The Difference Between A Strong Brand vs. Advertising vs. Marketing— Which Is Better for Service Providers?

Hummingbird CreativeAdvertising & Marketing, Brand Value, Thought Leadership

“There is so much advertising these days, it’s hard to know what’s real. Advertising and Marketing tactics may make me consider a company or visit their website, but brand and testimonials would make me hire them.” This, at its core, is the difference between a strong brand vs. advertising vs. marketing. And this…from a Brand Believer who responded to our survey of marketing decision makers in 2021. 

This Brand Believer’s view proved to be the prevailing one among the professionals we surveyed. 71% said a service provider’s brand would always or often have a greater impact on them than the provider’s advertising.

“Advertising is purchased. Brand is earned,” said one Metrics Master. 

“Brand is long-standing — a reputation. Advertising isn’t,” a Disengaged Doubter explained. 

Service providers who want to expand their reach and increase their market share may wonder whether branding is worth the investment. The results of our survey say it is. The statistics should reassure marketers that advocating for brand-building resources and activity are worth the effort. 

In this post, we’ll look a little more closely at what branding, marketing, and advertising are; how they’re similar and different; which one is better; and what comes first.

Let’s Get Clear on the Difference Between a Strong Brand vs. Advertising vs. Marketing

The words branding, advertising and marketing get tossed around a lot, and some people even use them interchangeably. But each one has a distinct meaning and purpose, and it’s important to know what those are. 

To get clear on the distinctions, we thought we’d start with the succinct definitions provided at The Hartford Business Owners Playbook:


“Branding is what your company believes in, why it exists, and how consumers feel about your business and products. Branding promotes loyalty and long-term commitment. The visual components of your brand include your company name, logo, tagline, fonts, and color scheme. These elements identify your brand and create an association in people’s minds between their desires and beliefs and your company’s ideals.” – The Hartford Business Owners Playbook

We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating… your logo, fonts, and website design are just one part of your brand. Your company’s core values, brand story, interactions with customers provide the essence of your organization. That’s what The Hartford is saying about how customers feel about your business and products. Customers will be drawn to you if they feel a connection with your brand.


“Marketing encompasses strategies to build awareness of your company’s products and services. It also involves promoting and protecting the brand. Every message about your company is part of your marketing. This includes all social media interactions, customer service, personal relationships, printed materials, websites, social media profile pages, and anything that contains your brand imagery.” – The Hartford Business Owners Playbook

Again, The Hartford says it well. The messages you put out there on your website, social media channels, and other marketing collateral — whether print or digital — are part of your marketing efforts. How you show up at networking events, in meetings with customers and colleagues, and in the community is also a part of your marketing. And, of course, it goes without saying that anything with your logo on it is marketing collateral. 


“Advertising is a subset of marketing, focused mostly on acquiring customers and driving sales. It generally relates to paid campaigns that are carefully written and designed to reach a target audience through various media, including online, newspapers, magazines, posters, television, and radio.” – The Hartford Business Owners Playbook

Advertising is something we’re all familiar with… we see ads in the line at the grocery store, during commercial breaks when we’re watching our favorite sports teams, and online whether we’re scrolling through our Facebook feeds or watching our favorite news channel. Advertisements are everywhere.

Many companies include paid advertising in their marketing campaigns, and as The Hartford mentioned, they spend time and money to craft targeted ads that attract the clients they want to reach. 

How Are Branding, Advertising, and Marketing Similar?

Branding, advertising, and marketing are similar in the goals they’re aiming for. Key aspects of branding include strategy, awareness, identity, and loyalty. Advertising done well contributes to brand awareness, getting the word out about your company and helping develop a broader audience.

Together, branding, advertising, and marketing are complementary tools available to service providers who want to differentiate themselves from competitors and develop brand-loyal customers in a crowded marketplace. 

“Branding and advertising used together are an effective way to increase the visibility and awareness of your business and build a strong relationship with customers. They are important aspects of all businesses and need to be strategically created to get the best results and increase sales. While they may not be the same, they complement each other and help create successful businesses that are able to meet set objectives.”

Business Partner Magazine

How Are They Different?

Branding, advertising, and marketing are different in their approach. While branding encompasses the essence of a business, the company’s culture, the feelings customers experience with every interaction, advertising and marketing present options and deliver a call to action. It asks viewers to make a decision about a product or service. Advertising and marketing drives sales and leads. 

“Advertising is making your product and service known to people within that marketplace. In other words, advertising is a step in the marketing process — one that uses the data and research collected by marketing strategists to craft compelling promotions.”

Concordia University, St Paul

Which One Is Better?

In Hummingbird’s initiative to understand how professionals think about a strong brand, 86% of Brand Believers, 70% of Metrics Masters, and 56% of Disengaged Doubters said branding is better. 

Some said it’s too difficult to determine which advertisements were really truthful. After all, ads are bought and paid for. Anyone can buy ad space. Branding, on the other hand, is earned. It’s long-standing. It’s built on reputation. That’s why it’s better.

FACT: The impacts of strong branding [Link to How Strong Branding and Core Values Alignment Help Service Providers Succeed] — recommendations, referrals, testimonials, and more — can’t be bought. And they’re extremely valuable to service providers seeking to increase their market share.

What Comes First — Branding, Advertising or Marketing? 

Branding comes first. Branding influences advertising and must be where you start. If your branding has not been well thought out and researched, then advertising and marketing is likely to be less successful! If your branding has been well thought out and researched, you’re more likely to reach the audience your advertising and marketing are targeting.

So for the most success in advertising, don’t cut corners. Take the time and make the investment needed to develop a strong brand strategy before you write, design, and place advertising.

Strong Brand vs Advertising vs Marketing — Which Is Better for Service Providers?
Article Name
Strong Brand vs Advertising vs Marketing — Which Is Better for Service Providers?
The difference between a strong brand vs. advertising vs marketing is that a strong brand encompasses the essence of a business, the company’s culture, the feelings customers experience with every interaction, and advertising and marketing tactics are about generating leads and driving sales. Which is more important, and which comes first? Differentiating your business in a crowded marketplace requires a strong brand, complimented with the right advertising and marketing tactics, at the right time, in the right place.