Marketing is Brand building, not Advertising.

Franklin Nnah
Jan 14, 2020 · 15 min read
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Differentiation separates the winners from the losers.

If you’re confused about the difference between marketing and advertising, you’re not alone. On the surface, marketing and advertising seem to be synonymous, two words you can use interchangeably to describe a process that helps your company sell more products or services.

There’s a vast difference between marketing and advertising, and if you want to be successful with either, you need to understand why and how they’re different — and how to use each effectively.

So what is the difference between marketing and advertising? Why is it essential to separate the two? And how can you use both effectively to take your business to the next level?

Let’s start by looking at the basic definitions of each and then dive deeper into why marketing should be centered around brand building and is very different from advertising.

Difference between Marketing and Advertising.

By definition, advertising is the action of calling something to the attention of the public- This is done, especially with paid announcements of a business’s products or services to an audience. In essence, Advertising is anything that has to do with — you guessed it — Ads.

Advertising occurs across multiple mediums, but the one factor all advertising has in common is that the brand or marketer pays to spread a specific message (an Ad) to an audience on a particular platform.

Typically, the more audience a platform reaches — the more brands/marketers can expect to pay to Advertise. For example, buying a quarter-page ad in a local publication is going to cost a lot less than a full-page ad in a national magazine. You’ll also pay more for a 30-second commercial during the hottest primetime TV show than you would for a 2-minute spot on a local channel.

On the other hand, marketing is the activity, set of institutions and processes for creating, communicating, and delivering value proposition to your customers, clients, partners, and society at large. In other words, it is the systematic set of activities and processes planned and implemented to exchange the value your brand offers for sales.

Marketing is strategic- An effective marketing strategy uses a variety of components to create in the mind of your customers an idea or perception that there is no other product in the market quite like yours by making your consumers buy because of the brand first.

Typically a marketing strategy is broken down into four phases, or what marketers often referred to as the 4 P’s: Product, Place, Price, and Promotion.

  1. Product: Refers to both products and services that you bring to the marketplace to meet consumer demand.
  2. Price: Setting the right price is important for success. Many factors come into deciding pricing including margins, perceived value and opportunity costs of not buying.
  3. Place: Placement is supplying. Place involves considering strategies such as selective distribution, franchising, and exclusive distribution. A place can also mean physical outlets such as brick and mortar vs. e-commerce, or online sales platforms.
  4. Promotion: All vehicles of communication used by a brand to relay the message about its products and services fall under this phase of marketing.

The promotional phase of a Marketing Strategy is where advertising lives — but promotion also includes other activities your brand leverages to market your business.

In a nutshell, advertising is one of the components or subsets of marketing- If you think of marketing as a pie, then advertising will be an essential slice of that pie.

The primary goal of an advertising campaign is to influence the buying behavior of an audience by promoting your products or services to potential or existing customers. But if advertising is all you’re doing to market your business, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to elevate your brand, connect with your customers, and drive sales for your business over time.

For your advertising campaign to work, it must be integrated well with the other pieces of the overall marketing strategy to translate to sales — A well-executed Ad campaign should move new and existing customers through your brand engagement path.

Advertising takes many formats — Banner Ads, Social media Ads, Ad Words, Programmatic Ads, Billboard Ads, Magazine Ads or Paid/sponsored Influencer post, and so on.

Marketing includes these but also encompasses a ton of other strategies like — Content marketing (i.e. ebooks, blog posts, case studies, whitepapers, infographics, or videos), Email marketing, Marketing brochures, Social media marketing, influencer marketing, Sales presentations, Podcasting and so on.

A well-conceived and implemented marketing strategy offers your brand and company new and unique ways of engaging with customers to a far higher level than has been previously possible. Initial faltering steps in digital marketing such as PPC and SEO are the tip of the iceberg as to what is possible.

Similarly, for your marketing strategy to be effective, it cannot live in isolation from the existing activities and history of your brand. Your marketing strategy should be central to your brand.

No matter what business you’re in, advertising and marketing are a must.

Now that you know the difference between the two — it’s essential to understand why it’s crucial to leverage both advertising and marketing to take your business to the next level.

Next, let’s explore why Marketing is Brand building and what this means your business.

The Norm is Haggling Customers into Buying.

