Advertising for Branding Versus Advertising for Sales

Updated on May 21, 2020
heidithorne profile image

Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker specializing in sales and marketing topics for coaches, consultants, and solopreneurs.


Retailing pioneer John Wanamaker is famous for saying that he thought only half of his advertising worked, but that he didn't know which half. This accurately expresses the frustrations with advertising of small business owners and big corporate executives alike.

With today’s performance-based advertising programs such as Facebook Ads and Google AdWords, you would think that this frustration should have been completely eliminated, right? Unfortunately, it’s only become more frustrating.

What Advertisers Get Wrong All the Time

The problem stems from confusion between advertising for branding versus advertising for sales. And advertisers get it wrong all the time.

For many years, I sold advertising in a trade newspaper that was mailed monthly to contractors. My advertiser clients were suppliers to contractors. These advertisers were people who believed in tangible results: Buy $1 of advertising, get at least $1 of sales that could be directly attributable to the ad.

But my publication was a public relations tool that included local industry news. The contractor readers might casually look at the newspaper during their off hours to see what their industry colleagues were doing. It was a total branding, name recognition play.

Some of my advertisers were insistent on trying to measure their ad results with “mention this ad” type of tracking. I just had to shake my head. First, “mention this ad” tracking for the advertisers’ busy, distracted, always-on-the-road contractor customers was unrealistic. A supplier’s ad would be the last thing on their minds. Plus, contractors might send their workers, who wouldn’t have seen or cared about the ad, to pick up orders from an advertiser’s warehouse.

It’s been some years since I was actively selling to these suppliers. Today, I would probably advise that if detailed tracking was their concern, they should probably spend their money on PPC (pay per click) advertising on Google AdWords instead of with me.

Finding Versus Feeding With PPC Advertising

Here’s where advertisers are getting even more messed up these days. Google AdWords or other search engine advertising is Pay Per Click (PPC). Social media advertising is also PPC. But the two can deliver different results.

Finding. Search engine advertising is fueled by search. People have entered their intent with keywords. They are actively looking for information and solutions for their needs. So when they click on an ad they find during their search activities, they are self selecting as potential buyers. Ads delivered to help users find what they're looking for are ads for sales. Any branding that occurs is a bonus.

Feeding. Social media advertising is fed by the social network based on what they believe are users’ interests. Ads are integrated into users’ news feeds. Users have not actively demonstrated intent to find products, services, or information for a particular need. Many of these ads could be given minimal attention, or may even be ignored, since users are really looking for news on their friends, family, and other things they care about. If they actually see advertising, they'll probably only remember the advertiser's name. Ads that are fed are primarily branding plays since users have not actively expressed or demonstrated their intent to buy. Any sales may be coincidental or impulse buys.

Know which objective you’re trying to accomplish—sales or branding—so that you use the right channel for the job.

What About Facebook Pixel for Measuring Sales From Facebook Ads?

Facebook offers advertisers what’s called a “pixel,” a bit of tracking code that is placed on a website page or sales page for the ad that’s being run. This helps advertisers track the sales lead from initial contact through sale. It can often be integrated into ecommerce systems such as Shopify. Other social platforms might have similar pixel type tracking available, too.

So is this the solution for getting a handle on how much your social media and branding advertising is doing for sales? Yes, with one very notable exception.

The Amazon Problem

If you’re selling your products or books on Amazon, no pixels are allowed on the product or book sales pages. We can only hope that one day that might change. But I’m not holding my breath waiting since Amazon is itself an advertising platform.

Facebook ads have often been touted as being an advertising medium for self-published authors’ books. But without the advantage of a tracking system such as a pixel, it can be challenging to get exact results. One way to help evaluate Facebook ad effectiveness for books might be to track clicks generated by a Facebook ad for your book and compare with book sales made on Amazon during the period. It’s better than nothing.

However, carefully consider if going directly for the sale from social media is what you want to do. You might be better served by using social media, organically or with advertising, to build your author platform so that when you do have a book to promote, you already have a pool of potential buyers lined up.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2019 Heidi Thorne


Submit a Comment
  • Miebakagh57 profile image

    Miebakagh Fiberesima 

    15 months ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

    Noted, please and thanks.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    15 months ago from Chicago Area

    Dianna, from all I've been reading and hearing in the marketing sphere, branding is even going to be more crucial as the Internet and devices (like Alexa) move to voice search. For example, if you're a cookie seller and you have top of mind awareness with your prospective customers, they won't just ask for, say, cookies. They'll ask for YOUR cookies.

    Thanks for joining the conversation and have a great day!

  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 

    16 months ago

    I appreciate your advise on branding. It seems to be how people are getting their product or name out there these days.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    16 months ago from Chicago Area

    Bill, you are your brand for sure! So many writers switch off when they start using social media, thinking that there is some magical formula. Just be yourself!

    It's been hot and cold, literally, the past week or two here in Chicago. And we missed those blizzards! But we'll have a high of 38 on Sunday. Just the way it is here.

    Thanks for stopping by and have a terrific weekend!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    16 months ago from Chicago Area

    Liz, in all I'm reading on marketing for the future, branding is the key. And, yes, it is tough for small business, particularly since ads for branding are not a direct route to income. Thanks for adding that to the conversation! Have a lovely weekend!

  • Miebakagh57 profile image

    Miebakagh Fiberesima 

    16 months ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

    Hi, Heidi, your comment is useful. A beautiful day to you likewise.

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    16 months ago from Olympia, WA

    Great information, Heidi! I was thinking while reading this. . . I am my own branding in a way. As I navigate social media daily, I am actually advertising myself in everything I do and say in interaction with others. Being the person I am dictates, in a very real sense, how my book sales will go.

    Sorry about the snow....spring must be out there somewhere for you folks.

  • Eurofile profile image

    Liz Westwood 

    16 months ago from UK

    Thanks for unravelling a little of the complexity around advertising. In my view, a strong brand counts for a lot. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done for small businesses.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    16 months ago from Chicago Area

    Flourish, lots of people--including people who pay a ton of money for advertising--don't understand the difference. And, yes, the pixel is tricky, but helpful for advertisers desperate to figure out if their ad investments are working.

    Thanks for chiming in and have a beautiful day!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    16 months ago from Chicago Area

    You're welcome, Miebakagh! Have a wonderful day!

  • FlourishAnyway profile image


    16 months ago from USA

    I’ve never thought about the difference between these two types of advertising but it makes a lot of sense. I had no idea about the pixel tracking. Tricky, tricky.

  • Miebakagh57 profile image

    Miebakagh Fiberesima 

    16 months ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

    Hello, Heidi, thanks for sharing.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)