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Marketing Misconception #2: Brand, Marketing and Advertising Are Not One and the Same

Updated: Apr 11

The Marketing Misconceptions series will focus on topics that are common perceptions of marketing and then clarifying them. Some are light hearted ones that make most Marketers roll their eyes. Others are actually pretty important and could be hurting your business. 

This is probably one of the most consistent misconceptions out there about Marketing in general. It is often assumed that Brand is the same thing as Marketing and that Marketing is the same thing as Advertising. While these are all interconnected and part of the Marketer's nomenclature, they are actually different and accomplish different things for a given business. And, in fact, when the strategy work for each aspect is done correctly, they can come together to create beautiful harmony that drives business forward. If you skip a step or conflate them, you risk wasting budget for reduced ROI, and above all, confusing your customers.

OK, So What's the Difference Between Branding, Marketing and Advertising Then?

Let's start to dispel this particular misconception by clearly defining what each one is and the value it can bring to an organization:

Brand: The essence of identity

It is the art of shaping perceptions and emotions associated with a business, product, or service. And it should be established based on your business strategy. Here's why: A successful brand effectively communicates what a company stands for, what it offers, and why it matters to its target audience. It cultivates trust, loyalty, and emotional connections, fostering long-term relationships with customers. As mentioned in Fast Company, "the role of brand is crucial. A clarity of purpose, and the impact of its communication, is key to any brand's ability to tap into and even influence culture." If your brand strategy is not grounded in your business strategy, then it is easy for discerning consumers to spot the disconnect.

Marketing: Connecting with the Audience to Sell

Marketing is the strategic process of promoting and selling products or services. It involves understanding consumer needs and preferences, developing offerings that fulfill those needs, and creating strategies to reach and engage target audiences effectively. Marketing encompasses a wide array of activities, including market research, product development, pricing, distribution, promotion and customer relationship management.

Unlike branding, which focuses on shaping perceptions, marketing is more action-oriented, aimed at driving sales and revenue. It encompasses various channels and tactics, both online and offline. Effective marketing campaigns resonate with the target audience, address their pain points, and highlight the unique value proposition of the offerings so that a customer wants to buy the product or service.

Advertising: Amplifying the Message

Advertising is a subset of Marketing focused specifically on promoting products, services, or brands through communication channels. It involves creating persuasive messages or content and disseminating them through various mediums to reach a broader audience. Advertising channels can range from traditional platforms like television, radio, print, and billboards to digital channels such as search, display, social media and sponsored content.

Successful advertising campaigns leverage creativity, storytelling, and targeted messaging to capture attention and drive desired actions, whether it's making a purchase, visiting a website, or engaging with the brand on social media.

So what you're saying is Branding, Marketing and Advertising are different, but connected?

Exactly. While branding, marketing, and advertising each serve distinct purposes, they are interconnected elements of a comprehensive strategy and should be built in order to reflect and support the overarching business strategy (which gets established first)

  1. Branding sets the foundation: It defines the identity and personality of a business, shaping how it is perceived by customers and stakeholders. This should be built after the business strategy is completed.

  2. Marketing builds on branding: Marketing strategies leverage the brand's identity and values to develop offerings and messaging that resonate with the target audience. This should be developed once the business strategy and brand strategy are in place to ensure clear business objectives are achieved through the lens of the brand.

  3. Advertising amplifies marketing efforts: Advertising disseminates marketing messages and content through various channels, increasing visibility and driving customer engagement. Advertising campaigns should be established only once everything else is solidified. That way the campaign supports the marketing focus which supports the brand identity, which serves the business plan.

Missing Any One Element of the Marketing Ecosystem Creates a Danger Zone for Your Business

The danger for any business is when you conflate Brand, Marketing and Advertising, skip one of them, or build them independent of your overall business strategy.

If you skip the branding part, you're not anchoring who you are to your business strategy overall. Therefore you risk marketing strategies that are disconnected from your business strategy which means customers don't know who you are, what you stand for and what value your business can bring to them. If they don't know who you are, they are less likely to trust your company and therefore less likely to buy from you, risking your sales and revenue numbers.

If you build the brand strategy, but skip the marketing part to go straight to the "fun stuff" of advertising, your advertising efforts may reflect the brand itself and may help you build brand awareness, but those efforts will be disjointed and you will struggle to sell products. For example, if you build a brand strategy focused around social responsibility and go straight to advertising via a social media messaging push, you likely won't convert to sales since the message is too high level. Or you may not have thought of a way to drive your potential customers to a place where they can convert to purchase from you.

If you build the brand strategy and the marketing strategy but ignore the advertising strategy (this is much more common in B2B in my experience), you're risking putting the burden for sales on other parts of your business - in other words, your sales reps and distribution channels have to work significantly hardly to build rapport with customers, teach them the value associated with your offering and then get them to convert. If advertising is there, it can do some of the heavy lifting on educating the customer and getting them interested so that a sales rep, for example, can focus on closing the deal, not everything that comes before that.


So to wrap this one up, Brand ≠ Marketing ≠ Advertising. And skipping any one of them will lead you to risk wasting precious budget dollars while not connecting fully with your intended target audience. But knowing the differences and value of each, how they work together and how to use each one effectively can help you catapult your business forward in meaningful ways.

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Like what you read here? Considering how it might apply to your own business? Then let’s connect and get started.

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