It’s no news that there’s a seismic shift taking place in the world of business with the internet disrupting almost every industry. The explosion of digital technologies over the past decade has empowered consumers with tools and platforms that make it incredibly easy to find what they want when they want it and getting it delivered to their doorsteps.

As the barrier to entry for most businesses lowers, and the pace of business quickens, the number of brands created is exponentially multiplying, inevitably creating extreme clutter of the marketplace.

Marty Neumeier, in his book Zag, describes marketplace clutter in 5 forms:
1- Product clutter (too many competing products and services), 2- Feature clutter (too many features in each product), 3- Advertising clutter (too many media messages), 4- Message clutter (too many elements per message) and 5- Media clutter (too many media channels).

Due to the vast amount of competition in the marketplace, it’s customers, not companies that decide which brand lives or dies. It’s not what you say your brand is that matters; it’s what your customers say your brand is what matters.

The best a company can do is focus on activities that build lasting value exchange by delighting customers to influence their brand reputation- This briefly is the definition of branding.

Reacting to consumer trends and behaviors, most marketers advise companies to use big data, social, and analytic capabilities to try to understand the customer and anticipate their next moves to position themselves in front ahead of the competition. They are using Advertising techniques such as Banner Ads, Google Ad word, Social Ads, to influence their customer’s buying decisions from consideration to purchase.

But there is a problem, most people find Ads intrusive, annoying, and even given a choice, they fast- forward, skip, or use Adblockers. Most people find Ads intrusive mainly because 1- They are mostly direct sales pitch. 2- People don’t like a one-way conversation. 3- People don’t trust advertisements.

The intrusive nature of most Ads makes them less effective and affects the conversion rate.

There are two main ways to influence conversion or the buying decisions — You either inspire or manipulate. If advertising is all you’re doing to market or promote your business, then most likely, you are manipulating rather than inspiring.

The reality is, in today’s world, manipulations are the norm for most businesses, primarily because they deliver fast results, and if repeated more frequently, could drive business growth in the short term. Typical manipulations include: dropping the price, running a fear-based or aspiration promotions, or using celebrity endorsements to influence consumer behavior.

Have you ever seen a Fear-based Ad like this — “Cutting your sun exposure is easier than cutting out skin cancer” reads an Ad for a sunscreen product. Or an aspirational Ad used mostly by luxury brands with messages that sell something that comes down to being better than you are — or a fitness Ad with messages like “Work those abs to your dream dress size!” or “Get ripped in six weeks” — these Ads and promotions manipulate.

Manipulation techniques are not necessarily pejorative. They are a perfectly valid strategy for driving transactions, especially transactions that are only required once or on rare occasions for business looking to achieve only a short- term gain with no consideration for the long term. But there are trade-offs — manipulation does not breed trust and loyalty, and over time, they cost more and more.

There is a big difference between repeat business and loyalty — Repeat business is when people do business with you multiple times. Loyalty is when people are willing to turn down a better product or a better price to continue doing business with you. Loyal customers often don’t even bother to research the competition or entertain other options.

As good as the short-term growth may feel from deploying manipulative techniques, they have a detrimental impact on the health of your brand in the long-term.

To inspire, it’s essential that you breed trust with your audience. If your brand fails to foster trust and a relationship with your customers, you will regularly need to haggle customers to sell your products or services instead of your customers buying because they understand the value exchange communicated by building a relationship.

If your business objective is to build lasting relationships with your customers, then it’s crucial to inspire rather than manipulate..

A Fresh Way of Thinking.

As humans, we crave a sense of belonging. It’s in our DNA and an existential need. We want to be around people and organizations who are like us and share our values and beliefs so much that we form communities and cultures based on mutual values and beliefs, which inversely breeds a sense of trust and relationship. This feeling only comes from having a common set of beliefs and values.

To build trust and a relationship between you and your customers — You must be able to articulate your brand values and aspirations to customers that share the same or similar values in simple and clear terms.

Your brand mission and values must be understood inside and out, before advertising or promoting your business, as misplaced brand values within a Marketing strategy will at best lead to misfiring campaigns — at worst, it can lead to long term damage for your brand.

When you promote your products or services to customers that share the same belief and values, you create communities and a sense of belonging. Your products then become a symbol of shared beliefs.

Central to this shift is a fresh way of thinking, to Inspire rather than manipulate.

To inspire, you need a well-structured marketing framework tailored to your business that enables you to craft the right messages and experience that put you in front of your target audience, at the right time and place ahead of the competition.

