Branding vs Advertising

By Chris Wadsworth

Branding often gets confused with advertising, however both activities are very different and in many ways they are opposite.

Both are strategic business tools with different functions. One is for increasing sales and the other is for long-term business growth. Because it is common for people to get confused, here is a brief overview of both advertising and branding.


Advertising is a paid announcement to promote a product or service via media. Advertising is about persuasion and has a short-term focus to have an immediate impact on sales. Your advertising strategy can be targeted at a broad audience through mass media or can be more specific by using media dedicated to specialised audiences.


Branding is a component of long-term business strategy. It is about determining what values you want your business to be known for, communicating those values and ensuring that you can live up to the reputation your brand builds as a result. The way you present your business communications and the messages you convey can be used to target audiences that are important to you. Rather than persuading customers to purchase from you, branding is about building credibility and trust with your customers so they want to purchase from you and remain loyal to your products and services.

Diversification of advertising

Over the past two decades options for media placement have become increasingly diverse mainly due to new digital media. The advertising industry has fragmented into smaller specialised outfits and the big ad agencies that remain have had to adapt, mainly through acquisition or partnerships with specialist companies or consultants. Branding is an area that ad agencies have tried to diversify into and this has caused some of the confusion around the difference between the two disciplines.

The growth of branding

While advertising has diversified there has been a growing awareness of the importance that branding has for business success. The understanding of branding and its strategic advantages for business has evolved from the ongoing relationship between design studios working with businesses for their communication needs. As a result it is the design industry that is the domain of branding – the professional presentation of a consistent message based on core values and offerings has always been the focus of designers.

Do you invest in advertising or branding?

Advertising has been around for centuries while branding is a discipline that has emerged over the past few decades. Although advertising ‘came first’ if you want to make the most from any advertising investment it is important to establish your brand before you engage in any advertising activities. Branding is an integrated part of business strategy and as such is tied into long-term business objectives and values. The branding process often helps to determine and reinforce business strategy and direction. Before your business says anything it’s important to know what you want to say and how you should be saying it.

Branding and advertising working together

Advertising is a useful tool to help build brand recognition and to establish a brand’s position in the marketplace quicker. Advertisements that follow a company’s brand identity will help grow awareness of the brand which in turn will help to give it credibility. When the messages in advertising align with the brand values there is an opportunity to build trust in a brand.

Branding can help advertising to have impact, particularly for businesses with a known brand. Branding gives instant recognition for those viewing advertising and can create more awareness of a campaign, especially if it is across multiple types of media like print, web and billboard.

A better understanding of branding

Branding has become a household term but it has many interpretations. Some think branding is simply a logo while others think it is just about the visual packaging of a product or business. While these are aspects of branding they are not everything. Branding is about the promises a product or business makes to its customers. It is about communicating those promises and ensuring it can deliver on them.

Those that understand branding know that branding starts when you name your company and only stops when your business does.

Posted 4 February 2013

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