Branding and Advertising and Marketing… Oh My!

March 8, 2023

By Duke Greenhill, Chief Marketing Officer


What is branding? And what’s the difference between branding, marketing, public relations, and advertising?

“Professor Greenhill? Do you have a second,” Emily, one of my students at TCU — the University here in Fort Worth — asked me under her breath after class the other day.

“Of course,” I said. “What’s up?”

“I’m not sure I get what branding really is,” Emily said. “What’s the difference between branding, marketing, public relations and advertising?”

As a freshman in my intro advertising course, I didn’t expect Emily to know these nuances, but judging by the dwindling volume of her voice, it was clear she thought she should.

She’s not alone.

“I can’t tell you how many clients — executives at publicly traded companies, sometimes — have secretly asked me to help them get a handle on these terms,” I reassured Emily. I grabbed my phone and pulled up an image I’ve saved for years for precisely these occasions, and gave Emily this explanation:


Branding is the process of giving meaning to an organization, product, service or idea by creating and shaping a “personality” in the target audience’s mind. Just like people, a set of operating values, a mission, a vision, a look and a voice — behavior: what one says and what one does — comprise the bulk of a brand. Branding is not simply a logo and a tagline. It’s much, much more. It’s the development and maintenance of audience perception. It’s how you build public or consumer trust. It’s where real organizational equity and value are born.


Like branding, marketing is a process — the ongoing practice of generating and maintaining interest in, and then desire for, something. It’s the combination of research, analysis, audience empathy, promotion, sales and distribution of an organization, product, service or idea. Marketing seeks to convey the value generated by a brand to an audience in terms that the audience understands, and more importantly, cares about. It includes everything from strategic partnerships to positioning to merchandising to packaging. It even includes advertising and PR.


In the PESO marketing model, there are four pillars — paid, earned, shared and owned media. They work hand in hand. While advertising — we’ll get to that in a moment — focuses primarily on paid media, public relations is all about earned media. Simply put, PR is the craft of influencing and managing the information about an organization that is disseminated to the public by everyone except the organization itself.


If marketing is the business process, then advertising is the creative process of generating interest in and desire for something. Advertising is a part of marketing, and it requires four key criteria:

1. Advertising is paid. It’s not “earned,” like most of public relations’ focus.
2. Advertising is designed to be persuasive — to change an audience’s behavior, interests, opinions or feelings.
3. Advertising is “structured and mediated.” In other words, it’s specifically crafted messages created for specific media.
4. Advertising is identifiable, or rather, the organization paying for the advertising is evident, usually obviously so.


The image I keep in my phone. Enjoy!


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