Marketers are increasingly managing customer journeys, as they would any product to ensure at every customer touchpoint the messages, customer experiences within each medium, and channel consistently promotes shared values between the brand and customers alike.

So rather than merely reacting to the trends, behaviors, and journeys that consumers themselves devise, your brand can lead by shaping the paths that lead to lasting adoption and loyalty — leading rather than following and restoring the balance of power by exchanging value between your brand and the customer. You also create brand equity by building and communicating your brand to the right audience.

The only way people will know what you believe in is by the things you say and do, and if you’re not consistent and clear on both, no one will know what you believe. You might argue, there are plenty of successful companies whose primary motivation is to make money — that’s a fair argument. But as we established earlier, if your business aims to be successful in the long term, your goal should be to build a strong brand that stands out from the competition rather than is short term financial gains.

To build trust with your followers and customers, you need authenticity — What does that mean in practice? It means WHAT your Business does and HOW you do business has to resonate and be consistent with WHY you’re in business. They all need to work together in harmony. People can detect inconsistencies, and when they do, they perceive you as inauthentic, and you erode trust.

Your WHY is the reason your brand exists.

The concept of inspiring vs. manipulating based on Simon Sinek’s best selling book Starting with Why- In his book Simon provides a useful framework for his approach to leadership: The Golden Circle.

At the center of the Golden Circle is WHY. The next concentric circle is HOW. And finally, the outermost circle is WHAT- Simon explains that every company knows WHAT they do and can clearly articulate the features and benefits of their products or services.

Few companies also know HOW they do WHAT they do — their unique differentiators and their value proposition, but very few companies know or can clearly articulate WHY their business matters — their purpose, their cause, or their belief. WHY is the reason your business exists and why anyone should care.

He further explains that since the WHAT is the easiest to know and articulate, most companies start with WHAT by running Ads to communicate and promote their product-centered around its features and benefits. Sometimes they will also discuss HOW, but they rarely talk about WHY.

Simon advocates that businesses should invert the order by communicating from the inside-out of the golden circle. Starting with WHY, HOW, and end with WHAT.

Reserving the order of communication by simply starting with WHY your company exists, then HOW you do what you do, and WHAT you do you, there’s no trickery or manipulation.

Sinek’s premise is this: You need to know why you’re in business — and talk about it. When a company has a strong motivation, and that motivation shines through, customers buy the product.

He uses Apple as an example of a company that understands and communicates their WHY exceptionally well. — Apple’s ‘Think Different’ campaign, used in the resurgence of the brand.

Steve Jobs clearly articulated the importance of value innovation, speaking about Marketing in a 1997 internal meeting at Apple. Job’s stated that at its basic Marketing is about value; he went on to call put the importance of a strong and clear mission, especially in today’s highly competitive, complicated, and noisy marketplace. Companies have to be clear about what they want their customers to know, feel, and remember about their brand, emphasizing this is done by caring and focusing on the customer.

Apple Ads they rarely talk about the features and benefit of a new iPhone or EarPods; instead, they promote the brand value — Think differently, innovation, and community. In its most recent 2019 Holiday — The Surprise Ad promoting the iPad.

Apple’s 2019 Holiday — The Surprise Ad promoting the iPad

The Ad creatively promoted the iPad by focusing on the customer and how the device fits and serves their needs — Value proposition. Having a common language to describe what your company is about making all subsequent decisions about visuals, voice, and identity and target customers a lot easier.

It’s easy to find other supporting examples. companies like Nike, and more recently Lululemon and Slack also fit the bill.

“People don’t buy WHAT you do; they buy WHY you do it.”

Here’s a quote from Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog about the earliest days of Nike, in 1964:

“I’d been unable to sell encyclopedias, and I’d despised it to boot. I’d been slightly better at selling mutual funds, but I’d felt dead inside. So why was selling shoes so different? Because, I realized, it wasn’t selling. I believed in running. I believed that if people got out and ran a few miles every day, the world would be a better place, and I believed these shoes were better to run in. People, sensing my belief, wanted some of that belief for themselves. Belief, I decided. Belief is irresistible.”

Today, more than 50 years later, Nike stands for pretty much the exact same thing. Here’s their current mission statement:

Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world.*If you have a body, you are an athlete.

