What Are The Differences Between Advertising and Marketing?

Many people think marketing and advertising are the same, but they’re missing out on the nuances of each term. To make things even more complicated, you could ask a dozen professionals what each term means, and they’d all give different answers.

But, each answer would (hopefully) share a common theme: The fact that advertising is a one-dimensional piece to the bigger, multi-dimensional world of marketing.

With that basic premise in mind, let’s take a look at some of the key differences between advertising and marketing.

Marketing involves a complex set of systems, processes, and initiatives

The term “marketing” encompasses a vast world that includes a variety of tools. Product development and management, the customer journey, search engine optimization (SEO), direct mail, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, public relations, brand strategy, website design, and many other things can all be part of an organization’s overall marketing strategy, and each of those things would be part of the means to achieving a predetermined goal.

The main goal of marketing is to bring buyers and sellers together for the mutually advantageous exchange of products, services, or information. The marketing mix a business uses will vary based on their goals (Do they want to increase sales? To become more well-known in their industry?), what they’re selling, their ideal customers, and more. However, a few things will be consistent across marketing campaigns.

For starters, there’s a ton of strategizing and data-gathering. This remains the same whether you’re primarily focusing on a website that has high visibility in search engines or a multi-faceted multimedia campaign with billboards, online video content, radio ads, and more.

In each example above, the individual marketing activities tie into the business’s broader goals. Advertising is another way to meet those goals, so let’s talk some more about what it means and why it’s different.

Advertising: one piece of the larger marketing puzzle

Think of marketing like a puzzle. There are lots of different pieces with their own unique place in the bigger picture, and advertising is one of those pieces.

Advertising is typically intended to drive sales. Rather than focus on the bigger, overall strategy, advertising efforts emphasize a specific call to action that’s designed to lead to a sale.

However, you can’t have an effective advertising campaign without a detailed, data-backed marketing strategy.

Before focusing on advertising, get your marketing in order

If you don’t have a marketing plan in place there’s no need to worry about advertising right this minute. You still need a strategy that maps out how you’ll position your products and services, what you’ll use to get the word out, and (most importantly) how you’ll measure results.

Marketing and advertising may not be the same thing, but one thing is clear: they need each other to succeed. To get started on that plan, identify your target audience. It sounds so simple, but there’s a lot that goes into this seemingly easy step.

Need help defining your organization’s marketing and advertising strategy? Learn about our strategy and planning services for branding, positioning, digital transformation and social media.

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