What’s the Difference Between Growth Marketing and Brand Marketing?

By BrainStation February 25, 2020
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With the breakneck pace of change in the marketing field, it can be difficult for experienced Marketers to stay on top of the latest strategies and methodologies – let alone outsiders or newbies.

With that in mind, we wanted to define and differentiate two key phrases: growth marketing vs. brand marketing.

What is Brand Marketing?

As interest in both marketing strategies has been on a steep upswing in recent years, it’s worth taking a look at both brand and growth marketing on their own merits before exploring the differences and relative advantages of both.

Brand marketing is focused on, yes, boosting and establishing a company’s brand. The process would start by identifying your brand and asking yourself questions such as these:

  • Who is our target audience? What do they need?
  • How is our company different from the competition?
  • What is our brand’s personality?
  • What is our brand statement?

The ultimate goal of brand marketing is to boost awareness, visibility, and recognition of your brand while creating clearly defined – and positive! – emotional associations between your brand and your consumers. Consider how we associate Apple with innovation, ease of use and clean design, or how Nike will always be linked to sweat, hard work and determination.

In other words, brand marketing is less about pushing a specific product or promotion and more about telling your story in a way that resonates.

Establishing a brand as rock-solid as those mentioned won’t happen unless marketers stick to several principles:

  • Consistency. To really hammer home the story of your brand, your marketing efforts need to be consistent – in terms of messaging, voice and visual aesthetics – across all platforms
  • Emotion. We aren’t just loyal to certain companies or brands because we like their products – often, our buying decisions are tied to our sense of identity and the perceived values of the companies making those products. 
  • Delivery. Trust is an essential element in building a powerful brand, so be sure that your marketing aligns with what you’re actually giving your customers. For example, consider Volkswagen, who built up decades of brand equity as a manufacturer of reliable and practical cars before an emissions-cheating scandal badly hurt the company’s reputation in 2015.

With brand marketing, measurable objectives could include friendly media coverage, attention or endorsements from influencers, or heightened social-media engagement.

What is Growth Marketing?

Traditional marketing is typically focused on the top of the funnel, where a set of so-called “set it and forget it” strategies are employed – say, a digital and print ad campaign with a set budget and carefully planned-out copy – with two primary goals: awareness and acquisition.

Growth marketing, conversely, is concerned with the entire funnel, where the goal is revenue growth not merely through bringing in new customers but also through the activation, retention, referral, and monetization of the customers you already have.

“Growth marketing is removing the boundaries of marketing to enable every aspect of the customer experience to focus on attracting more engaged customers,” said Mike Volpe, CEO of Lola.com.

Where traditionally, marketing departments might have been their own separate entity within a corporate structure, growth marketers are often more integrated within product development.

Following agile development principles, growth marketing is a data-driven process that operates on a cyclical sprint model where performance is constantly tracked, tweaked and optimized.

Largely borne out of need – since startups rarely have massive marketing budgets – growth marketing is an evidence-based process that leans heavily on strategy. It’s experimental, iterative and – most importantly of all – user-focused, since growth marketing is far more concerned with customer lifetime value and customer retention than simple customer acquisition.

A/B testing, analytics, engagement measurement, and user-testing are all crucial parts of the growth marketing process, as well as creating measurable goals and staying current and agile with campaigns-in-progress.

Good growth marketers are often very creative. Perhaps most famously, when Airbnb was just getting off the ground, the startup cleverly tapped into a much larger user base than its own by offering users who listed their properties on Airbnb the option to post them to Craigslist as well (it wasn’t as simple as it sounds, as a bot had to be built to create the Craigslist posting before forwarding to the user for publishing).

Other examples include Pinterest creating an air of exclusivity by requiring members to request an invitation to join, or Dropbox turning its users into mobile marketers by incentivizing referrals with free storage.

Another feature of growth marketing? Expect a more reactive planning cycle, where new tactics and strategies are expedited and executed regularly.

Finding the Right Balance

Ultimately, the modern marketer has to understand how to employ both growth marketing and brand marketing techniques in tandem to bring the best possible return.

In fact, growth marketing to some degree depends on brand marketing. As opposed to growth hacking, which is purely driven by tactical performance marketing, a goal of growth marketing is to create brand awareness and affinity among customers who should perhaps buy your product even if they aren’t ready to do so yet. In other words, the results of your marketing efforts must be sustainable.

That leads us to something both brand and growth marketing strategies have in common, and one reason it makes sense to use both strategies together: their success is measured in the long term. And to that end, successful growth and brand marketing strategies both require and reward commitment.

Find out more about BrainStation’s digital marketing courses.