Marketing, branding and advertising are typically lumped into the same general category, marketing, especially by small to medium sized businesses. They also look at most branding and advertising agencies the same way, interchangeable. In my point of view, they are very different, though they have similarities. It’s like saying a BMW 135is and Ford F150 are vehicles and can get you from point A to point B, but they have very different functions and purpose. The larger, Fortune 500 do know the difference and work with the appropriate agency to get the best in each category. Here is the main differences and how to leverage each.
Advertising agencies – Many people know what they do. They make ads. That common understanding is correct. The more subtle difference is they do make ads, but it’s in conjunction with an isolated objective or campaign. Typically, a brand is already established and well marketed, it just needs a boost during key times or critical situations. Creative advertising campaigns are at their core and the larger agencies have dedicated media planners to help strategize the appropriate media channels. What they are not efficient at is the creation and marketing of the brand and the brand experience.
Branding marketing firms – Many people think of these companies as design firms. True, they do design, but so do advertising agencies. Design is a common element in any creative enterprise (even technology companies). Branding agencies are not about design, branding is about marketing an experience – Brand Marketing. A true branding agency is media agnostic, they don’t favor one marketing tactic over another or one media channel over another. Instead, they analyze the product or service and use this information to design a marketing approach that extends the brand experience most effectively. Traditional, new media, digital, mobile, it doesn’t matter. They start with either defining a brand if it is non-exisent or redefining a brand that is either weak or unfocused.
By understanding your needs and goals, you can chose which type of “marketing” is best for you. Of course there are many sub-categories of firms that even specialize in a smaller niche of service (design only companies, media planning and buying agencies, PR firms, web site firms and digital media firms just to name a few.) The challenge with the sub-category firms is they do a piece of the brand marketing or advertising well, but most don’t integrate the whole picture of a comprehensive marketing plan.
Knowing not to use your BMW to haul dirt will save you a lot of frustration, time and money.