Branding, Marketing, Advertising? 
What you need to know

Do you have a business that you want to grow? Are you confused about where to start and overwhelmed with all of the options? You are not alone. Let’s break these three terms down.


Branding is the way your business looks. It includes your logo, tagline, colors, fonts, photography style, and your “voice” (are you a medical device company that uses straightforward language, or are you a coffee shop that uses whimsical language, puns and jokes?). 

Branding encapsulates the image that you want to give off and the feeling that you want your customers and prospective customers to get when they interact with you. 

But it has nothing to do with reaching your customers. It alone cannot spread the word about your business or service. You will be disappointed if you spend all your marketing money on branding alone. It’s an important first step, but if you don’t have a plan and a bullhorn, you will not attract customers.


Marketing is a plan or road map for how to spread the word about your product or service. Coming up with a marketing plan means digging into who your ideal customer is and determining how you will reach him or her. How will you get them to your website? Will you send them a newsletter? What social media channels do they hang out on? 

A marketing plan is comprehensive and lays out timelines, specific action items, who will perform what task and when. It also lays out why you are doing each thing and what you will achieve by doing each thing. In order to have a comprehensive marketing plan you need to understand that it takes a lot of repetition for customers to take action. Your marketing plan will include how you will use your branding, what your website looks like and what information it includes. It will include an overview of your newsletter messaging and the hashtags that you’ll use on social media. And it will include the advertising that you will do. 


Advertising is a specific way that you get in front of an audience and usually involves payment of some kind. Think of it like a bullhorn, pushing your message out to the world. There are a myriad of ways to advertise, from magazines (my personal fave) to TV, radio, newsletter, sponsorships (your company name on soccer jerseys or a music festival), Google ads, etc. Word-of-mouth advertising is technically free, but involves customers being so enamored with your product or service that they feel called to tell others about it. 

There is advertising where you are just trying to make people aware of your brand or advertising where you have a specific call to action. Referral advertising offers a discount to current clients who bring in a new customer. 

Sifting through advertising options can be painfully overwhelming. If your marketing plan defines what your values are and how you spend your money, it will be easier to know if you should accept a meeting with a sales rep. Check out this article that talks about the two-for-one bonus that comes when you advertise with a local magazine (like Rochester Women Magazine, for example!). Can your sales rep tell you what the values of her company are? Does the company you’re paying care about anything besides the bottom line? Is there an actual real person you can talk to at the company? Will they provide personal guidance and expertise about your ad campaigns?

Put it all together

Branding, marketing and advertising are reliant on one another. If you have branding and a marketing plan but you don’t amplify your messaging through the bullhorn of advertising, you’ll reach fewer people. If you advertise without a marketing plan or with inconsistent branding, you’re really just throwing bits of paper in front of a fan and hoping for the best. 


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