Branding vs Selling – What’s the difference, and how do you use one to influence the other?

Many people consider branding and sales to be intrinsically linked. But while there is some overlap, they are distinct from one another. They often lead to the same destination, but one approaches that destination by pushing, and the other by pulling.

That’s because branding is the act of pushing information out, to convince people that a business or product has certain characteristics. While sales are about pulling people in to finalise a transaction and secure a customer. Between the two, sits marketing.

In the short term, pulling people in to make those sales may seem like the right thing to devote your time and energy to. But in reality, it’s pushing out your narrative to the right audience that will benefit you the most in the long run. You want potential customers to associate your name with the best quality so that you don’t have to convince them every time you want to make a sale. Instead, you want them to come to you.

Let’s examine that a bit closer

What is branding?

Branding is all about creating a certain feel or experience. It’s the art of creating a persona for a company, in a way that, if done successfully, will lead customers to associate a product or level of quality with said company.

Think:

  • Fizzy drinks and Coca-Cola
  • Computers and Microsoft
  • Burgers and McDonald’s
  • Online shopping and Amazon
  • Search engines and Google
  • Social media and Facebook
  • Electric cars and Tesla

There are alternatives to all of these companies, of course (Pepsi, Apple, Burger King, for example). But these are some of the dominant brands in their respective industries. They’re the brands most people will think of when thinking of those respective products.

Branding is also your opportunity to differentiate yourself from your competition and make yourself stand out, as all the above did at one point or another.

However, it’s important to note that you can’t just choose and set your brand. You can set the desired style, voice, personality and look of your business, but it takes time to ensure that is in fact how people see you. It’s only through hard, consistent work that you have a chance of succeeding.

That means everything you do (or don’t do) – online, in person, at work, out of hours – can be important. Everything you do, say, make, or sell can have a positive or negative impact on your brand.

Branding on Social Media

Once companies have their look, an obvious way that most attempt to brand themselves is through the use of social media. With an array of different platforms to choose from, social media offers near-limitless possibilities on how to sculpt your brand identity.

Where you post

Whether that’s through professional, authoritative posts on LinkedIn that tell people that they should take you seriously, or snappy amusing short videos on TikTok that let them know you’re just like them, the channels you use and the posts you make tell audiences something about you, what your message is, and who you’re trying to target.

When you post

This is also reflected in how frequently you post.

For starters, consumers want to know people are around to answer and respond to them at all times, so it’s handy to have a consistent and pronounced social media presence.

It’s also beneficial because posting frequently and getting your posts and messages in front of people keeps you at the forefront of their minds, and allows your brand to become visible and recognisable.

Conversely, brands that don’t have much of a social media presence can be seen as forgettable or unreliable, and will often be looked down upon by the respective social media algorithms.

To beat the algorithm, on average you should be posting multiple times a week. For the best results on some socials, like TikTok and Facebook, it’s even suggested that you post multiple times a day to keep the algorithm happy, but that depends on your industry, and how much you’ve got to say. Remember, the last thing you want is to become repetitive and boring!

The look of your posts

The imagery on social media is also incredibly important in forging your brand identity. That’s partly because audiences are likely to remember 65% of the info associated with an image, as opposed to just 10% if they’ve read or heard something. This is called the picture superiority effect.

But as with all things, you can’t just put up anything – like the words you choose, your image has to be in line with your brand identity.

The colours and designs on display can affect the emotion that consumers associate with you, are your images warm? Cold? Familiar? Are they low-effort, suggesting your company is also, or are they meticulously crafted, suggesting you’ll only get the very best when engaging with this brand?

What your posts offer

Finally, how much does your social media offer? Does it go beyond words and images to include shop functionality? Sales across social media platforms in 2023 are estimated to reach about $1298 billion, and almost three trillion dollars by 2026.

This is, in part, because consumers take note of how far a brand is willing to go for their convenience, and will often return to somewhere they remember as being straightforward and hassle-free.

Branding through other avenues

Of course, social media isn’t the only avenue through which you can sustain your brand identity.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is one of the most successful and consistent forms of marketing around. No matter what digital trends come and go, email is always there; focused and reliable. This is largely down to the fact that it allows you to send your message, unencumbered by the guidelines of each social media platform, directly to your target audience.

A warm list of people who have willingly given you their email addresses and shown interest in being contacted means you don’t have to rely on the hope that the social media algorithms will be favouring you. You can just focus on delivering quality content, without twisting and contorting it to suit the latest trends.

The ability to tell your story in your words, without restriction, directly to your target audience, is no doubt why email marketing is one of the most used forms of digital marketing. In fact, in 2020, 81% of B2B marketers said that email newsletters were their most used form of content marketing.

Websites

Another avenue for showing off your message and values in your words is, of course, your website. A website offers even more freedom than an email because you can assume that visitors likely have some vested interest in learning more about you – after all, they came to you, you just need to give them a reason to stick around.

With the right language, imagery and layout, a good website can be a whirlwind tour through all of your brand ideals. It allows a customer to truly get to know you in one sitting.

The quality of the website will also play a big part. A fast, well-designed website will show your customers that you care about their experience

Search Engine Optimization

Let’s not forget SEO, which is yet another great way to cement your brand identity.

