What's The Difference Between Advertising & Marketing?

What’s The Difference Between Advertising & Marketing? And Why Should You Even Care?

I was recently having a chat with a client about advertising and marketing when it dawned on me that the difference between the two isn’t that obvious. So what is the difference between advertising & marketing? I often see businesses working really hard but finding very little reward from their advertising. This may be because they haven’t considered the answer to this question… or perhaps they didn’t even know that the question existed.

Let’s get real here. Why would they know the difference? They’re focusing on what they do best; whether that’s running a bakery, manufacturing products or launching a new clothing line. I do marketing as my profession and I only know the difference because many many years ago someone took the time to tell me.

Having a brief search on Google, I couldn’t find anything that I personally think gives the answer justice. So I just wanted to write a quick article explaining what I, as a professional marketer with an advertising background, believe the difference to be. Hopefully, this will help you to avoid some of the problems that catch so many people out!

So first of all, let’s answer an easier question…

What is Marketing?

Take a second to see if you can answer that yourself… Any luck? We use the word marketing so often but few truly understand what it encompasses. I’m not going to go into great detail here; let’s just keep it simple –

A good way to think of marketing is like a car. A car is a summary of its parts including wheels, an engine, seats and much more. Now we say ‘I’m travelling by car’ because it’s easier than saying – ‘I’m travelling by wheels propelled by an engine whilst I sit on top…’ This is the same with the word marketing; it is a simple term for describing a group of parts (often referred to as elements).

Difference Between Advertising and Marketing, The Marketing MixMarketing is the term used to describe all of the elements (there’s widely considered to be seven) of what’s known as the marketing mix. If you’re just selling a product you’ll likely focus on the elements – price, place, product and promotion. If you are providing a service you’ll also include people, process and physical environment.

Now one of the elements of the marketing mix that I’ve already mentioned is ‘promotion’. As we all know, a way that you can promote a product or service is through advertising. So advertising is actually just a small part (of a part) of marketing. It is a critical part, not to be overlooked – if we take the car analogy, then advertising is arguably as important as the engine (or even the petrol). If your car has a bad engine (or if your marketing includes bad advertising), you are not getting anywhere!

What’s the difference between advertising and marketing? – Advertising is a part of marketing whereas marketing includes advertising as well as other elements.

STOP! Don’t leave just yet, there is a more important question to answer…

Why is it Important to Understand the Difference Between Advertising & Marketing?

All too often I see businesses, individuals and non-profits wanting new customers/ service users say ‘What should I do? I know, let’s start advertising!’ They immediately buy radio, magazine ads, 10,000 flyers, jump on social media, Adwords and more. Sometimes they see results (if they’ve actually set any targets). From what I’ve seen they more often do not. The reason for this is that they should be taking care of their marketing as a whole (their marketing mix) and not just advertising.

Differences Between Advertising & MarketingYou see, out of all of the elements in your marketing, promotion (and in turn advertising) will likely be one of the last elements you want to look at. At the least, you will want to carry out market research in order to inform your marketing (and thus your advertising). After all, how can you know what will appeal to your potential customers if you don’t fully understand what they want? Your advertising must be appealing in order to be effective. So if you jump straight into your advertising, at the least it is going to be less effective than it could be. It may even cost more money than it needs to. As soon as we take into account other elements of the marketing mix such as people or place, you can see the flaw in an advertising first (or only) strategy.

Let’s say that your advertising is brilliant and potential customers come flooding in… but your customer service isn’t as good as it could be and there are also problems with your distribution. Potential new and now dissatisfied customers go elsewhere. Your advertising would be much more expensive. Had you gained those sales, your return on advertising investment would have been greater.

The key thing to remember is this – your marketing will affect your advertising (as advertising is an intertwined part of your marketing mix). Before you start advertising, it is well worth spending time looking at your marketing mix as a whole, ensuring that the decisions you make are informed by your market research.

Thanks for reading. I hope this will be of some help to you. Any questions, feel free to leave a comment or get in touch. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Paul Stephen Johnson

Paul Stephen Johnson

Marketing Director

I'm a professional marketer with many years of training and experience. I have a keen interest in anything to do with design and advertising and can usually be found discussing marketing strategy inside and outside the workplace. I am old enough to remember what the world was like before the internet but still young enough to be fluent in everything digital. This has always helped me to stay focused on reaching 'real world' goals with marketing campaigns both online and offline. Connect with me on Linkedin.

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