Have you ever seen an ad that doesn’t look like one? The one that doesn’t feel like it’s trying to sell you anything.

Advertising is the backbone of every business. If done right, it can help a company earn millions. This is precisely why businesses across industries keep a certain portion of their budget for advertising.

There are many different kinds of advertising, but the main subject of our article is institutional advertising. Let’s dive deeper and see what it is and why it is essential for the company.

Institutional vs. product advertising

Advertising can be divided into product or service advertising and institutional or corporate advertising. Since there are two different types of advertisements, there are two approaches that we can take as a brand. 

A product-based advertisement is a tool for promoting a specific product. It is more specific to one product that a brand might make, and a lot more informational. It focuses more on product features and attributes and how they will impact a decision to buy one brand over another. 

Institutional ads are more branded ads that promote ideas or the company as a whole. They are more emotional, more about the brand, connect with an audience deeper and help them to identify with the brand.

As a broader term, it serves as a framework for advertising existing and future products.

What is institutional advertising in marketing?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the idea behind Institutional Advertising is to promote a “product so that people have a positive opinion of it, rather than the advertising of a particular product or service.”

Product advertising refers to promoting a specific brand of a product and caring for the product’s brand image. It is related to short-term goals in the desire to test products as much as possible. This type of advertising requires significant financial resources.

On the other hand, institutional advertising is focused on advertising companies. The primary interest is creating the brand identity, creating a positive image, and improving reputation rather than selling the product.

Institutional advertising is oriented towards long-term goals that can apply to all future products and includes advertising intended to promote a company, corporation, business, institution, organization, etc.

These are the actions oriented to promote the company itself. The most common type of institutional advertising is radio, television, print, and digital media, in which companies can convey their message through dialogue. It also includes non-traditional media in public places (scoreboard in a sports stadium, ads in a cinema, signage on buses, trains, subway, etc.).

Objectives of corporate advertising

  • Promoting the company’s beliefs, visions, ideas, and goals.
  • Boosting a company’s image instead of creating and building the image of a product or service.
  • Encouraging positive qualities such as commendable customer care, dependability, or low price.

Institutional advertising also includes sponsorship of non-profit or charity events and on-building signage that can be seen on the front of retails or restaurants.

This type of advertising does not have the direct goal of selling a product. Instead, it will inform the audience what the institution or company is doing for society and benefit the community.

These are the topics that concern and interest the general public and include health, employment, quality of life, humanitarian activities, etc.

We might see a product in an institutional ad (an example is a Coca-Cola ad). Still, it is more about the overall feeling that we get from a brand rather than product-specific attributes. 

It generates expectations that make the organization or business well valued and desirable to gain potential customers. More than goods or services, the advertiser advertises himself and creates a brand image.

Techniques in institutional advertising with examples 

Many companies today use indirect institutional advertising campaigns to inform the public of their generous acts and contributions.

For example, an oil company might create a public statement, commercial or documentary about its ongoing efforts to ensure that its actions, products, or services do not harm the local, regional, national or global environment. Or a tobacco company that can use institutional advertising to produce an anti-smoking commercial, warning consumers of the dangers of its products. 

There are many examples of institutional advertising, in which companies focus on social contribution and problem-solving in the community to attract the audience’s attention.

Different techniques in institutional advertising that companies use to advertise their company are:

  1. Image advertising
  2. Event sponsorships 
  3. Advocacy advertising
  4. Cause-related advertising

Let’s look at a couple of examples and see how some brands utilize institutional and product advertising. 

Image advertising

Image advertising is devoted to promoting the organizations’ overall image. It aims to create goodwill, a position for a company, and generate resources.

It can be straightforward, just a company name and logo, advertise the brand’s name, and often includes sponsorships for educational programs and employment advertisements. 

Example: McDonald’s hiring ad talks about how McDonald’s helps pay for tuition for their employees. 

 institutional advertising
Source: Pinterest

Event sponsorship

Event sponsorship is an advertising technique where a company will develop a relationship with a particular event. A typical example would be a football bowl game. Companies do this because people can remember the brand’s name when it’s tied to a significant event. 

As a brand, you can also sponsor team apparel or equipment, concert stadiums, fields within the stadium and tie your brand name to any of these large events. This might be expensive, but it is an excellent tactic to increase exposure and awareness.

Advocacy advertising is advertising concerned with the propagation and support of social issues that are of public importance. 

Example: Don’t drink and drive ad by Budweiser.

There is a Budweiser name in the end, but most of the ad focuses on a social issue. This is when a company fully stands behind a social, business, or ethical issue. 

Cause-related advertising

Cause-related advertising happens when companies link with non-profit organizations or charities as contributing sponsors. These companies associate themselves with a cause to raise money for the cause while increasing their profits. 

A good example is Adidas, which has launched a campaign about plastic waste. Adidas described what they’re doing as an environmentally conscious company to help end plastic waste and how using natural materials brings them a step closer to being a circular company.

This portrays the company as caring and motivates its audience to purchase new Adidas products made of natural materials. It is a perfect indicator of how institutional advertising can improve brand image and public relations.


Advantages of institutional advertising

Institutional advertising has its positive and negative sides. However, if done right, it has a massive scope of helping establish a better reputation and positive brand identity.

  • Builds brand identity and improves the image of the company 
  • The company’s image and products attract investors and customers
  • Helps in product diversification
  • Improves the company’s public relations 
  • Increase awareness of the organization
  • Encourages and motivates investors 
  • Positively position the company
  • Puts forward a subtle sales pitch because target consumers are indirectly attracted to the products.

Disadvantages of institutional advertising

  • Since institutional advertising doesn’t promote a company’s products and services, the advertising cost does not yield revenue.
  • There is no way to measure the impact of activities that promote the company’s values, ethics, CSR activities, etc.
  • Investing money doesn’t guarantee a positive impact on the sales of goods and services.
  • It is an added cost to the company without immediate returns.
  • Ethics – what reasons hide behind the institutional ad 

Final thoughts

Companies become the second most important thing in these ads, and the issue becomes the first most important thing. They do this to take a stance, relate more to their customers, and show that their values and morals truly align with the support of a specific social issue. 

Institutional or corporate advertising tactics don’t always have specific objectives. These tactics do well because they can help change consumer attitudes and make a brand more favorable. 

Corporate advertising is not done to promote any specific product or service. It is designed to promote the company by: 

  • Enhancing its image
  • Assuming a position on a social, business, or environmental cause
  • Seeking direct involvement in any issue
  • Diversifying from competitors 
  • Establishing an overall corporate identity through these tactics

Nowadays, companies more and more recognize the benefits of more intelligent and effective institutional ads, where competitiveness overlaps opportunities.

In the future model of brand approach, competent institutional advertising will play a decisive role. So you better start implementing these strategies today. 

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