For quite some time, one of the biggest riddles in our industry has been understanding the distinctive natures–as well as the dynamic interplay–of marketing and branding. While many argue that marketing is branding and branding is marketing, service designers have taken over redesigning the marketing industry. This has made the riddle even harder to solve, leaving the entire business world in the shadow of stereotypes.

Social psychology describes stereotyping as a perceptual error, where phenomena are often superficially understood and labeled based on generalized perceptions formed in the past. Yet, we live in a constantly changing world, in which we cannot afford to rely on tradition. As branding professionals, we are called to challenge our perceptions and observe our industry from a systems perspective, with the systems view of life, to truly understand its role in business and society. Hence, the profound understanding of the complex nature and the interdependence of marketing, branding, and service design is crucial to moving our industry and the brands we love forward, responsibly.


Extremely creative and strategic, marketing has always been the driving force of value creation and business growth, enabling industrial, technological, and social development. Rigorously controlled by demanding bosses–especially the CEO, CFO, and shareholders–marketers have been constantly overloaded with work pressure. A creative force in a business society, marketing has often faced misconceptions and unfair treatment, receiving less respect than it truly deserves for its significant contributions to profitability and growth. This disparity has persisted from the time of the industrial revolution.  

Having the responsibility of organizational breadwinner, marketing has been stretching itself too thin for too long. Overworked and burnt out, marketers have pragmatically embraced digitalization, automation, and artificial intelligence to handle the increasing complexity, velocity, and meticulousness of their work. While mining data, creating products and offerings, generating and nurturing customers, and chasing everything from supply chain, production, R&D, KPIs and net promoter scores to 5-star reviews and positive testimonials for business growth; marketing has totally neglected its personal growth.

Today we have marketing that lacks systemic awareness and is driven by outdated values, leading humanity dangerously close to breakdown.

Growth is chased without limits, oftentimes at the expense of moral merits. In this state of total exhaustion, marketing operates from shadow consciousness, trapped in the rat wheel of pampering customers like kings, while employees rely on mental health pills to keep up and living species depend on our awakening to breathe.


Marketing’s firstborn, branding, was raised within the protective shield of its mother. Young and free-spirited, favored and spoiled, branding has blurred the business boundaries, spreading its impact throughout the entire global ecosystem. 

Mysterious, seductive, and entertaining, branding has been focusing on exploring and influencing the human psyche. With time, it has become a state-of-the-art master in mind-hacking, neuro-linguistic programming, and persuasion; all for the pleasure of shaping reality in a brand-desired way. Today, we have branding that lacks conscience, influencing the consciousness of humankind in a market-driven manner. 

Just like a spoiled adolescent, branding invisibly pulls the strings of the business show, transforming humanity in a puppet show. Human mockery for the sake of differentiation, playing poker with living resources, and using drama queen’s-king’s tactics for grabbing attention; are some of the tricks branding employs to inspire its muses, who have no shame in their pursuit of wealth and fame.

Hidden behind the veil of stereotyping, branding remains marketing-driven, lacking a moral compass. Its real nature remains unknown even to oneself. And its soulful mission lies dormant, awaiting a brand awakening.  

The dynamic interplay between marketing and branding

A child of marketing, branding has grown into an adult that’s still very much in the shadow of marketing.

  • Marketing is older and prefers tradition; branding is younger and free-spirited. 
  • Marketing is protective and prefers to have control; branding is collaborative and knows no boundaries. 
  • Marketing is more rational; branding is more emotional. 
  • Marketing focuses on economy; branding on psychology. 
  • Marketing is data-driven; branding relies on insights. 
  • Marketing drives growth; branding enables it. 
  • Marketing relies on science; branding prefers art. 
  • Marketing is pragmatic; branding is idealistic. 
  • In marketing, the customer is king; for branding the kingdom of the mind is more interesting. 
  • Marketing prefers tangible aspects; branding adores the intangibles. 
  • The energy of marketing is grounding; the energy of branding is uplifting. 
  • Marketing collects; branding shares. 
  • Marketing focuses on differentiation; branding on integration. 
  • Marketing separates; branding unites. 
  • Marketing is arrogant; branding is extravagant. 

Service design

Born in times of great complexity and uncertainty, service design has followed its inner drive, growing into a highly empathetic, playful, and intuitive profession. Its simple, open-minded, and transparent nature has won the hearts of many leaders who gladly enjoy its engaging, inclusive, and collaborative culture.

Although a child of marketing, service design has a different nature. Highly pragmatic and rooted in action, it thrives in experimentation and innovation. Released from the stigma of marketing, it is warmly welcomed in business and institutional settings where it brings play and entertainment to disengaged talents in search of meaning. Skilled in design and redesign, it holds a great potential for the much needed awakening and transformation of our industry. 

Towards a systems view of marketing, branding, and service design

Observing and understanding our industry from a systems perspective, and mastering the dynamic interplay of marketing, branding, and service design, are crucial for helping organizations, business and society transition from the old mechanistic and ego-driven paradigm towards a new, soul-driven way of being, doing and living. 

Systems thinking can help us in this process, enabling us to put aside the conditioned biases of our professions when dealing with the common challenges in a more integrative way. To achieve this, we’ll have to go through our own personal transformations, elevating our consciousness as a precondition for enabling the human collective to understand the urgency of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 

Sustainable Development Goals are inseparable from the inner development goals, and it is within the realm of our industry that the potential exists to address both of these goals simultaneously. By evolving with such priorities in mind, we might manage to distinguish the role of each profession well enough to capture how they interact–and how we can further develop them in harmony. And with such a clear intention, the how remains a subject of our conscious co-creation.

Cover image source: barneyboogles