Marketing vs Advertising: What’s the Difference?

by Maximilian Claessens
Marketing vs Advertising What’s the Difference?

It’s easy to see marketing and advertising as being two sides of the same coin, especially if you aren’t experienced with the daily functions of what these business areas involve. After all, both prioritize reaching out to potential customers to boost their interest in an organization, and success is often based on how many sales were closed as a result of this work. However, while both marketing and advertising are an integral part of any business strategy, these two areas are very different. In this article, we’ll be breaking down their similarities and laying out how they differ to make it easier to understand these practices and their functions. Marketing vs advertising – let’s find out what the difference really is.

The Similarities Between Marketing and Advertising

Because of the similarities that exist between marketing and advertising, it’s easy to get these two concepts confused. Both strategies involve:

  • Reaching out to customers directly – When we think about both marketing and advertising, we think of the way businesses speak to us to offer their products or services, and this stems from the way both of these functions appeal to customers directly through a range of communication channels.
  • Being judged on similar data points – To rate performance, both marketing and advertising can be judged by the number of closed sales or impressions as a result of their work, which are a key data point for both strategies.

As these functions do share similarities, this can make it difficult to assess the difference between marketing and advertising, and how they can impact the success and growth of a company.

Differences Between Marketing and Advertising

Let’s now contrast marketing vs advertising. The easiest way to understand where and how marketing and advertising differs is to assess them in terms of a product’s lifecycle, with advertising simply making up one element of the wider marketing process.

  • Marketing, although a largely comprehensive term, can encompass a range of functions, and describes the process of getting the product from idea to market.
  • Advertising is the work that is done following market research to promote the product to potential customers.  

By analysing the different methods within these practices it is easier to see what the difference between marketing and advertising really is, which can help organizations to make informed decisions around the approach they want to take to boost their popularity and sales figures.

Marketing – The Basics

First things first, what actually is marketing, and why is it important? Marketing defines the process of finding audiences for certain products or brands, and allows companies to further their influence across a range of channels. People who work in marketing undertake a variety of tasks, including surveying potential customers, gathering data on advert reception and establishing the target audience for a company, to shape the way a product or service is delivered in its final form. This makes marketing exceptionally important to the success and growth of any business – without an engaged audience, even the best products out there can suffer from a lack of interest.

Because marketing is a huge industry, there are a range of smaller subsets or niches within the marketing world that allow individuals or organizations to adapt their approach to suit their own style and goals. Some of the most popular subsets include inbound, digital and relationship marketing, which can all support business growth in different ways. Let’s dive deeper into these marketing disciplines before contrasting marketing vs advertising.

Inbound Marketing

This strategy is one that truly follows the principles of good marketing, and helps organizations to establish positive long-term relationships with their customers. Inbound marketing relies on a customer reaching out to the business to find out more information or buy a product, so it needs to provide value to a customer across the entirety of their journey from the very first time they discover the business. Once a customer has decided that they would like more information, they can contact the business through a range of channels, and it is at this point that organizations should concentrate their efforts on providing exceptional service through email or telephone communications. By leaving a good first impression, even if a lead doesn’t turn into a closed sale, consumers will be more aware of the business and likely to return in the future, which makes inbound marketing an effective strategy for small and large businesses alike.

Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is the use of the digital space to reach out to potential customers, in order to promote their brand identity and services. Typically, this type of marketing involves leveraging electronic devices to implement marketing strategies, and it also covers the practice of social media marketing that will utilize social platforms like Facebook or Instagram to grow an audience. Digital marketing has experienced a dramatic boost in popularity in recent years, in part thanks to the covid-19 pandemic that saw people spending more time online at home, but also due to the rise in adoption of technology by a larger number of people around the world. This has led to more opportunities within the digital marketing sphere for companies to speak directly to their target market in innovative new ways. While advertising focuses more on the paid adverts that specifically reference a product to buy, a company’s digital marketing strategy will focus more heavily on the overall brand image that they wish to portray, and may discuss their views on relevant social events to identify with their target audience in an authentic way.

Relationship Marketing

Relationship marketing is a style of marketing that places customer satisfaction and retention at its forefront. Relationship marketers focus on achieving long-term customer engagement, rather than a short term acquisition, an approach favoured by the traditional style of transactional marketing. By prioritizing the long-term customer experience in this way, companies who utilize this type of marketing often see greater stability in both their sales numbers and their reputation, which makes this a reliable approach to take for businesses seeking external investment or long-term growth.