Nike rarely talks about its products in their marketing communications, rather they honor great athletes, people, communities and causes.

Know your Customers, then talk to them about your Brand.

If having a clearly defined mission or manifesto for your brand, translated from the intended value proposition to your customer, is the engine of your brand, understanding your key customer segments and how they like to be spoken to is the steering wheel of your brand.

To do a better job of providing what people want (whether they know it or not), you thoroughly need to understand who your target customers are.

When you know the goals, challenges, pain-point of your target customers, where you can find them, where they spend their time online, what gets them talking, and what do they already engage with — crafting the right message, at the right time and place to engage with them becomes more natural.

It’s essential also to know that your target customer will fall into various segments with varying needs.

Customer segmentation and the understanding of how and where your customers live online should be used to decide and refine how and where your brand should invest and communicate its value to customers. The goal of your business should not be to sell to anyone who wants what you have simply — but rather to find people who believe what you believe, the left side of the bell curve.

Understanding what people think they want and then translating the value of your brand into their terms” is something your brand should consistently and continuously work on. From the copy accompanying signup forms to fast-loading pages, good welcome emails, purposeful loading screens — Every digital experience implemented should be well-functioning to deliver customer value and reinforce the brand values.

Once you decipher who your target audience is, and how to best speak to them, your marketing plan then should include a strategy to best position yourself in the marketplace. Trust is a feeling, not a rational experience.

We trust some people and companies even when things go wrong, and we don’t trust others even though everything might have gone exactly as it should have.” You have to earn trust by communicating and demonstrating that you share the same values and beliefs.

With the on-going streaming wars between Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO, and now Disney+ and Apple TV, Roku, and so many more entrants, the clear choice for a parent is Disney. Regardless of all fantastic work, Netflix has done to offer diverse content and even a children only profile; Disney will most likely be the clear winner because, for decades, Disney has consistently positioned the company as a family entertainment brand.

You don’t just want any influencer; you want someone who believes what you believe. Only then will the influencer talk about you without any prompts or incentives. If they genuinely believe in what you think and if they are genuinely on the left side of the curve, they won’t need to be incentivized- they’ll do it because they want to.

The entire act of incentivizing an influencer that would not use your product otherwise is manipulative, and overtime it renders the influencer completely inauthentic to his or her group.

Promote your Market Category, not your Product.

What should brands talk about? Going back to the Think Different Campaign, Steve Jobs called out Nike as the best brand. Nike promotes the category or innovation and not their product- This is one of the laws of branding.

Another good example of a brand that promotes the category and not the product is Slack — Quoting Stewart Butterfield in his article We Don’t Sell Saddles Here, about the innovation at SLACK.

He said and I quote:

“It is not as eye-catching as self-driving cars or implantable chips — it is not basic research-y kind of stuff. But, for organizations that adopt it, there will be a dramatic shift in how time is spent, how communication happens, and how the team’s archives are utilized. There will be changes in how team members relate to one another and, hopefully, significant changes in productivity”.

Slack understood that they are unlikely to be able to sell a group chat system very well as people don’t think they need another group chat system, they focused on the key value proposition and sold organizational transformation, which was a reduction in information and email overload and better-organized teams. That’s a good thing for people to buy into and it is a much better thing for a company to sell in the long run.

In his article, Stewart Butterfield stated that the best possible way to find the product-market fit is to define your own market category, using Lululemon to explain his point, he stated:

“In a very competitive sport apparel market with Nike, Adidas and Under Armour dominating a huge share of the market, Lulumon founded in 1998 had a manifesto of — At lululemon, we’ve made it our vision to elevate the world from mediocrity to greatness. When they started, there wasn’t a large market for yoga-specific athletic wear and accessories. They sold yoga like crazy: helping people find yoga studios near their homes, hosting free classes, sponsorships and scholarships, local ambassadors and training, etc. And as a result, they sold just under $1.4 billion worth of yoga-specific athletic wear and accessories in their most recent fiscal year- They achieve this by creating a new market category and promoted the category”

What does this mean for my Business?

As the pace of business quickens and the choices in the marketplace proliferate with an abundance of look-alike products and services, for your business to thrive and be successful, you must develop a well-structured marketing strategy aimed at pushing your brand forward in the consciousness of your target audience that leads to lasting adoption and advocacy.

From a customer’s perspective, this allows the model to change from being a monologue to a dialogue.

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