Marketing vs. Advertising vs. Branding

After a few decades in marketing, I have noticed that the essence of marketing, advertising and branding has become convoluted — the reference lines are blurred. Since I first started RedBalloon in 2001, the concept of marketing has changed with the implementation of digital media and exponential increase in online retail.

These three words in question are flung around daily, but how often do we truly understand their meaning, especially in the evolving retail landscape of 2018?

I read an article this week by Peter Gasca which succinctly described the differences between marketing, advertising and branding and cuts through to the true essence of each. Truly understanding the three and how they interweave into an overall marketing strategy is essential for your business.

Let’s take a look at how Gasca applies the three concepts to the best analogy: our own lives.

Marketing is how you see yourself

“Marketing is the image that you are trying to present to others. It starts with how you dress, the colors and patterns you choose, and how you groom… Even not having a strategy for your personal appearance is a strategy itself. You choose your image to portray yourself to the world… and by doing so, you are expressing to others through your appearance your character, lovable attributes, and in the end, the value you offer to others. It isn’t fun to admit that appearances are as important as they are, but let’s be honest, first impressions are driven by appearance. Impressions can evolve and be molded later, but as we all know, they require time and effort to change, so we do our best to get it right up front”.

“For a business, a marketing strategy considers how you want others to perceive your company. It should convey the vision and values of the business and express these in a way that the public will recognize and associate with your company. How you “dress” your company will determine how effectively your message and image will be accepted by consumers.”

Advertising is how you act in public

“If marketing is how you see yourself, advertising describes your actions. How you carry yourself, where you hang out, and what you say are just as important as how you look. All of this should be considered with your marketing strategy to assure that you have consistency between your image and your actions. Your business advertising strategy is the same. If you execute it in the wrong places, with the wrong message and tone, at the wrong times, or to the wrong audience, it will ultimately confuse consumers and could turn them away.”

Branding is how others see you

“While marketing is how you want others to see you, branding is how they actually do. Your marketing strategy should assess and consider your personal brand. If you have a strong brand, you can spend more time building on it. If you have reputation problems, however, you need to focus on rebuilding or changing perceptions… Similarly, from a business standpoint, understanding how consumers perceive your business is crucial for how you decide to execute a marketing and advertising strategy.”

Understanding the essence of marketing, advertising and branding can materially impact the bottom line of your business… but how do you tell if what you’re doing is actually effective?

Is your branding effective?

One of the ways to see how your brand is actually doing in the market is to measure your engagement rates. No longer is a follower count the be all and end all. The question that needs to be asked is: how engaged is your tribe, your customers? Do you have repeat customers? How often are they purchasing? Have you created a community around your product or service?

Growing a community is key — if you can successfully bring together a group of people who share a common value or interest and who are actively engaging with your content… you’re a step ahead of the online game.

Also published on Medium.

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