The Difference Between Marketing, Advertising, Branding & PR

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If you’re a business owner, you have probably used these terms in your conversations: marketing, advertising, branding, and PR. But what does each one mean, exactly? Let’s take a look.

The difference between marketing, advertising, branding, and PR.

  • Marketing. Marketing tells a story – the story of you, your business, your products, your services. In this story is the message. Here’s an example of a marketing story: “For over 30 years, we’ve been perfecting the way we work with brides and grooms and how we drive them in our luxury limos on their big day.” Here’s the marketing message: “our wedding limo services are tried and true – we have the longevity and happy couples to prove it.”
  • Advertising. With advertising, you’re selling the story. You pay money for your story and message to appear in, say, newspaper ads, online ads, radio spots, etc. It’s all about repetition and getting your story in front of as many eyeballs/ears as possible.
  • Branding. This is the one that people mix up a lot. Branding is so much more than just your logo or the look and feel of your website. Branding is your company’s essence AND it’s how people imagine, picture, and respond to that essence. When people see your company’s logo, what do they feel: comfort? Peace of mind? Anger? Happiness? Hunger? It’s how they respond to the essence of who you are and who your customer thinks you are (often based on your marketing story, advertising, and PR). Marketing guru Seth Godin has an interesting definition of brand (and one we tend to agree with).
  • PR. This stands for public relations, and it promotes and supports the more formal message that’s disseminated to the public. PR includes the spreading of positive messages (e.g. an award your company won) and crisis management (e.g. handling a scandal your company faces).

Here’s a link to an excellent (and humorous) image that beautifully illustrates the difference between marketing, advertising, branding, and PR.

So where do promotional products fit in?

Promotional products can help you market, advertise, and brand your business. It depends on what product you choose and how you use it. Here are two examples:

  • Custom calendars with your logo and company informationCustom calendars are a great form of advertising and custom calendarsmarketing since you’re repeating a marketing message every day, week, or month. The pictures on the calendars will also reflect your branding. For example, if your brand is about speed, images of racing cars will help to reinforce the message.
  • Key chains. This is an example we love to use to illustrate branding. Radio stations often give away key chains at events. They’re great promotional products, but there’s also incredible brand value. People who love their radio station respond positively to almost anything branded with the station’s call letters/logo. Key chains are no exception. Even though regular key chains aren’t particularly useful (compared to, say, bottle openers), the radio station’s logo can elicit such a positive response that true fans will often proudly add the key chain to their key ring right away (which helps advertise the station further) because of the emotions they feel. This is branding at work.

What do you think of these definitions of marketing, advertising, branding, and PR? Would you define the terms in another way? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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