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  • Writer's pictureNamra - Digital Marketing Agency

What is the Difference Between Marketing, Advertising, and Branding?

When working with marketing experts (or experts in any field, for that matter), they tend to use vocabulary that is outside the average person’s immediate knowledge. Words such as marketing, advertising, inbound/outbound marketing, and the like are thrown around, and the laymen are left confused. That’s where we come in. So what, in layman's terms, do the terms marketing, advertising, and branding mean? We will break them down into their respective parts and examine them closely.


Marketing is a bit of an umbrella term that concerns many different aspects of a business’s plan to attract and retain customers. Under the umbrella of marketing fall such terms as content marketing, inbound/outbound marketing, and even advertising and branding. This makes marketing kind of difficult to define, but let’s think of it as the larger whole that parts like advertising and branding make up. Anything that a company does to generate sales falls under the category of marketing, while advertising and branding are particular subsets of this category that each focus on a different aspect of marketing’s goal. As we all well know, marketing is integral to the success of any given company, as this is the way that customers hear about, interact with, and recall the company. Of course, marketing is nothing without a product, but good marketing can help consumers choose one company over another if both companies offer similar products.


Advertising, as described above, is a particular part of the marketing category. With advertising, companies’ main goal is to attract new clients. Advertising is most often outsourced to another company that puts out content for the company. Examples of advertising you are probably most familiar with are TV and commercials, billboards, Internet pop-ups, and newspaper ads. That is to say, advertising can be defined as a situation in which one company pays another company to put out content that attracts buyers. Because advertising is often geared toward as large an audience as possible, it would be considered outbound marketing, which focuses on customer attraction rather than customer retainment.


Branding is where the customer retainment comes in. Branding starts with the company, and is done before advertising. Branding happens during the creation of the product, and continues in the way that that product affects its buyers. In simple terms, branding is how a company sets itself apart from other companies. Good questions to ask yourself when thinking about how to build your brand are:

● What sets my product apart from other similar products on the market?

○ i.e. is it more cost effective? Higher quality?

● What is the personality of my company? How do we present ourselves to our customers?

○ Are we quirky? Compassionate? Family-owned? Big business with a focus on individualism?

● What does my company believe in?

All of these questions must be answered when considering branding because this determines how customers interact with your company, how they feel about it. People often talk about things being “on brand,” which basically means “obviously this person/company acted this way, that is how I expect them to act because they have been doing things like that since I have known them”. For example, if your company is a quirky one like Arby’s, your commercials, interactions between customers and employees, and social media account must have a similar tone of quirkiness strung throughout them. Your company’s brand determines peoples’ initial impression of your company, generates name-recognition, and makes repeat customers out of strangers. A brand is a way to create a connection for your audience. In other words, this is how you make people think of a specific image or have a certain feeling when they hear your company’s name. For example, what do you think of when you hear “McDonald’s”? Probably the large arches adorning the corner of every McDonald’s plot of land, an outdated clown mascot, and the involuntary salivation that comes with the wafting scent of Sweet ‘n’ Sour sauce. In the same regard, what do you want people to think of when they think of your company? Be it a friendly demeanor, a superior product, or quirky advertising techniques, this is something that must be thought carefully about before developing your company’s brand.

So there we have it. The discernable differences (and similarities) between marketing, advertising, and branding. No longer shall you feel lost in a sea of marketing jargon when you are trying to create content for your company to increase sales. This is a great place to start for any business, as it is important to know what you are talking about before you start creating content. In forthcoming blog posts, we will discuss the meaning of content marketing, and the difference between inbound and outbound marketing.

Sources: (2019). Digital Marketing: Branding vs Marketing vs Advertising | The Hartford.

Genow, J. (2016). Marketing vs. Advertising vs. Branding.

Medium. (2019). The Difference Between Marketing, Advertising and Branding.


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