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Marketing vs Branding vs Advertising – What’s the Difference?

The terms marketing, branding and advertising are often used interchangeably. However, branding and advertising are actually a part of the marketing process. Maybe I’m a little hypersensitive having worked in the industry for almost twenty years. But I’ve worked hands on with marketing executives and business owners and sometimes even they can get confused.

This got me to thinking. What is the difference between marketing and branding and advertising?

All three elements work together to increase sales and enhance your image. As a business owner or marketing executive, you know that there are many duties that fall under the marketing category. So, if marketing were an umbrella, then branding and advertising would fall underneath it.

Marketing not only encompasses branding and advertising. It covers strategy as well:

  • Earned media, such as public relations, grass roots efforts, community involvement, etc.

  • Owned media, including your website and social media efforts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest

  • Paid media, which covers traditional advertising like TV, radio, print and billboards as well as non-traditional paid advertising via digital online campaigns, cinema, et al.

Branding is more than just a logo or a color theme, although that is an integral part. It’s also the look, the feel, or a characteristic that serves to identify a business’s service or products. It creates an association between the consumer and the business. It also includes a vision and mission statement, taglines, strategy and trademarking.

Advertising is the means to the end. A successful marketing strategy includes advertising to help attract potential customers and establish brand loyalty. For example, advertising may enhance potential buyers’ awareness of the particular brand, while loyalty to a brand justifies the cost of advertising spent on it. Likewise, advertising and branding are single components of the marketing process, while all three components work as a cohesive unit toward increasing sales and enhance the company’s reputation.

Will the world end if someone says they want to buy marketing for their business when they really mean advertising? No! But I thought that maybe this insight might help clarify things for those who want to speak knowledgeably about their business and strategy the next time someone asks!


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