Advertising is Marketing, but Not All Marketing is Advertising

Confused about the difference between marketing and advertising? You’re certainly not alone. For those of you who were fans of the television series "Mad Men", you know that those Madison Avenue agencies were all about advertising. There was no internet or smartphones, no Google or Facebook. Marketing products and services was primarily done through print and TV advertising. So you may have reason to believe that marketing and advertising are one and the same. But in today’s ever-changing digital world marketing and advertising have distinct, yet related roles.

What is Advertising?

First let me say that advertising is certainly a part of marketing but marketing is not just advertising. So how do we define advertising? There are a number of variations, but here is mine:

Advertising is a paid, public announcement that is a persuasive message made by an identifiable company, organization or person to existing (or prospective) customers.

So advertising, then, is just one part of the overall marketing process. It is the part that is directly responsible for getting the word out about your business, product or service to those you intend to reach.

Today’s advertising, unlike the days of "Mad Men", goes well beyond newspapers, magazines, direct mail, outdoor, TV and radio. With “old school” mediums continuing to fall out of popularity, companies are finding new and creative ways to advertise, including the ever-expanding digital approach – display ads, paid search, social media, etc.

The Role of Marketing

Now that we have fully defined advertising, let’s take a closer look at marketing and its relationship to advertising. First, our definition:

Marketing is the systematic (strategic) planning, implementation and control of a mix of activities (of which advertising is one) intended to bring together buyers and sellers for the mutually advantageous exchange or transfer of products or services.

Think of marketing as a step-by-step process that begins with a unique message — a value proposition — that not only describes your business but positions it in the mind of the audience. The marketing process flows from strategy (branding, messaging, positioning) to tactical execution, of which advertising is an important component.

All elements need to work independently. But at the same time, they must work together toward the ultimate goal of one unified marketing message or presentation. Think of marketing as everything that an organization does to identify its ideal customer, then moves that ideal customer from being unaware of the organization to becoming aware, then developing an interest in knowing more, then arousing a desire to engage with the organization, to ultimately buying its products or services.

Clearly there is a distinct difference between marketing and advertising, yet they must work hand-in-hand in order to deliver ultimate results to the marketing organization. Knowing the difference is critical to creating and sustaining an effective marketing program.

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