It’s got to be Amazon’s fault…this confusion that is percolating in the industry.  After all, Amazon’s primarily responsible for the “one-stopification” of America in this digital age. The trend of using a single source for goods and services has started to permeate almost every industry, with the promise of convenience now elevated to the same lofty value long reserved for quality and competency. With a new decade ahead in 2020, it seems like a good time to clear this one up so we can get onto a new era of telepathy and teleportation.

Brand logos in advertising

This consolidation has even made its mark in marketing, as advertising agencies are now expanding the scope of their work to cover the full gamut of corporate brand communications. But here’s the thing: as the speed of such streamlining only keeps accelerating, do marketers seem to be forgetting the very real differences between branding and advertising? If you are a marketing leader, it’s a reality that could be meaningfully affecting your bottom line.

Art directors building branding

How would I know? As an Executive Creative Director with 20+-years experience, I’ve had the good fortune to work in and with both advertising AND branding disciplines. I started out my career in advertising, working with legacy brands as Coca-Cola, Coors, Absolut and Gillette. Then, in need of a new challenge, I transferred my passion for high-design over to branding, working to guide Monigle’s unique design and strategy directives. It’s all made for one wild ride, full of unexpected ups and downs to ensure that the journey is never boring. And while I’d be happy to share the war stories of agency life (yes, agency holiday parties really are that legendary) I’m eager to share my perspective on the wide divide between these two distinct creative camps.

Many marketing professionals think of branding as advertising. And advertising as branding. After all, both practices fall neatly under the umbrella of marketing. And yes, both practices exist to increase brand awareness and drive business revenue. In reality, the differences inherent to each practice have the capacity to make the other far less effective. That’s because the focus of these practices orient in entirely opposite directions.

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Confusing? Trust me, sometimes it’s impossible to see where one discipline ends and the other begins. It can all end up feeling like a stomach-turning ride on the YT-1300 Corellian Freighter. But, with more seriousness, let’s dig a little deeper to further define the definition of each practice.

Branding starts by asking fundamental questions about the business itself. Questions like “Who are we?” and “Who are we trying to serve?” All this, because before you can tell your story, you first have to define your own identity.  Then, and really only then, can a business determine what sets them apart from the competition. These insights are what will power branding executions like the creation of logos, color palates, typefaces, messaging – in total, the tone look and feel of the company.

Brand identity

The beauty of branding, I’ve found, is that it’s the perfect intersection of strategy and design. Key insights into the core competencies of a brand serve as the foundation needed to create the soulful expression of its heart and mind. It’s an exercise in both honesty and agility, distilling everything the brand is – really, everything the brand aspires to be – into something tangible. Ownable. It all makes for a challenge that demands we all bring our very best each and every day.

Learn More: Living at the intersection of brand purpose and culture

In contrast, advertising starts by asking fundamental questions about the brand’s potential customer. Questions like “Who are they?” and “What do they really need and want?” This survey of the targeted audience produces the insights needed to develop the products or services that will appeal to your targeted audience – and then position them in a way that resonates with your prospective base.


It all leads to this simple truth: Branding is about you. Advertising is about them.


And Baby Yoda… well just to clarify on that while we are here — Baby Yoda is the lovechild Yoda and Yaddle. and downright adorable. (…maybe too much to add into this blog, but I was dying to include a baby yoda plug.)

Brand guidelines

And that’s the crux of the problem. These two wildly different perspectives make it tough (really, really tough) for a single agency to manage all the contributing factors that determine a brand’s success. It all invariably leads to compromise. And really, brands deserve better.

Branding isn’t more important than advertising. Neither is advertising more valuable than branding. But after years of participating in this push and pull between the two disciplines, I can tell you that advertising simply doesn’t perform as well as it could without a strong branding initiative first. After all, a brand has to know who it is before it can tell its story. Get that right and competitive brands of yours better start watching their back.

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Other shops will try to pitch the convenience of complete marketing services all under one roof. They’ll promise efficiencies and toss around tired buzzwords like “synergy” and “storyscaping.” Have at it, guys. Instead, the creative and strategic minds over here at Monigle will stick to what we’ve always done best: Humanizing brands and moving people.

It would be a pleasure to talk about the unique challenges facing your business. Let’s find a time to chat. We’d love the chance to help tell your story.

December 9, 2021 By Monigle