The differences between branding, marketing and advertising can be confusing. The terms are increasingly used interchangeably, which only adds to the confusion. All three are important, but for different reasons. So what is the difference between branding, marketing and advertising?
Branding is why your company exists. It’s the foundation for everything you do in your business. It’s your promise to your customers and the basis for your reputation.
Marketing is how you build awareness of your company’s products and services to promote and protect the brand. It’s the understanding of market conditions in order to identify customer needs, and create a product that fits those needs. Marketing is a long-term process.
Advertising, which is a subset of marketing, is what you do to acquire customers and drive sales. It’s the art of grabbing the attention of potential customers using paid media, social media and other tactics. It’s often the most expensive part of the marketing process.
The most successful companies – regardless of size – focus on all three. The combination is powerful. And the order in which you approach branding, marketing and advertising matters. Branding comes first, marketing and advertising follow.
It’s tempting to jump right into marketing. After all, your ultimate goal is sales, and marketing is the strategy used to optimize for sales. But if your strategy is based only on the quality of your product and service, you are at a serious disadvantage. Competitors can offer the same or perhaps a better product and service. If you have not taken the time to develop your brand, you will be forced to compete on price. That is rarely a viable long-term strategy.
Even worse is to jump directly into advertising. Advertising is a tactic used to get the word out about your business, product or services. It’s the most expensive and visible part of most marketing plans, and as such, often gets the most attention. But advertising is just one piece of the marketing strategy. Marketing also includes market research, media planning, public relations, social media strategy, product pricing, distribution, customer support, sales strategy and community involvement. All of these elements have to work together and in alignment with your brand.
Building awareness with advertising is important. Consumers need to understand how your product or service solves their problems. You need to figure out how to connect with your consumer, and the sooner you can figure that out, the sooner the cash flows. But at some point, the consumer will look past the hype to see if the brand truly matters to them.
Your brand lives in the hearts and minds of your customers and your prospects. It’s what they think when they hear or see your name. Your brand is based on a wide range of experiences and perceptions, some of which you can control and some of which you can’t control.
The ways consumers interact with and assess products and services has changed dramatically over the past few years. Consumers are increasingly tuning out marketing and advertising and are digging deeper to better understand the brand behind the product or service.
If you invest time and effort into understanding your brand, the ways it connects with consumers on an emotional level and how to effectively communicate it across the customer experience, you are much more likely to see a return on your marketing strategies and advertising tactics.
This article originally appeared in the Corridor Business Journal.