The Difference Between Branding and Image Marketing

Updated: February 24, 2024

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It’s been said millions of times that when you have a business, image is everything and first impressions count doubly hard. But is “image marketing” the same thing as “branding?” In short, no. Image marketing gets down to brass tacks concerning the images you use in your website and promotional materials while the notion of “brand” is far less concrete. They can sound confusingly similar but are actually two separate concepts.

Branding vs. Marketing

First, let’s delve into branding versus marketing because this is the original source of confusion for a lot of new business owners and marketers. Branding frequently gets lumped in with marketing and while they’re related, they’re actually entirely different things. A brand is a demonstration of your team’s core values and principles and how they’re expressed. It’s what makes your business unique and a place that people want to buy from, associate with, and work for. What’s your organizational mission statement? Company culture? The way that your company communicates internally and externally, what kind of voice do you strive for in those communications and is it consistent?

Think of branding as abstract and marketing as concrete. The actual brand is something to be felt and experienced even if it becomes concrete with style guides, logo colors, and employee handbooks. Whereas marketing is ultimately concrete in that while the brand is a what, marketing is a how people will hear about this particular brand and see it in action. Advertising, logos and images, social media, email campaigns, and of course, content. The brand is the idea but marketing is the execution.

Pleasing Imagery is Integral to Marketing

Now, think of image marketing as a form of representation for your brand. Branding artwork and types of imagery and colors used become a bedrock of your marketing materials. Memorable logos and/or color schemes serve as a foundation for getting people to start recognizing your brand. But that’s not all! What kind of other images are you using in your promotional materials, web content, and other aspects of your online presence?

Visual content is so important and it goes beyond just picking nice photos to go with your blog posts and other forms of written content. Image and imagery go hand-in-hand and you don’t want dated and cheap-looking 1990s clip art or poorly-short phone pictures of your products on your website where potentially thousands of people can see them. Image marketing is supposed to be the execution of the abstract concepts your brand represents, so if you want your consulting firm to put forth this fortuitous image then the last thing you want is to use poor-quality stock photos that lack context for your target audience to accompany your blog posts.

Visuals aren’t just pretty, they’re also useful: HubSpot found that people who hear information will only remember about 10% of it three days later, compared to 65% for being paired with an image (which was definitely not a 1990s clip art illustration.)

Consistent Quality Images and Imagery Will Differentiate Your Brand

Suffice to say, content marketing is starting to share a grievance with indie video games: things are getting really crowded really fast and it’s not enough to just have a game anymore. In this case, it’s not enough to merely start a blog and go say things on it. There was a time when numerous brands were relatively weak with content, now everyone’s doing it. While content is still ultimately a viable long-term investment with more “long game” impact compared to other types of marketing, similarly to the discoverability issues with games you have to be unique when it comes to both brand voice and your content. Even the Content Marketing Institute agrees. And one of the first things people see when it comes to uniqueness would be top-notch visuals.

Stock photo site subscriptions aren’t that expensive and sites like Fotolia frequently offer both illustrations and photos if you don’t want to commission bespoke cover images for every piece of content just yet. For consistency, more often than not you can see if the same creator has an entire collections of vectors to pick from. Many don’t even require professional design skills to fix up yourself in Photoshop or Canva, the latter which has plenty of robust free tools to make gorgeous infographics and social media cards.

Having both quality and consistency is key for success with image marketing. You can have the best writer in the world who’s a highly-specialized subject matter expert pen the best content for you, but its impact won’t be as great as the content that is accompanied by pleasing imagery. While word placement for ultimately SEO-friendliness is important for drawing in search traffic, it’s the visual aspects that will drive more clicks and shares plus that engagement on page. Even with the best writing, no one wants to read a huge of text!

Building your brand is more of an abstract concept that becomes concrete with the creation of your branding assets which will be used in your marketing efforts. Pleasing and relevant visual content then needs to accompany your written content and other promotional materials so that people will remember it. Having bespoke graphics is important for differentiation while stock photos and illustrations that are of consistently high quality will play the part well for your image marketing. Be sure to scope out the talent on WriterAccess for help in bringing your brand’s vision to fruition!


Human Crafted Content

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