There is a lot of confusion around marketing, advertising and branding. If you do a search online, you’ll find no shortage of articles explaining the differences.
In fact, “What’s the difference between marketing and advertising?” brings up more than one hundred million results. A hundred million! And that doesn’t even include queries on branding.
Part of the problem is that marketers have a tendency to get caught in a cycle of “marketing speak” that can be meaningless to others and just make it more confusing.
I know. I’ve done it. And I’m trying to break the habit. So I’m taking a different approach to making sense of it all. This article is written for business owners. Not marketers.
Branding = Understanding Yourself
Who are we? Whom do we serve? How are we different? What problem do we solve? These are the fundamental questions of branding – the internal work that is the foundation for everything else you do in your business.
And it all starts with you. Your business. Your story. Your story is what gives your business purpose and sets you apart. It’s what inspires your team and connects you to your customers. It’s the core of all branding work.
Strategy, logos, messaging and maintaining that work are all part of the branding equation, but it all comes down to figuring out who you are, what you stand for and what you offer customers.
Marketing = Understanding Your Customer
“Marketing” is a confusing term because it is so broad in nature, covering everything from branding and product development to websites, social media and more.
Marketing is everything. The “whole enchilada.”
It is also a process. A process by which your business gets and keeps customers.
1. Understanding who your customers are and what they need/want
2. Developing products and services that will appeal to them
3. Positioning those products and services in a way that will resonate with them
4. Communicating and promoting those products and services to them
Where branding is about you, marketing is about them.
Advertising = Paying Someone to Tell Your Customer About You
Generally, when I hear businesses say, “We’re not ready to market,” what they really mean is that they’re not ready to spend money on advertising. And usually they’re right. They’re not ready to advertise.
One reason for the confusion is that advertising used to be a much larger – and expensive – piece of the marketing pie. Social media and blogging changed all that, and the available options for how to get your message out have exploded. In simplest terms, advertising is:
• Creating an ad
• Paying a third party to run that ad on its platform
But unless you’re paying someone else to run an ad on a platform you don’t own, you’re not advertising. You’re marketing.
Side-stepping the work of branding keeps you from setting yourself apart. Without knowing your story, you can’t clearly communicate with your customers and tell them why you’re different from your competition. And deciding “we’re not ready to market” can keep a business stuck – and unable to grow. In business, it can be all the difference.
About Your Columnist
Jacqui Genow is a featured columnist for Women Lead, the official blog of Connected Women of Influence, where she covers all topics related to marketing. Jacqui is a small business marketing consultant who helps business owners take the guesswork out of marketing by providing clarity and direction – a roadmap – to reach their marketing goals. Jacqui is an Independent Marketing Consultant at J. Genow Marketing.