Yes. Both. But let's start at the beginning...
What exactly is branding? A brand can be better thought of as others’ perception of the company, product, or service. A brand is more than just a company's logo, colors, or slogan. Those are just the tip of the brand iceberg. A brand is the representation of the product: something that identifies it in a recognizable way. A brand is the sum of the customers’ experiences, made up of visual, contextual, functional, and behavioral components. But a brand is also a company's reputation so that customers know what to expect when interacting with the company and its products and services.
According to the Nielsen Norman Group, people experience brand (and brand can be expressed) through three areas: visuals, tone, and behavior.
In general, user experience is simply how people feel when they use a product or service. Good user experience may make you feel happy, productive, or satisfied, while a bad user experience may make you feel frustrated, disappointed, or even miserable.
Like branding, user experience design can be broken down into components as described by Peter Morville:
Most people can’t differentiate how they feel about a brand from how they feel about the experiences they have with that brand, often UX becomes the brand differentiator. It can be part of or all of the reason a customer chooses to engage with a company or its products.
For example, let's say you are flying to Chicago. There are two different airlines that are flying to Chicago on the date you want, the time that is convenient for you, and are the same price. How do you decide which airline to fly with? Perhaps the first airline is known for the exemplary service and the other is known for its comfortable accommodations. The fact that either of these companies is "known for" a particular part of their service that directly influences the user's experience demonstrates how UX becomes the brand differentiator.
Businesses that choose to address an unfulfilled user need are regularly disrupting industries by focusing on user experience. Doing so allows these companies to succeed in oversaturated markets by embracing UX as part of their brand.
Remember how important the user experience is to branding in your next project. Doing so will also make the user experience true to your company's and your users' values.
Do you have any questions about the relationship between user experience and branding in relation to your company? Drop a comment below and I'll do my best to answer and explain.