Advertising – A Marketing Subset

After having understood what marketing comprises, let’s talk about advertising before comparing the effectiveness of marketing vs advertising. As a subset of marketing, advertising plays a pivotal role in the success of any business. While it doesn’t directly address the values and ethos of a company, it does allow an organization to reach their target audience and makes it easier for them to provide their products or services. Without discovering a company, customers cannot experience the brand directly, which means that even companies who offer a problem-solving or innovative product might lose out to their competitors. Advertising is therefore crucial to the lifecycle of a product, and its importance should not be understated in the world of business.

You might be familiar with a large range of different advertising types, due to many businesses using television, social media and radio advertisements to reach out to their potential customers – in a similar way to marketing, there are different branches of advertising that businesses and organizations can take advantage of to promote their products and services, including:

Television Advertising

Television advertising is one of the methods that you might be more familiar with in today’s technology driven society, as many of the world’s biggest companies still advertise on TV rather than social media. This tried and tested method has been proven to be effective time and time again, and it allows companies to reach a wide range of people while they are in the comfort of their own homes. By associating a company with other household names that advertise on television, a viewer is more likely to shop with them and stay with them long term, which makes television advertising a no-brainer for many organizations that have a large or diverse target audience.

Radio Advertising

While radio advertising is a more niche area to explore for business advertisement, it is one that has been proven to be a hit with consumers. Radio advertising essentially involves businesses paying local or national stations a fee to run their adverts live on air, allowing them access to a much bigger audience than they might get by using other advertising methods. It’s also a great way for businesses who have identified that a high percentage of their customers are radio listeners to establish themselves as a recognizable and popular organization. Another benefit of radio advertising is the ability for businesses to run their adverts at specific times of the week, or on days agreed with by the station. This is a handy tool for companies who wish to target specific groups within society. For example, a company selling kids toys or devices might find far greater success running a radio advert during school pickup time than they could by running a late night advert on TV.

Online Advertising

As an increasing number of people around the world have access to a mobile phone or other electronic device, online advertising has experienced a popularity boom in recent years. Businesses who advertise online do this through a range of different methods, with more popular ones being the banner advertisements you see across webpages or the product-specific adverts that can be found on social media pages like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Thanks to the success of these channels, adverts that are displayed across them generally receive a high level of traffic, and it makes it easier for businesses to access a bigger audience and make a good first impression.

Local Advertising

One of the best ways that advertising can be used to promote a business as a marketing tool is through local advertising, as this can help organizations to speak directly to their target audience in a way that represents the company. For instance, if a business sells a service to people in the local area, then using notice board advertisements nearby or joining a social media group dedicated to the town is a great way to spread the word. This style of advertising can also fit well into a  company’s overall marketing strategy, as surveying local people on their need or desire for a certain product or service, and how well they respond to different advertising strategies, is a good way to assess the potential for business success.

Marketing Vs Advertising: Which Is More Effective?

When assessing the effectiveness of marketing vs advertising for any business, it’s important to first evaluate the motivation behind the implementation of these strategies, and what the business is hoping to achieve through them. If a company simply wants to up their sales, and is aiming for a high volume of one-time customers, which might be the case if they sell a certain product or service that a customer might only need to invest in once, then spending more money on targeted advertisements might be the right choice to see success.

Alternatively, if a company’s goals surround creating a dedicated customer base comprised of long-term, engaged customers, then simply paying a higher advertising fee might not be the best method. It would be better in this instance to focus on the overall impression that the brand gives to a customer as part of a larger marketing strategy, to understand exactly what their target audience is looking for and expecting from their products. By doing this, they can survey existing customers directly though email or social media channels, and drive the success of the company through a more reliable approach. This can lead to a highly effective marketing campaign, and one that will provide better business stability in the long run.

When assessing marketing vs advertising directly, it can therefore seem that a carefully planned marketing strategy will provide the better opportunity, but for some businesses this isn’t an effective use of resources. Different organizations will have their own opinions around which approach will work better for them, so it’s important to understand the variations between these two functions before jumping straight in.

Closing Words

Ultimately, while it can sometimes be difficult to identify the difference between marketing and advertising, especially if you don’t work in these industries, it’s helpful to see them as being intertwined through their principles. Advertising can be seen as one of the later stages in a large marketing campaign designed to identify the need or want for a product, understand how well-received it could be once it hits the market, and who its target audience would be. Once a business has an answer to these questions, an effective advertising campaign can be launched to an audience that are already aware of a company’s values and principles, as well as the products that they offer.  

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