On The Distinction Between Messaging & Branding

I just thought I would spend a couple of minutes clearing this one up as the terms tend to be used interchangeably. They're related but somewhat different.
  • Messaging = saying something in a very specific way. As in: "We are working with local authorities to ensure citizen safety."
  • Branding = creating an impression in people's minds. As in: When you walk into the fitness center, it's glass and mirrors and every employee looks skinny and 22.

Messaging and branding both need to be consistent:
  • When different people explain an event the same way, they reinforce one another and increase credibility. (Unless of course they are lying.)
  • When all parts of the company, the individual, the product or the service leave you with the same impression, branding can be said to be taking place in an integrated manner. (Doesn't mean it's a good strategy or that it's working.)

The distinction though is how messaging and branding are carried out.
  • Messaging = top down, and from the middle to the center. It's the military paradigm: chain of command.
  • Branding = technically formal and structured, but has to appear spontaneous. It can be top-down but works better bottom-up or outside-in. It's organic and people learn the rules then implement them on their own. You cannot force it.
Every communication shop should know and do both messaging and branding. To do it well it's important to be aware of the distinction.

* All opinions my own.


Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal is an author, independent brand researcher, and adjunct marketing professor with 20 years of varied experience. An avid researcher and prolific, creative writer, Dr. Blumenthal's interests span communication, marketing, qualitative media content analysis, political rhetoric, propaganda, leadership, management, organizational development, and more. An engaged citizen, she has for several years worked to raise awareness around child sex trafficking and the dangers of corruption at @drdannielle on Twitter. You can find her articles at Medium, www.AllThingsBrand.com and www.DannielleBlumenthal.com, and she frequently answers questions on Quora. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own.