What is the difference between a brand agency and a marketing agency? 

Typically, a brand agency collaborates with an organisation to develop a transformative brand strategy and identity system while a marketing agency helps an organisation achieve shorter-term goals like impressions, downloads, and sign-ups. But beyond this, what is the difference between a brand agency and a marketing agency? And crucially, how do you know which one to partner with?

Critical differences can be identified in time horizons, objectives, and tactics:

Time horizons:  

  • A brand agency creates a strategy that positions companies for success in the medium to long-term (5-15 years).  
  • A marketing agency will typically focus on the short term (6 – 18 months).


  • A brand agency will aim to solve strategic problems such as consolidating brands, reinventing an organisation’s vision or mission, and setting up a company for long-term growth.  
  • A marketing agency will typically focus on awareness, engagement, and leads. 


  • A brand agency toolkit includes surveys, workshops, identity systems, brand campaigns and activations.  
  • Marketing agencies will specialise in one or more marketing channels including: Email, PPC, Advertising, Website Conversion Rate Optimisation, Public Relations, or Social Media.  

There is some overlap. And the importance of defining these is not to say which is better. It’s to understand how they work together to get the best results.  

The following article is based on an interview with the founder of rbl Brand Agency, Rebecca Battman and highlights the differences between these two types of agencies and how to get the best results from both.   


1. The Focus of a Brand Agency vs a Marketing Agency 

Brand agencies focus on helping organisations tackle long-term strategic challenges. They engage with the organisation’s leadership team to craft a brand strategy that aligns with the company’s business goals.  

While the brand project can be done relatively quickly (6-12 months), it continues to have an impact 5 to 15 years, occasionally longer.  

The task involves identifying the core of the issue and instigating a profound change, whether it’s through a comprehensive rebranding initiative or supporting major corporate transitions. 

As Rebecca puts it, this is a balance sheet discussion, not a P&L discussion:  

“Yes, we want to improve metrics across the board, we want to improve performance and revenue. But ours is a balance sheet conversation about creating long-term value in that business and brand. This will transpire over a period of time. 

Whereas, marketing is a P&L driven challenge, which is about shorter-term revenue. Yes, if you can move the needle on the revenue, that is also going to support the balance sheet valuation, but that’s not the primary focus.”  


As Rebecca points out, a marketing agency’s primary objective is the swift attainment of short-term results, frequently centred on driving immediate revenue growth.  

These agencies excel in crafting and executing campaigns, focusing on effective communication strategies, and setting shorter-term goals. Their emphasis lies in the immediate impact on metrics like sales and revenue, linked to quarterly or annual financial targets.   

While their purview may not extend as far into the future, their agility and focus on short-term objectives often complement the broader, longer-term strategies of their brand agency counterparts. 

These distinct approaches highlight the complementary roles each agency plays in contributing to an organisation’s overall growth and market relevance. Or, as Mark Ritson puts it, “Marketing Bothism” which he describes as:

“the rare capacity to not only see the value of both sides of the marketing story, but actively consider and then co-opt them into any subsequent marketing endeavour in an appropriate mix”  



The rest of this article will be about how to do just that. The appropriate role and mix of brand and marketing. 


2. When You Need a Brand Agency

When organisations need to dramatically transform their organisation they need an experienced brand agency. Especially in scenarios demanding fundamental changes within the company’s structure or direction.  

 These include:  

  • shifts in the marketplace dynamics 
  • internal organisational changes 
  • aspiration for fundamental shifts in the company’s ethos and positioning.  

A good brand agency can act as a helpful partner during moments of flux, providing strategic guidance, an experienced steady hand, and the data and identity system to steer the organisation towards a new trajectory that successfully navigates the evolving market landscapes or internal reorientations.  

This extends beyond cosmetic alterations, offering strategic frameworks that define the brand’s narrative, purpose, and identity in line with the company’s overarching objectives and evolving realities.


3. When You Need a Marketing Agency

Companies should look for a great marketing agency to partner with when they already have a clear brand strategy and require the activation and amplification of their messaging.  

Marketing agencies help enhance and broadcast existing brand messaging and assets. 

Leveraging their expertise in communication, campaigns, and channel optimisation, these agencies play a pivotal role in propagating the established brand narrative, ensuring its effective resonance across diverse platforms.  

Their focus lies in amplifying the existing brand story and leveraging it to launch new offerings, to enhance the brand’s presence, market penetration, share of voice, and maximising its impact in the market sphere. 


 4. The Trend Back to Brand

Many marketing leaders, based on insights from various industry conversations and experiences, tend to favour short-term outcomes over long-term strategic initiatives. Amidst the pressures of quarterly results and immediate performance indicators, a significant portion of marketing leaders prioritise activities that yield swift and tangible returns.  

This inclination toward a short-term focus often stems from the urgency to meet immediate revenue targets and demonstrate quick wins, aligning with shorter time horizons.  

However, while these short-term objectives are crucial for business continuity, there’s a growing realisation among marketing leaders about the value of investing in long-term brand building for sustained success and market resilience. 

This is supported by emerging research about the importance of long-term focus in marketing and corporate leadership, well summarised in this quote that prefaces a report published by McKinsey & Company: 

“Ample evidence shows that when executives consistently make decisions and investments with long-term objectives in mind, their companies generate more shareholder value, create more jobs, and contribute more to economic growth than do peer companies that focus on the short term.” 



5. Importance of Strategic Work Before Engaging Marketing Agencies 

Skipping strategic work poses a significant risk, leading to confusion and a lack of coherence in brand messaging and initiatives.  

Brand agencies play a pivotal role in mitigating this risk by offering a clear direction and narrative for marketing partners to follow. By establishing this foundational framework, brand agencies effectively allow marketing partners to concentrate on their specialised areas of expertise.  

It also means briefs for agencies will be more targeted on core issues, key messages and effective solutions for intractable challenges.  

This division of labour ensures a cohesive brand strategy and consistent communication across diverse channels, aligning the brand’s messaging and identity, ultimately enhancing its resonance and impact among the audience. 



The distinctions between brand and marketing agencies, underscore their complementary roles in shaping success.  

Brand agencies excel at organisational transformation. They craft enduring strategies, engaging leadership to establish long-term visions aligned with business objectives. Their focus on balance sheet conversations emphasises enduring value creation over extended periods.  

Marketing agencies excel in rapid, short-term gains, adept at driving immediate revenue growth through targeted campaigns and communication strategies.  

The key lies in their integration, leveraging both agencies’ strengths to navigate modern marketing complexities, steering businesses toward comprehensive success. It’s not about choosing one over the other, but understanding their harmonious interplay for optimal outcomes in today’s dynamic market landscape. 


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