Branding, Marketing, and Advertising: Learn the Differences

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Voluntarily or not, we all have become familiar with the words branding, marketing, and advertising in recent years. This has been emphasized even further with the media taking multiple shapes, forms, and channels that range from the gigantic billboards you drive by on a highway to the promotional email you would read on your smartphone, and the brands varying in kind between products, services, and even people.


Because of that, it is easy to confuse the meaning of each of them, even though there are some stark differences between their scopes, at the very least.


So if the lines that separate between marketing, branding, and advertising are a bit blurry for you, if you want to know more about how similar or different they are and which one of them is considered subcategory or parent category of which, you have come to the right article.

1- What is Marketing?

Marketing and Advertising

To define it broadly, marketing is the business’s methods of researching, planning, and executing how it promotes itself and its products to its target audience. It is a key component of the management of any business; without it, no one will even know that your company exists. Not only that but also marketing processes should actually proceed with the launch of your company.


By definition, marketing consists of several components and processes, two of which are branding and advertising. But that is not all that is there for it. Marketing comprises research - which should precede all the other parts - it should even precede launching your company itself.


Market research aims at studying your target market to assess it overall, its components and the factors including your target audience, their needs and expectations, your competitors, what they offer, what they excel at, and what they lack (strengths and weaknesses), and many other factors.


This is key to determine your SWAT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) and which need you should focus on satisfying and your competitive advantage and, therefore, your brand identity. This way, you can determine both your Value Proposition (the benefits you are offering your customer) and the Unique Selling Point (what sets you apart from your competitors).


Based on that, the company proceeds to plan its marketing mix, also known as the 12Ps. The marketing mix components are product, price, promotion, place, people, physical evidence, process, proof, portfolio, prestige, performance, and package.


These help you set the overarching guidelines and requirements that your campaigns need to fulfill and how you promote and sell your products to your customers. That being said, we have barely scratched the surface of what marketing is about, but it shows how its scope encompasses many things other than advertising or branding, or even both of them combined.

2- Advertising - the most expensive part of Marketing:

Marketing and Advertising

All advertising is marketing, but not all marketing is advertising. Advertising is only one part of the marketing strategy, albeit its most costly component; it can be defined as a form of media that aims at increasing brand awareness or promoting or selling a certain product, service, or idea.


Ads could be online- or offline-based; they could be written, auditory, or visual, or two or more of them combined. In recent years, a new form, interactive ads, started to rise to fame thanks to technological advances; this has enabled a lot of businesses to create and communicate more personalized messages to their target audience through their ads.


One of the most distinctive features of advertising is that it is usually prompting a specific clear action or immediate response from its audience - known as Call to Action -  such as “buy now!” or “reserve your slot.”


That being said, advertising usually has three objectives: inform, persuade, and remind.


Through informative ads, businesses aim to introduce a new product, service, or explain how they work or how to use it to their target audience. Also, a new business is likely to launch an informative campaign to introduce itself to the market.


As for persuasive ads, as the name clearly suggests, they aim at urging the customers to buy your product or service by emphasizing its features and attributes and why it is better than what your competitors are offering.


A reminder as an objective is not less important than the first two. A brand needs to affirm its placement inside the customer’s mind by reminding him why its products and services are better than the others.

3- Branding - or how to build an intangible giant:

Marketing and Advertising


We can all agree on the fact that brands are currently the world’s most valuable item - even though they are intangible. As a matter of fact, the value of some brands exceeds the GDP of some developing countries.


Amazon, the online shopping titan, currently sits atop the throne with the value of $315.5bn after replacing Apple whose value is estimated to slightly exceed the $309.5bn mark, making it the runner-up; meanwhile, Google came in third place with $309bn, falling short of Apple by around $500m.


Branding has both a visual and a psychological aspect to it. The visual part is about building a distinctive feature - a visual identity - that your customers can identify you and your products or services through amongst your competitors; this includes setting yourself visually apart from your competitors with tools that include your logo, color palette, typography, packaging, mascot,  and many other visual elements.


Let’s take McDonald’s restaurants for example; they have successfully distinguished themselves visually using their red-and-yellow color palette, the stylized “m” letter logo, and Ronald McDonald the clown.


