What’s the Difference Between BRAND and BRANDING?


If you’re in charge of marketing your child care center, dance studio, gymnastics program or any other youth enrollment program, you’ve most likely had discussions involving your brand and branding and brand awareness and brand identity and…let’s just call it “brand stuff.”

It can get confusing, right?

You’re not alone. A lot of people use these terms interchangeably or even incorrectly. Some people have never spent time thinking about any of it at all (gasp)!

Two of the most misused words in the bunch are “brand” and “branding.” While somewhat connected, they are two very different things.


What’s the difference?

Here’s the quick answer:

BRAND = a thing (noun)

BRANDING = an activity (verb)


OK. What’s the long answer?

I’m glad you asked!

There are a LOT of definitions out there for what a BRAND is. My favorite comes from Ze Frank, president of BuzzFeed, where he describes a brand as “an emotional aftertaste.” In other words, it’s the feeling people are left with after having experienced our business (it’s usually the culmination of several experiences).

Another one of my favorites is this one:

What he’s referring to is the fact that we don’t OWN our brands. Our brand is whatever people say it is. That’s a fact. A brand is a FEELING and we don’t have control over how people feel about us.

We CAN, however, do our best to INFLUENCE how people feel about us.

Which is where BRANDING comes in…

After we’ve decided what we want our BRAND to be (i.e. what we would like people to think and feel about our program), we use BRANDING to convey that feeling to the outside world while establishing ourself AS a brand. Branding is the attempt to influence people’s perception of us.

There are a few key components to influencing that perception:

The Target

This is our ideal customer. It’s who our brand is most suited for. All of what follows is dictated by the target.

The Look

This is our logo, colors, fonts, imagery, etc. It’s the face of our brand.

The Message

This is the language we use to differentiate ourselves and the voice we speak to our ideal customer in.

Branding can also involve where we choose to advertise, types of promotions we offer, who or what we’re associated with, our price point…basically; before doing anything, ask yourself: 

“Does this support and nurture how I want my program to be perceived?”


Why does this matter?

Everything we do in youth enrollment marketing relies on identifying the brand and branding. It’s the foundation of our marketing and understanding the two terms helps us make better decisions.  

Without knowing how we wish to be perceived and how we plan to influence that perception, we’re just spinning our wheels.

By approaching our marketing efforts from a proper foundation, we’re also more likely to think long-term. Far too often, I see people singularly focused on the short-term campaign (or even a single advertisement!). True marketing involves establishing an identity in the market and that takes planning, consistency and time. We use efforts like single campaigns to keep moving forward!

How do you influence your target’s perception? Have you developed a “magic formula” that’s working? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Until next time – Be Well. Be Happy. Shape Minds. - Tom