What is the difference between branding, marketing, and public relations?

I often hear people use the words “Branding”, “Marketing” and “Public Relations” interchangeably. As a result, people end up feeling very confused. These are actually three separate things. What is the difference between the three? 

Branding, marketing and public relations


Firstly, marketing is sort of an umbrella term that encompasses an entire process (click here to learn how to create a marketing plan). It begins with market research to determine the need for a product or service. It ends with the actual sales of the product or service and includes everything in-between. 


Apple, Coca-Cola, and Starbucks are very recognizable brands. Branding is one of the “in-between” things that happens in the marketing process. The term “Branding” was originally used to describe a technique utilized by cattle farmers to mark their livestock and show ownership. The term has evolved. It is now also used to describe the process of “marking” a company or product. Branding is really about forming the identity of a particular product or company. The thoughts or feelings people associate with your company is your brand. It’s what marks you.  


Public Relations also falls under the marketing umbrella but takes a slightly different approach from Branding. Branding is about identity, PR is about reputation. The focus of branding is to create positive thoughts and feelings about your product or company. The focus of PR is to maintain those positive thoughts and feelings. Good PR can also restore positive feelings if a business’s public image has taken a blow. In public relations, you are constantly looking for opportunities to create goodwill between your business and the public. 

In conclusion, as you are thinking about each of these terms and how they work together, it’s much easier to understand if you remember that marketing is the entire process and branding, public relations and a few other parts (advertising, promotions, etc.) belong to the bigger process.