There are 99000 Google searches every second. That’s a lot of people, undertaking a lot of searches.

Now imagine that your online presence was so well-optimised that you rank highly for several keywords. Suddenly, potential customers who never knew about you before this are being drawn to you and immediately beginning to associate you with your specific product or service.

Of course, the opposite is also true. If someone types in one of your chosen keywords looking for you, and your competitor shows up instead, it may give them the impression that they are better than you are. This is all the more reason to ensure your content is all search engine optimised.

How is Branding different from sales?

As we’ve established, branding is the act of sending out information through different channels and using that information to influence people’s opinions of your product or service.

Branding should start the moment you set up your business.

Sales, however, will be at their most effective once you’ve already established your brand identity, otherwise, you’re just creating more work for yourself.

That’s because sales involve:

  • Sourcing prospective clients
  • Reaching out to leads
  • Building relationships

This is all done to convince potential buyers that a business has the solution to whatever problem they may have. Whether that solution comes in the form of a product or a service, it’s up to the salesperson to convince the customer it’s what they need and complete a transaction.

If you’ve already built up a great reputation and established yourself as a leader in your field, then you won’t have to work as hard to find people to buy your product.

Brands that have successfully established a strong brand identity will have earned enough trust from their audience that they’ll already be happy to part with their money, and will be sought out by people specifically looking for their product or service.

Marketing Strategies and How They Contribute to Branding and Sales

Earlier, we mentioned that you also have Marketing sitting somewhere between Sales and Branding. Basically, marketing is the method you use to share your brand so that you can make a sale. This begs the question, ‘How do different marketing strategies contribute to branding and sales?’

Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization can be a time-consuming process, which is probably why only 29% of marketers use search engine-optimised websites and content to attract and convert more leads.

But if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, SEO can help cement your brand and bring an increase in sales.

Having an optimised site and supplementing it with search-optimised content such as blogs helps you move your way up the ranks of a search engine. Being able to work the system so you show up as the first (or at least one of the first) results for multiple keywords and search queries is a great way to not only bring in new customers but to convince audiences that you are the best.

And once they’ve found you, having optimised content and a quality design will also convince readers to stick around and explore your site to find what they need.

It’ll be easily scannable, well-written and direct people towards making a purchase.

Social Media Marketing

Social Media Marketing is probably one of the most popular and obvious ways a marketing strategy can affect both your brand and your sales.

That’s because, with approximately 4.89 billion social media users in the world, it’s one of the easiest ways to get your brand or product in front of as wide an audience as possible. Especially when internet users spend on average, 151 minutes a day on socials.

By constructing an impressive social media presence, not only can you get eyes on your product, you can build trust and interest in your brand through the content of your posts and the way you present yourself.

This is great for branding, but can also do wonders for your sales. You can announce product launches, direct audiences to shopping pages, or, if you want to go even further, allow for sales through social media shopping channels.

Audiences love to be catered to and for everything to be made as convenient as possible. And what’s more convenient than being able to buy something you need directly from a place you spend so much of your lifetime?

Paid Advertising

Paid Ads are a great way to get your message across by placing your ads in prime internet real estate.

Ads offer opportunities for both sales and brand building due to the way they work behind the scenes. Most ads will be shown to users after they search a specific keyword or when they fit certain targeted criteria.

Continuously seeing the same product when looking up certain keywords, or having ads seemingly follow you around will start to cement that product or service in your mind.

There’s a long-standing marketing tactic, stretching back to the 1930s, called the Rule of 7. It suggests that a potential customer needs to interact with your brand or product multiple times (I’m sure you can guess how many) before they’re compelled to act. The longevity of this rule no doubt speaks to its success rate and tells us that by repeatedly targeting someone with an ad, you can likely secure a sale while also building their familiarity with you and your product.

The type of advert you choose to use will also help tremendously. If you’re able to craft an ad that captures interest from the moment they see it, they’re even more likely to act or respond favourably to your brand in future.

Email Marketing

As we’ve established, email marketing can do wonders for your brand identity, but it also presents a wealth of sales opportunities.

Unlike social media and paid ads, email marketing allows for an unmatched level of hyper-personalisation. You can automate your system to integrate any relevant details you may know about your customer, fostering a more personal, trusting relationship.

Automation also allows you to plan an entire strategy based on how people respond to your emails or even your website. Follow-up emails targeted at those who responded and those who didn’t, or even a customer who put something in their basket or perused your online store but didn’t complete a purchase.

It’s a fine line, and one that can lead to you being seen as pushy, but if you’re able to construct a captivating, friendly email that catches the attention of your audience and guides them to a sale, rather than demanding one, then you can see a strong ROI (approximately £35 for every pound spent) and ingratiate your brand with your customer even more than before.

It’s clear then, that companies who are masters of branding are the ones with the best shot at being the most successful.

By focusing on your branding, and dedicating time to highlighting what is special about you and your business, you’ll get something much more important than a customer – you’ll get a following. People who are genuinely invested in your brand, want to support you and see what you do next.

And when you combine great branding with a great marketing strategy, a growth in sales is all but assured.