The Difference Between Advertising And Branding

It’s a discussion I’ve had many times, yet a distinction that people still have a hard time with sometimes, I’m talking about the difference between Advertising and Branding. There are many varying definitions of these terms but I’m going to focus on the online world, which I know and love, but use an example from the real world. Take a look at the picture below:


Seems like a simple picture right? I took this picture last week at the Celtics Game as this blog post popped-into my head. Yes, sometimes this happens, it’s a side-effect of blogging!

What you see above is a great example of Branding. American Express knows that 99.9% of the people sitting in that crowd have heard of American Express. They don’t need to have an animated banner saying, “American Express, A Credit Card Company,” just the brand name does it. They are exposing people to their brand when those people are doing something they enjoy, going to a sporting event.

Now let’s compare this to advertising, once again by the same company, American Express:


This is an ad and the goal of the ad is to get people to sign-up for American Express. Here they are educating the customer, telling them things they might not know, and reasons why they should sign-up.

When you put a banner ad on a website, the same rules apply. It is critical that you decide whether you are looking to get clicks, sign-ups, or some other action to be performed if you are running an advertising campaign. If, on the other hand, you are running a branding campaign then you need to put your brand in places where your target customers are spending time and enjoying themselves.

Let’s say that you run a new winery and are looking to build your brand. Putting a banner on a popular wine blog for the year could get you some great exposure and over time bring people to your site. However you might want quick sales in which case you’ll run a Google Adwords campaign paying per click but being able to calculate the cost to get a customer or participation in a special offer.

The point is simple – there is a difference between advertising and branding. Make sure you are clear with your own marketing efforts to make sure you reach your goals. Every brand needs to brand itself, but at the same time, most brands sell something and they need to advertise in order to make sales. The two co-exist but it’s important to understand the value of each to your business, because they are both incredibly valuable, especially if you plan on your company being around for a while…

Morgan Linton

Morgan Linton