Marketing Bootcamp

The Quick and Dirty on Marketing, Advertising and Branding

In my work as a lecturer and consultant, I often meet new entrepreneurs or inventors who will instantly trash their credibility by saying something like, "My marketing strategy is to advertise online."

Beyond the fact that "advertising online" is a radical over-simplification of this complex proposition, misunderstanding and mixing the concepts of marketing and advertising, and often branding as well, will make any entrepreneur look inexperienced and can give investors and partners a reason to question your strategy.

Related: 12 Facts About the Human Brain That Will Make Your Marketing More Successful (Infographic)

Understanding marketing, advertising and branding is not that difficult. I consulted with Tonia Spier, founder and creative director of the advertising firm C.A.S.E. Solutions, and asked how she explains these three business concepts to new entrepreneurs. Here is my rough interpretation of her much more eloquent explanation.


Marketing is the message that your business gives to others. 

When you explain your business to consumers, business partners and stakeholders, you are describing your company's benefits, attributes, and more important, value.

You control how people perceive your company by controlling what you present to the world. It is your first and ongoing impression to consumers, so it is critically important that you devote time through when you develop your marketing strategy.

It is comparable to the way you dress. What you choose to wear in the morning is a reflection of how you want others to view and judge you throughout the day. Yes, you are being judged when you walk through the grocery store in your pajamas.


Advertising is the message about your business that others are receiving -- again and again and again. 

Unlike marketing, which is a constantly maturing and evolving proposition, advertising should be looked at as a much longer and static strategy. Sure, you can change and alter your advertising from time to time, but once campaigns are launched, it is challenging to change course. More important, the wrong advertising campaign can completely undermine and ruin a well thought out marketing strategy by delivering the wrong message.

Related: 4 Ways to Revamp Your Marketing to Mesmerize the Crowd

Comparing again to how you dress, you probably would not wear pajamas to a networking event or a business suit simple to go grocery shopping. Where and when you dress is as important as how.


Branding is the message you are receiving from others. 

Branding is the happiness and value proposition people put on you and your company. Good reviews, the willingness to pay a premium for your product or service, and the general goodwill you create through providing exceptional value to your consumers is your brand. You can guide your branding proposition with a well planned marketing strategy and a well executed advertising strategy, but ultimately your brand is controlled by your consumers.

Let us assume you do go to a networking event in your pajamas. If you are Mark Zuckerberg, you have already established your brand and your value, and for the most part, pajamas will not cause a negative affect on the image that you have created. For the vast majority of all other companies, however, we do not have (and probably do not want the kind of) the brand equity with our customers to allow us to wear pajamas in a professional environment, so it could greatly harm the value we are trying to convey. 

So, take the time to understand the difference between marketing, advertising and branding. Doing so will will help you to speak more knowledgeably about your business and strategy, and help you avoid looking uninformed or inexperienced. 

And, regardless, it is just a good idea to never wear pajamas outside your home.

Agree or disagree? Please share your valuable thoughts and insights below with others.

Related: How to Harness Your Brand's Energy