What’s Best – Branding, Marketing, PR, or Advertising?

People in business are often unclear on what route to take to bring awareness to what they do. It’s important to understand the distinction between the counterparts of marketing, public relations, advertising, and branding. 

This popular image does a great job of conveying the differences.


Let’s clarify and answer the question at hand.

The terms branding, marketing, public relations, and advertising tend to be used interchangeably or are all lumped under “marketing”. While they all relate to the promotion of a product or service, each has its unique purpose, goals, and intended result.

Marketing focuses on satisfying customer needs. It is the comprehensive process of identifying, anticipating, and satisfying customer needs and wants through the creation, promotion, and distribution of products and services. The goal of marketing is to generate leads, build brand awareness, and increase sales through a range of tactics such as market research, customer segmentation, and product positioning. Marketing tells an audience how to perceive the subject – “we have superior customer service”.

Advertising focuses on promoting a product or service through paid channels. It is the paid promotion of a product or service through various channels such as television, print, radio, and online. The goal of advertising is to reach a large audience and persuade them to purchase the product or service through creative messaging and visuals. Advertising reminds an audience, repetitively, how to perceive the subject – we have superior customer service, we have superior customer service, we have superior customer service.”

Public relations (PR) focuses on managing reputation. It is the practice of building and maintaining a positive image and relationship between a company or individual and the public. PR aims to generate positive media coverage and manage the reputation of the company or individual through various tactics such as press releases, media events, and crisis management. PR persuades an audience on how to perceive the subject –  “trust me, they have superior customer service”.

Branding focuses on creating a unique identity.  It is the process of developing the elements that make a company or product recognizable and sets it apart from its competitors. Branding involves creating a name, logo, tagline, voice, ethos and visual components that represent the company’s values and mission. The goal of branding is to create a consistent image that resonates with the target audience and creates a lasting impression.  Branding creates audience perception  – “I know they have superior customer service”.

The first thing a business should work on is its brand identity. This sets the foundation for the end goal of creating a perception by their target audience.  It allows a framework for strategy and a cohesive presentation in the marketing, advertising, and PR efforts.  Think of it like showering, combing your hair, and getting dressed before heading out for a night on the town – you want to be seen prepared and at your best!

By understanding the differences between these four terms, businesses can create a cohesive and effective marketing strategy that helps them achieve their goals. 

We can get you set up for success with brand clarification and strategy development, book a discovery call today!