And you’ll often use it with traditional advertising or marketing methods like this billboard.
Does this mean you can’t do brand marketing with digital media? Of course not; I’ve shared an example of Salesforce doing it with their Team Earth campaign.
But content marketing often works better with digital media than content with traditional media. For instance, if you were going to use the latter for content marketing, you’ll have to use billboards, radio, or TV shows to address topics every week — because content marketing requires consistency.
And that could work, but the costs would run up so high it’ll eat up a huge percentage of your marketing budget. But if you use digital media, you simply need social media platforms, your blog, a youtube channel, etc. and you’re ready to go.
So you see; while brand marketing plays works well with traditional media, content marketing plays works well with digital.
Brand marketing vs content marketing: which one is right for your business?
In today’s competitive marketplace, most businesses need a holistic marketing approach to succeed.
While brand marketing helps to build awareness and create an emotional connection with audiences, content marketing helps to provide educational content or information that helps customers make purchase decisions — or persuade existing customers to remain loyal.
Both strategies are essential for driving sales and growing a business. But it’s also important to balance the two. Too much focus on one area can lead to neglect of the other, which can ultimately hurt the business.
Brand marketing vs. content marketing FAQs
Is content marketing brand marketing?
Content marketing and brand marketing may seem similar at first glance, but they are two slightly different marketing strategies.
As I’ve shared in this article, content marketing is all about creating valuable, engaging content that helps to attract and engage your target audience, nudging them to buy your product or service.
Brand marketing, on the other hand, is all about creating and maintaining a strong, recognizable brand identity — designing distinctive branding materials, coining new industry concepts, and so on. So while content marketing can play a role in brand marketing, the two strategies are not the same.
What is the difference between “brand” and “content”?
Brand is, again, all about identity. It’s what makes your business unique and differentiates it from your competitors. Your brand should be reflected in everything from your logo and website design to the way you communicate with your customers.
Content, on the other hand, is the actual information that you share with your audience. This can include blog posts, articles, social media updates, and even video content or podcasts.
The goal of content is to educate, entertain, engage your audience, and ultimately encourage them to make a purchase decision. It should be complementary to your brand, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be about your products or services.
Both brand and content are important for any business, but it’s important to understand the difference between them — so you know when and where to use each.
Is content marketing a part of branding?
Most times, yes — because most of your content marketing efforts contribute to brand building. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing content marketing to drive product trials, organic traffic, generate leads, etc… as long as your (business) name is on the content, it’s a part of your brand marketing strategy.
What is branded content?
Branded content is a form of marketing that involves creating and sharing content that is directly related to a company or product.
This can include articles, blog posts, videos, or any other type of content that features the company’s name or logo.
The goal of branded content is to promote awareness, strengthen brand positioning, and build positive associations with the company or product while blending it well with the specific needs and interests of your specific audience — without being overly promotional.
Let’s wrap up here
Brand marketing and content marketing are both extremely important aspects of a successful online presence for any business.
But they differ in their focus, strategies, and results. Understanding the differences between these two types of marketing will help you create and execute marketing plans that will work best for your business.
I hope this article has helped clarify the distinctions between brand marketing vs content marketing and given you some ideas on how to get started with your own content marketing strategy and brand strategy. If you have any questions or need help getting started, feel free to reach out to me.