However, the endgame of branding is essentially about associating yourself with a specific unique value or quality that none of your competitors provide your customers with.


To put it in a more simple manner, branding is the image you want to maintain for your business and products in your customer’s mind; it is to gain their immediate trust once they see your logo on any product or service.


For example, when it comes to cars, the first word that would jump to your head when you hear the word Mercedez is probably luxury, while Volvo got itself associated with safety over many decades.


Perhaps one of the most evident demonstrations of a brand’s success is when its name is used as a synonym for the value it provides. Google, for example, associated itself with the process of “looking things up” so much that it recently got its slot in the dictionary. For these reasons, building a brand has become an essential component of any business’s marketing strategy.


However, the responsibility of building a powerful consistent brand does not fall upon the shoulders of the marketing department alone; all the different functions and departments need to complement and contribute to the image the company is meant to build for itself, be it customer service, sales, production, or any other department.


Even the most brilliant marketing campaign cannot help a poor-quality product; eventually, it is the customer’s overall experience before, during, and after the sale with you that determines how your target audience views you.


What are the Different Types of Brands?

Many items can become brands, including goods, services, organizations, people, groups, activities, geographical locations, private labels, media... the list goes on. But what is your company's type of brand? To get you started, here are some of the most popular forms.


Product Brands

Product brands are those businesses that are often identified by their first or most famous item. Brand brands are usually related to tangible items such as vehicles, household goods, or lifestyle products. This can be either exclusive (individual product: Coca-Cola or Pepsi) or cover a variety of items (product range).

  • Product Range: A product range brand is defined by most car brands - think Ford (with several distinct models under that brand umbrella).
  • Ingredient Brand: For cross-promotion, ingredient brands and branding are perfect. Arm and Hammer baking soda, for instance, is itself an individual product brand, but it is further marketed as a trusted ingredient in anything from deodorant to toothpaste to laundry detergent.


Service Brands

A brand of service is just that - a brand that is characterized by the service it offers. Service brands such as Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb are some of the biggest brands to rise to prominence in the last few years, with many others creating a hybrid service/product brand identity, such as Dollar Shave Club, Quip, or Blue Apron. Service brands need to build and retain a clear public image and customer experiences, with service at the center of their identities.


Personal Brands

The advent of social media did not invent the personal brand, but it made it a huge part of the conversation around branding. Celebrities are the most popular examples of personal brands - people like Oprah, Martha Stewart, and Chrissy Teigan have almost mastered the art - but as the company grows and their involvement shifts, charismatic entrepreneurs and business leaders (such as Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Vera Wang) will become profoundly linked to and synonymous with their brand.


Event Brands

Event brands create events that provide their guests with a consistent branded experience, in turn generating long-term customer loyalty. Sporting events such as the Olympics or music festivals such as Coachella concentrate as a branded initiative on customer experience, as the brand is usually closely linked to the experience at the event that participants gain. This is a key reason why product or service brands also sponsor events - by being a part of the experience, they are seeking to exploit the emotional bond associated with the goodwill of the event.


Geographical Brands

Countries, towns, streets, and buildings such as landmarks have distinct key attributes that, if used correctly, can be seen as brand recognition. These brands are also known as city or destination brands, capitalizing on the emotions that a city or area generates to connect itself with similar ideas and concepts. The trademarks and labels "I Love NY" or "Visit Denver" are perfect examples of this.


Other Types of Brands

Global Brands: These brands are commonly promoted and recognized globally, usually epitomized by household names such as Amazon, McDonald's, and Disney.

Luxury Brands: Luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Tiffany, Balenciaga, and Cartier offer social status and support through quality, affiliation, and story-telling.

Cult Brands: Consumers' fierce cultures help drive these brands forward. Patagonia, Supreme, Apple, Trader Joe's, White Claw, and CrossFit are some examples.

Many brands operate through several brand descriptions, but you may want to concentrate on one primary form of brand and let the other partnerships evolve organically while you are working to develop your brand. Think about your audience, your market, and your particular USPs (unique selling proposals), and how all these elements are best represented under your brand's umbrella. You might be tempted to target one form of the brand - who wouldn't want the offset to create a cult brand? But resist the urge and try to build a real and genuine identity of feeling for your brand (and hopefully cult status will come later.)

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