Brand Strategy vs. Marketing: What’s the Deal?

by | Jun 14, 2017 | Strategy

There’s a misconception some startups and small businesses share when it comes to brand strategy and marketing. It’s the idea that they’re basically the same thing. While they’re interdependent activities, brand strategy is not marketing and vice versa.

Brand Strategy

Brands are made up of people; your employees and customers. People are emotional beings. And emotions get complicated. Brand strategy is the way to understand and harness the intangible aspects of your business.

It’s the way to define the organization, to clarify shared beliefs, and become intentional with everything you do or don’t do. It’s ‘why’ you exist. It’s the big-picture, the long-term, or foundation that doesn’t change but evolves over time. It requires creative thinking and market insight to point in the right direction.

Think of brand strategy as the proverbial ‘cart’ the horse pulls. If it’s empty (or doesn’t exist at all), the horse is simply running wild with no purpose.


Marketing, then, is the ‘horse.’ It’s the ‘how’ or the tactics used to deliver messages about the value provided to your customers. It’s tangible by nature. It manages short-term objectives, operates in a variety of ways, and can require more resources over time to see results.

So What?

What we see more and more are startups creating a product or service and then jumping straight to getting a logo, a website, or print material and saturating social media with features and benefits. The result is a well decorated ‘horse’ with little or nothing to pull.

It’s a waste of time and energy to focus on marketing without being rooted in a solid understanding of how and why you create meaning for employees and your customers.

There are millions of choices on what you can do and infinite ways of how you can do it. But there’s only one reason why.

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It’s no doubt that an idea without action is just a wish. However, society places more value on those that ‘do’ and their accomplishments to the point that many entrepreneurs I meet can’t answer the question, “why do you do what you do?”

Daniel Pink’s Drive illuminates the connection between our deeper motivations and business. He says, “when the profit motive becomes unmoored from the purpose motive, bad things happen; bad things ethically, sometimes, but also bad things like crappy product, lame services, uninspiring places to work.”

When you begin with brand strategy, a strong awareness of who you are, who you serve, and why, the what and how of marketing start to develop naturally.

As a brand strategy consultant, Jason strongly believes in business as a force for good. Bringing a rare balance of strategic thinking and design thinking, he helps clients achieve business objectives through the discovery of purpose. Utilizing a mindful framework to develop a compelling ‘why,’ Jason confronts brand development at its deepest and most meaningful levels. His experience has taken him from industries such as magazine publishing, UX and product development, non-profit sector and startups.

When not working, Jason can be found hiking, camping, snowboarding, SUPing, or on the AT. For more info on how a mindful approach to brand strategy can help your startup, visit, or call 941.504.4089

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