Advertising vs Marketing vs Branding​ – Key Difference

Advertising vs Marketing vs Branding


Branding, marketing and advertising are all tools you use to promote your business. They help attract and retain customers and increase sales and profits. All of these elements are closely related and tend to influence each other, making it easy to get confused. By understanding the differences, you can develop more targeted business initiatives and maximize the effectiveness of each tool.

Branding is what your business believes in, why it exists, and how consumers think of your business and products. Branding promotes loyalty and long-term commitment. Visual components of your brand include your company name, logo, tagline, fonts, and color scheme. These elements identify your brand and create associations in people’s minds between their desires and beliefs and your company’s ideals.

Marketing includes strategies to raise awareness of a company’s products and services. This includes brand promotion and protection. All business messaging is part of marketing. This includes all social media interactions, customer service, personal relationships, printed materials, websites, social media profile pages, and anything including brand image.

Advertising is a subset of marketing focused primarily on attracting customers and increasing sales. Generally, it refers to paid campaigns that are carefully crafted and developed to reach its target audience through various media such as online, newspapers, magazines, billboards, television and radio.

These initiatives work together. Branding determines the style and targeting of advertising campaigns, while advertising can increase brand awareness. Marketing, in addition to facilitating advertising campaigns, can manage brand responsibility and enhance brand reputation.


Advertising = Paying Someone to Tell Your Customer about You

People tend to use “advertising” and “marketing” interchangeably. Advertising is not the same as marketing.

Advertising is a subset of marketing, like social media and event planning.

I often hear companies say, “We’re not ready to go to market yet,” but what it really means is that they’re not willing to spend money on advertising. And most of the time they are right. They don’t want to advertise.

What does Advertising look like?

You probably know your primary advertising goals and primary channels. But it might be something you never thought of, so let’s see. Advertising goals include:

  • Influence consumers to pay for your products or services
  • Keep your brand and products fresh in the minds of consumers
  • Maintain a strong image and brand reputation
  • Foster greater brand loyalty 
  • Attract first-time buyers
  • Motivate existing customers to make repeat purchases

With these goals in mind, we may place ads in a variety of places, including:

  • Billboards
  • Social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) 
  • Search engines (Google, Bing, etc.)
  • Print (magazines, newspapers, etc.)
  • TV and radio 
  • Website banners and popups 

In simplest terms advertising is:

  • Creating an ad
  • Paying a third-party to run that ad on their platform

One of the reasons for the confusion is that advertising used to be a much larger and more expensive part of the marketing pie. If you wanted to advertise your business, you had to pay to advertise somewhere. That location was typically television, radio, print media, direct mail, billboards, or digital banner advertising.

Social media and blogs have changed everything.

The number of ways to send messages has exploded. From maintaining a blog on your website to taking pictures of yourself and uploading them to Instagram, there are many tools and tactics you can use to promote your business. None of these require payment to a third party to serve ads.

Don’t advertise unless you’re paying someone else to advertise on a platform you don’t own. You go to market. 


  • Branding = You
  • Marketing = Customer
  • Advertising = “Someone Else”

Is there any overlap between the three? Yes. Do you still find the lines blurry? Absolutely.

 Marketing, advertising and branding are linked, but the terms are not synonymous.

Why is this important?

You can keep your company because it is not ‘market ready’. Not engaging in marketing activities to sustain the business.

Because if you avoid branding work, you will not be able to differentiate yourself. Without knowing your story, who you are and why you do what you do, you cannot communicate clearly with your customers or explain what differentiates you from your competitors.

Yes, our words can become gibberish when marketers fall too far into the “marketing language” rabbit hole. But using the right words at the right time can make a difference. In business, it can make all the difference.

Using the right terminology helps us understand better. The better you understand, the better you can do your job. And if you do your best, you can build a better business.


Marketing = Understanding Your Customer

The term “marketing” is very broad and covers so many areas that it is a very confusing term.

“Marketing” is the whole enchilada.

Market research, product development, pricing, customer support, website, brochures, social media, SEO, public relations, public relations, event planning, blogging and public relations are sub-areas of marketing.

So does branding and advertising (hence the confusion).

And they all fall into marketing buckets, but they’re all different areas that use different skills.

‍What Does Marketing Look Like?

Like branding, marketing is a multi-step process with different goals and strategies. The main marketing goals are:

  • Identify product-market fit
  • Generate leads
  • Nurture existing leads
  • Boost web traffic
  • Attract new customers
  • Retain existing customers
  • Improve customer satisfaction
  • Increase conversions (sales, sign-ups, downloads, etc.)
  • Research target customers’ problems, needs, and available solutions
  • Track, measure and improve your marketing initiatives

And, in action, marketing is done using one or more strategies:

  • Affiliate marketing
  • Content marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Influencer marketing
  • Inbound marketing
  • Offline marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Search engine marketing (SEM)
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)

What is good to remember is that marketing is a process.

This is the process by which a business acquires and retains customers. The way your business acquires and retains customers is different from the way other businesses acquire and retain customers.

And knowing your customers is important.

  • Understand who your customers are and what they need
  • Develop products and services that appeal to them
  • Positioning those products and services in a way that will resonate with them
  • Branding is you. Marketing is about them.


Branding = Understanding Yourself

Branding, also known as brand development, is the in-house activity that underpins everything you do in-house. And it all starts with you. Your business.

Before you can decide who to serve and what problems to solve, before you can grow your business on that foundation, you need to understand what your business is. You have to know your story.

You make widgets. But what makes your widget better than all others? High quality? Cheap? A unique port that allows you to connect all sorts of gadgets and gizmos to your widget?

Quirky like Southwest Airlines? Or fancy like Virgin Atlantic?

Did the constant loss of suction force you to reinvent the vacuum cleaner? Or are you continuing your family tradition of community service?

Your story gives your business meaning and makes you stand out. This keeps your team inspired and connected with your customers.

But you can’t tell your story until you know your story.

The core of branding. Not going to lie, it just scratched the surface of the branding. Branding strategies, logos, color schemes, messaging, and keeping it working are all part of the branding equation. But the point is to understand who you are, what you stand for, and what you offer your customers.


Now that you know the key differences between branding, marketing, and advertising, you can probably move on to the more pressing question: Which one do you start with?

Like most businesses, you probably want to start with marketing. You might think that this is the best way to get started and quickly get customers and make your first sale. You think, “By the way, find the rest.” Sound familiar? If so, let me show you a better way. Getting started with branding is actually in your best interest. Why? Unlike your marketing strategy or advertising, your brand should be at the heart of your company.

This means that your brand directly influences how your business is marketed. For example, one of the most important steps you should take in your branding process is creating buyer personas.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a buyer persona is a fictional profile of your ideal customer. Understand how to identify your ideal customer, how to create messages and content that addresses customer issues, how to provide solutions that directly address customer experience, and how to find the best places to connect with customers regularly (e.g. social media, email, print magazine).

When you give up branding, you miss an opportunity to define your business and make it appealing and trustworthy to consumers.


Branding, marketing, and advertising are often used interchangeably. But they are not the same. If you weren’t sure before, I hope this post clears up some confusion and allows you to harness the power of all three!

·       Branding is the process of learning about your target customer through market research, understanding their problems, and demonstrating how your product can help solve one or more of those problems.

·       Advertising is a marketing tactic that requires you to pay a third party to display ads for your business for sometime.

·       If you’re just starting to build your business, start with branding. Your brand is at the heart of everything you do as a company. And it directly influences the how and why of marketing and advertising.

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