Updated: Nov 29, 2022
Branding, marketing, and advertising are by their very natures intertwined making it more than easy, almost inevitable, to get them all mixed up at some point in time. But does it really matter? If you’re a business owner, it should! Knowing the difference between these three business activities may hold the secret to where your business is falling short when it comes to reaching customers and growing from its current position as they all speak to crucial parts of the buying cycle.
Advertising is a component of both branding and marketing so it's important that we start with this first.
By definition, advertising is, “the activity or profession of producing advertisements for commercial products or services.” - definition courtesy Oxford Language and Google.
For a simpler breakdown:
What is it? - An activity or profession
What does this involve? - Producing
Producing what? - Advertisements
Why? - To sell products and services
An activity or profession involving the production of advertisements to sell products and services. EASY!
Using Oxford Languages again, we get this definition of branding, “the promotion of a particular product or company by means of advertising and distinctive design.” Sounds very much like the previous definition, right? Except this time around we have some added elements, namely, “company” and “distinctive design”.
So let’s do another breakdown:
What is it? - Promotion
Promoting What? - A Product or Company
How? - By advertising and distinctive design
Promoting a product or company by advertising and distinctive design. Isn’t this the same as advertising? NO! How do we know this? Their aims are different.
Let’s use a cleaning sponge as our example today.
Advertising wants to tell you all about what this cleaning sponge can do for you and tell you this in such an attractive manner that it compels you to buy it. Branding wants to make you aware not just of the benefits of cleaning sponges in general but why you need THIS cleaning sponge from THIS company.
Branding aims to get consumers invested in this specific variation of the product or the company behind it. It wants you to care about what this product or company STANDS FOR, it wants you to REMEMBER this product or company when next you think about cleaning sponges, and most importantly, it wants you to TRUST this product or company over all others in the marketplace. It accomplishes these aims by advertising and creating a design that separates the product or the company from others.
Nice! So what then is marketing?
According to Oxford Languages, marketing is, “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.” Sounds a lot like branding, doesn’t it? But the addition of the word “research” and the subtraction of the words “distinctive design” lets us know that the focus or aim of marketing is on acquiring knowledge that is then used to better sell products and services.
What is it? - An action or business
What does it involve? - Promoting and selling
Promoting and selling what? - Products and services
How? - By doing market research and using advertising
An action or business involving promoting and selling products and services by doing market research and using advertising. Now, it isn’t just about persuasive language or making your product or company stand out from the rest, the focus now is strategising how best to accomplish selling your products or services by finding out more about your target base, what they like, what they need, and where they’re most likely to be reached: a strategy.
Let’s go back to our sponge example.
Advertising wants to persuade you to buy a cleaning sponge. Branding wants you to favor this particular cleaning sponge or the company that makes it over all others. What does Marketing want? Marketing wants to know more about the customers who would buy or benefit from the sponge so it can help Advertising and Branding do their jobs better.
Marketing wants to know why customers need a sponge? What problems could sponges solve for them? What do they like and dislike about sponges currently on the market? How can we make our sponges better? Which customers buy sponges? How old are they? Where do they live? Where are they most likely to hear about or see our sponges? And the list goes on.
Now that you know the difference between branding, marketing, and advertising, it's time to ask yourself some questions as a business owner. Is my brand weak or strong?: does it stand out from other competitors or blend in? Do I know enough about my target audience?: What are they looking for in a product or service like mine and where am I most likely to reach them? How can I make my advertisements more compelling: Am I using the best persuasive techniques to reach my audience?