Although the title of this article says ‘Marketing’, it’s not really as simple as that.

To get their message out and then get bums on seats, school owners have to consider the following: branding, marketing, advertising and sales.

So, what’s the difference? Well, depending on who you talk to, and who’s trying to sell you what, the definitions will be different, and the edges will blur.

Branding is all about creating an impression; it’s the creation of feelings about the brand that are not necessarily related to products and services, but about emotions, identity, purpose and experience. As Don Draper is fond of saying in Mad Men, ‘You drink the label, not the beer.’ Virgin flies planes, but also sells cola and finance. What does Virgin mean to you? A brand is a promise of quality, a certain lifestyle; it sets what you do apart from everyone else. The name and logo should both be simple and memorable, and reflect the brand. A brand is not just a logo, but when the logo alone does the job, it’s a job very well done. The Nike swoosh is now a huge stand-alone licensing business. Your brand should be easy to remember, leave a positive feeling and convey a certain image. Brands can outlast a company’s products. Apple sells much more now than computers. The value of good branding? Priceless.

Marketing and advertising are often used interchangeably, but marketing is the larger process of communicating the value of products and services to consumers in order to sell, promote and distribute them. It entails market research and strategy to deliver new products, or more sales of existing ones, to gaps in the market that show up in the research. Branding is part of that strategy, as is positioning – getting into a niche. The message is then delivered by promoting the brand, at times without anything specific to sell – think roadside billboards in the Arizona desert, hundreds of miles away from any shops, beaming out: Coke.

Advertising is the public announcement, often via mass media, of services or products, usually making them appear desirable, enticing consumers and affecting their behaviour, i.e. getting them to buy. It has also been defined as: ‘Interrupting what people are interested in with a commercial message about something they are not interested in.’ Once that interruption has been made, there will be a call to action. ‘Buy Now! Save 25%!’

Marketing, branding and advertising should all combine to lead to sales.

Sales, very simply, is the process of selling something – delivering products and services in return for payment, most likely with certain conditions in a certain sector of the marketplace.