The Difference Between a Brand & a Campaign

By Katja Schindler, Creative Director

January 10, 2017

We all know that one campaign: the campaign that completely nails it. The campaign that lands at the right time, in the right place, has the perfect messaging and execution, and reaches your target audience through all the right vehicles. You love it so much that you want to extend it, run it for another year, print out large posters for your office, your home…in fact, you’re even considering having your agency redesign your corporate website to match the campaign.

It’s tempting, to want to “reconfigure” your brand to match a successful campaign. Sometimes we tire of our own brand, because we live and breathe it, day in and day out. But is it a good idea to snag that flashy campaign headline and turn it into your corporate tagline? It has definitely worked for some. The famous Nike “Just Do It” slogan was part of an ad campaign. The company felt it was so aligned with their core values, they re-built their brand around it.

But it doesn’t work for everybody. It’s good to question whether your brand needs a refresh, but it’s a big decision that should be made for the right reasons. First, let’s look at the difference between a brand and a campaign.


Your brand communicates who you are. 

Your brand is your identity. It represents what you stand for as a business–at the core–and it does so broadly, to a wide audience. A brand has longevity and lives beyond trends and fads. A well-developed brand will also have a flexible visual identity system (called brand guidelines) that guides all communication so that it looks and feels cohesive no matter who is creating it.


A campaign communicates what you do. 

A campaign is a short-term initiative that promotes your organization’s service or product. It is designed to elicit action from a narrower, targeted audience, and it should have measurable results. Campaigns often take their cue from current trends. Much like a new hairstyle or new suit, it’s a fresh expression of what you have to offer; it’s timely and current, but it doesn’t change who you are (or your brand) at the core.


The brand campaign blends the two.

There can also be overlap of these two communication platforms, known as a brand campaign: a focused effort to remind people of “who you are” in addition to your product or service. There are companies who promote both simultaneously, and do it very successfully. Nike and Apple are prime examples: both companies communicate broader ideals that reflect who they are, while selling their services at the same time. But both of these companies also boast an established, well-known brand, something that is vital to have first before a brand campaign can work.


One Example of a Successful Brand Campaign

One company whose brand has stood the test of time, whose campaigns have clearly—and successfully—evolved with the times, is John Deere. Over the years, the company has executed a mix of product specific campaigns and brand campaigns. Some examples:

Starting back in 1964, this simple ad uses a distinct image of the product to promote the brand.

A 1996 ad also uses the product to promote the brand, along with some great tongue in cheek humor. Branding is reinforced by a corporate logo and tagline lock-up at the bottom of the ad.

A 2009 campaign takes a lot more creative liberty in its execution, but is still very clearly branded through color and a unique technique that leads the eye straight to the John Deere logo.

A beautifully executed 2013 brand campaign that highlights both the company’s history and their innovation. This video execution truly reinforces the greater “idea” of what the John Deere brand stands for.

John Deere-How We Run from Hype Communications on Vimeo.

The more recent 2015 “Building together” campaign, again shows a very modern take on a brand and product that has been around for a long time, since 1837, in fact. But its advertising is far from old, or outdated.

Want to Rebrand Following a Successful Campaign? Here are Some Things to Consider

The John Deere advertising examples shown above provide a great example of a brand that has held true to its origin while allowing its campaigns to evolve over time and remind its audience how relevant the product still is. When thinking about your own organization, and that recent campaign that you fell in love with, here are some points to consider before launching into a rebrand discussion:

  • Obviously, the recent campaign reflects your brand, but is the message one that will stand the test of time? Or is it a message that is reflective of current times?
  • Why do you love the campaign? Will you still love it 2 years? Will you still love it 3 years, when that popular font has gone out of style?
  • Instead of a full re-brand, consider extending the campaign by creating another round of assets. Your agency will be happy to evaluate and discuss whether the message will continue to resonate for another cycle. You might conclude that the core message is still relevant, but the creative needs some tweaks in order to have a longer shelf life.
  • Look at ways to incorporate the campaign in your current brand. For example, ask your agency about creating campaign assets that will fit into your corporate website. Or consider a campaign “takeover” of your website and social media platforms, in which the campaign creative takes over for a defined period of time.

We all know that a corporate rebrand is no small undertaking and requires a much greater, much more strategic discussion. Maybe a recent campaign has sparked this process in your own brand. As an agency, we would love to explore this with you—before you go out and tattoo it on your arm.

Got a question about what makes a campaign different from a brand? Want to talk about kicking off a new campaign or rebranding effort? Send us an email at and we’ll chat!


Still from WMMB

Eat Dessert First

Eat Dessert First

This successful holiday marketing campaign paired high-quality video production with smart media buys.

This successful holiday marketing campaign paired high-quality video production with smart media buys.

View Project