Branding vs Marketing for Millennials


You’re swiping through Tinder when an interesting prospect asks you for a date.

It’s the profile of some guy from downtown. All his photos are either taken with a 35mm camera or he just applied some cool filter to make them appear that way. His outfits seem to all be thrifted and thrown on in a casual “I don’t care, but I still manage to look good” way.

His current favorite song is listed as “Salad Days” by Mac Demarco. Now you’re starting to get a better feel for his personality. You can see yourself kicking back by the fire listening to some chill beats while deeply discussing how the meaning of life varies cross-culturally.

His bio has some effort in it but not too much. It’s clear he wrote it himself instead of copy-pasting some cheesy pick-up line from the internet, but it’s not overdone.

Overall, he seems like a mellow, easy-going, but intellectual kind of guy. Everything from his clothes, style of photographs, writing voice, and music choice, point to those specific qualities.

This is all branding.

Let’s call this guy Liam. You may read all this about Liam and think he’s the exact opposite of what you’re attracted to. For some other girl, this is her dream guy. But it doesn’t matter. The point is that you’re able to draw these inferences based on the image presented on Liam’s packaging, or in this case, Tinder profile. We’re able to pull adjectives to describe a guy like Liam and get a clearer idea of what he stands for all based on his voice, style, sense of humor, and music taste.

When we look at brands for products or services we do the same thing. When I’m deciding between popcorn brands in my local grocery store, the truth is that they’re all relatively the same. Yet, I find myself buying the slightly above market priced brand. For me, I’m the type of consumer that believes in high quality, organic ingredients. Late July boasts these qualities all over their packaging. Because of the strong presence of their brand personality, I am able to make the connection that our core values align. But most importantly, this brand now has a connection in my mind as a high quality, organic product line.

Marketing comes in, on top of the brand. When you agree to a first date with Liam, you say yes because you have an idea of what his persona is about (branding). During the first date, Liam will still have the base of the person he presented himself as on Tinder, but now he’s trying to sell you on him. Liam, like other brands, has an end goal. He wants to make the sale, whether that’s a second date, or beyond. This is where marketing comes into play, with all sorts of varied techniques, pushing to get the sales results.

Liam’s core persona, or brand, comes before and is the base of any marketing techniques that he attempts later on. His personality displayed on his Tinder profile did not explicitly say, “Go on a date with me and fall in love with me”. It was rather a profile saying, “This is what I am. If you think you could dig this, then let’s try things out.” When you’re on a date with Liam, maybe he’ll say something like, “I’ve always wanted to go to the local art gallery downtown, we should go together sometime!” Liam’s request is still true to his personality/brand, but he’s also used a tactic to push you onto a second date with him. What a clever guy.

Depending on how future dates go, you will figure out if Liam’s further emerging qualities and values align with your own. If they do, he has a customer for life (ha!). His clever jokes and “moves” (marketing) may have convinced you to go on a second, or third date with him, but his underlying personality (brand) is what made you stay.

Now, who said Tinder was a waste of time?

Originally published at

Empowerment. Capturing the journey through life, career, femininity, and more. I write about what it takes to live as your truest self.

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