Digital Branding vs. Digital Marketing: What’s the Difference?

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When you’re managing a business, no matter your industry, so many buzzwords get thrown around — to the point that it’s hard to keep tabs on all of them. Two concepts, in particular, tend to confuse a majority of business owners: digital marketing vs. digital branding.

The truth is, digital marketing and digital branding are two different strategies and concepts. If you want your business to succeed, you need to learn and understand the differences between the two — and figure out how to use each one effectively so you launch your business to greater heights.

So what exactly are the differences between digital branding vs. digital marketing? We break it down for you in this article.

What is Digital Branding?

First things first, let’s define what digital branding is. Digital branding is how you design and build your brand online through websites, social media sites, apps, videos and more. It’s basically the digital equivalent of branding, which is the creative and strategic process of telling your target customers what your company is all about: who you are, what you offer and what they can expect from you. After you’ve launched your business and released your first product or service, building a brand identity is high up on your list of priorities.

Branding encompasses everything about your business and your offerings into a singular and memorable concept that people will remember and associate continuously with your business. It typically deals with logos and brand messaging. A great example would be Starbucks’ mermaid logo or the multicolor rings of the Olympics. Even a single image or symbol conveys meaningful associations that people from all over the world will recognise.

Why does digital branding matter?

The answer is pretty clear: everyone is online. As of 2021, 89% of the Australian population are active internet users. You’re probably even reading this article on your mobile phone. The thing is — everyone is using their devices constantly, including your customers. They’re engaging with the world at large through the lens of the Internet, making it crucial for you to reach your target audience and convert casual browsers into customers and casual customers into loyal brand advocates.

Digital branding enables you to make your presence known anywhere — even in the palm of someone’s hand. After all, if your mother has a Facebook account, why shouldn’t your business?

What is Digital Marketing?

Now, that you know what digital branding is, let’s move on to digital marketing.

Digital marketing is basically any type of marketing that uses digital tools and channels. For decades, marketing teams churched out the same old recipe for TV commercials, billboards and print ads to tell people about their products or services and convince them to become customers. But then, the internet was invented and thousands of websites exploded. New channels such as Google and Facebook have created a whole new arena for advertising and marketing products.

In the early days of digital marketing, the approach was pretty much the same as traditional marketing. Brands talked about their products on their own sites and ran banner ads on online publications (similar to print ads in newspapers and magazines) and other popular websites. Over time, marketers realised that the World Wide Web offered a plethora of new ways to interact with and sell to customers. Tactics such as search engine optimisation, pay-per-click ads and social media marketing became the new norm.

Why is digital marketing important for your business?

Similar to what we said above about digital branding, you don’t need to be an expert to know that nowadays, customers are spending most of their time (and money) online. When we mean a lot, we really do mean A LOT.

They’re searching on Google, scrolling through their Facebook timelines, posting selfies and stories on Instagram and looking for connections on LinkedIn. Your marketing strategy has to adjust to consumer behavior so that your business can be present during those moments.

Digital marketing can ultimately be more effective than traditional marketing as it lets you focus your money and time on areas where your customers are also spending their money and time. As it’s much more targeted and personalised to specific people, it also levels the playing field between established brands and small companies. You can stand out against your biggest competitors even without a massive advertising budget. All you need is a solid digital marketing plan and strategy.

Digital Marketing vs. Digital Branding

Now, that we’ve gone over their definitions, it’s time for the most important part of this article: what exactly are their differences?

While digital branding focuses on inspiring loyalty, building brand recognition, and providing value, digital marketing is all about finding new prospects and generating sales.

You are constantly bombarded with ads online, even if you seldom notice them — that’s digital marketing. Ads might come in the form of pop-up coupons on websites or even in the form of a social media influencer or blogger posting about their favorite makeup products.

Unlike ads, digital branding doesn’t talk at you. Rather, it seeks to connect and engage with you. Digital branding is more about establishing an identity online and ensuring positive feelings or emotions are associated with your business. It’s not about generating a one-time purchase. It’s about building a connection that resonates with your customers even outside the digital sphere.

Which one comes first: digital branding or marketing?

At the core of every marketing strategy is branding, so it comes first. Even if you are just planning to start your own business, it is important to clearly identify the who and what of your company before formulating marketing approaches, plans, techniques and tactics. After all, you can’t exactly market a brand with no identity yet.

Your digital branding is also what will compel customers to come back for more. It is the cornerstone on which you can generate customer loyalty. Think of homegrown restaurants or grocery stores in your area (either operated by big corporations or independent small-time business owners). If they’re a household name, it is their branding that entices generation after generation to become loyal patrons. For newer companies, establishing digital branding for your business will help you connect with your target audience and build lasting relationships with them.

Marketing =sales, branding = recognition and loyalty

At its core, most digital marketing strategies and tactics (SEO or PPC) are designed to drive results. More often than not, the results they strive to drive are leads, conversions and sales. And that’s great! If you want your business to succeed, of course you need to bring in profit.

However, digital branding takes on a different and more long-term approach. It isn’t necessarily the best solution if you want to drive sales quickly, but it is the best strategy if you’re looking to build brand awareness, create positive brand sentiments and encourage customer loyalty. These are all important as they will all have a major impact on your company’s ability to drive more sales in the future.

Digital marketing is a great way to catch a customer’s attention, digital branding keeps their attention

No matter what industry you’re in, there are bound to be a lot of competitors. If you want to stand out and get the attention of your customers, marketing is an absolute must.

But once you’ve caught their attention, you need something to keep their eyes on you. That’s where digital branding comes in.

People want to buy from brands they believe in and can get behind. While your digital marketing strategy will help you break through the noise and get your business right in front of the people who matter, it’s your digital branding that people ultimately connect with.

In other words, you need the optimal marketing strategies to set your business apart from competitors and let your customers know about you. However, it’s digital branding that will foster a connection, build a long-term relationship, and keep them coming back after the first “hello.”

Does a company’s digital branding and marketing change?

When talking about digital marketing vs. digital branding, this is one key concept to remember: digital marketing strategies can change and adapt to new advancements but ultimately, digital branding stays the same.

Of course, as long as you’re trying to build a successful business, you need to actively market your brand. However, the strategies you use to market your products and services are temporary. Each marketing technique or tactic has a clear start, middle, and end.

Digital branding is different. Even if you’ve managed to successfully set up your business, you will always be working on defining your identity as a company, shaping your audience’s perception of your brand, and fostering meaningful relationships with your customers. As you grow your company and it evolves, your digital branding will grow and evolve with it too.

Bottom line: marketing strategies will come and go with the trends (as they should) but branding is forever.

Digital Marketing and Digital Branding: Two Is Better Than One

Choosing between digital marketing and digital branding isn’t a debate. You need both to succeed in the increasingly digital world. Both of these initiatives work together and have a profound impact on your customers. Your digital marketing strategy can be inspired by your brand’s values to build your tactics, and your digital branding can be fueled by your digital marketing efforts.

Digital branding lets your company say, “This is what I am. This is why I exist.” Digital marketing supplies, “If you like me, you can buy me, support me, and recommend me to your friends.”

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