No one sells you branding.

I got a phone call today from a guy wanting to sell me “audio impressions” on web blogs. Only that’s not what he said.

He was told by the medium’s management that five-second audio pronouncements of a slogan was “branding”. He wanted to help me brand my business by selling me ad impressions.

I told him I thought he was selling advertising and that the media company for which he was selling called it “branding” because marketers are so down on “advertising”. Advertising media managers and their reps are resorting to the euphemism because marketing managers hang up on media reps.

Along with media reps, almost any ad specialty company that wants to sell you mouse pads, pens, key chains, and baseball caps with your logo on it claims to be the business of “branding” your company.

Well, there’s a big difference between advertising and branding.

Branding covers all the touchpoints and all the methods of conveying the essence of your offering. It’s not just a media buy. It’s not just a unique selling proposition. It’s not just a special price, limited time offer. It is the “big picture”. It’s a basis for making decisions about media buys and ad messages, but branding is much more.

First of all, branding is a strategic activity and function. It needs to be a chief executive level activity. Branding differentiates your company or product for the long run. Though brands can change over time, a brand has a life far longer than any ad campaign, and usually much longer and more stable than the relationship of advertiser and their ad agency. It is the process of positioning the offering against your competitors. It is the method of developing a relationship with certain target markets based upon the true core of the business or product.

So no matter what a media reps claims, they are selling the very tactical tool called advertising. Good ads help communicate your brand story, but by themselves, ads just reflect the brand as they attempt to build awareness of the brand and its virtues.

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