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Marketing vs. Advertising: How Are They Different?

Marketing vs Advertising

People might use advertising and marketing interchangeably, but they’re very different processes that have the same goal of attaining new customers. Advertising is part of the marketing process; both of these arenas require their own separate research, investments, and specialists. Around 55% of online shoppers do their own research on social media before making a buying decision, which means how you promote your product directly affects how it sells. A bad ad campaign can turn potential customers off to your brand, or a poor marketing strategy can fail to reach the proper demographic. 

What is marketing? 

Marketing is the various strategies a company uses to find, attract, and retain customers. Marketing encompasses activities such as market research, public relations, social media, advertising, and customer acquisition to increase a company’s or product’s reach and sales. The goal of marketing, however, isn’t just to sell products but to build lasting customer relationships and garner a positive public image. 

Types of marketing

There are two main types of marketing—inbound and outbound—which seek to either draw customers in organically (inbound) or push a message out to them (outbound). 

  • Inbound marketing. Inbound marketing focuses on drawing potential customers into a business through high-quality content such as creative marketing campaigns, search engine optimization (SEO), social media platforms, and content marketing. Inbound marketers seek to find effective ways to spark a conversation about a product or service without making customers feel like they’re getting pushed into a sale.
  • Outbound marketing. Outbound marketing is a more direct strategy that spreads a brand’s message or promotes a product to a wide swath of people. Outbound marketing includes traditional channels like TV, radio, print, and billboard ads along with event marketing and sponsorship, plus digital strategies such as banner ads and search engine marketing

What is advertising?

Advertising is one part of an overall marketing strategy that involves a paid promotion of a specific brand message. It usually aims to persuade a customer to take an action. While marketing sometimes works as a two-way conversation, where the customer might interact with the brand, advertising works entirely in one direction—the brand communicates its message outward to the customer. 

Types of advertising

Advertising takes a multitude of forms, but the different types of advertising can be broken down into those that we see in the physical world (traditional advertising) and those we see in the online world (digital advertising).  

  • Traditional advertising. Traditional advertising encompasses any strategy that involves offline activity. Print ads, such as the ones featured in magazines and newspapers, leaflets, brochures, billboards, TV commercials, and radio spots are all different types of traditional advertising that attempt to distribute marketing materials to a wide audience. 
  • Digital advertising. Online ads are a ubiquitous part of the internet that appear across almost all digital spaces—from news sites to email inboxes and from gaming to dating apps. Paid search ads, pop-ups, website banners, pre-roll ads on videos, and sponsored social media posts are all different forms of digital ads designed to target specific customer bases and direct them to a particular website. 

Similarities and differences between marketing and advertising

While not all marketing efforts involve advertising, all advertising is a part of marketing. Both marketing and advertising share various similarities across their scope and purpose, but there are a few key differences to know as you determine where to allocate your business’s resources. 

Purpose

  • How they’re similar: Marketing and advertising both aim to generate revenue by selling goods or services, as well as reach a wide audience in order to attract the most viewers and potential leads. 
  • How they’re different: Marketing approaches product promotion from multiple angles, from research to data analytics to focus groups, to find the best customer base and determine the most effective sales strategies. Advertising is one slice of a marketing campaign, focusing mainly on the planning, implementation, and execution of the outbound portion of an established marketing plan. While it might be a very large slice in terms of dollars spent, its ultimate scope is only a fraction of marketing’s overall scope.

Strategy and tactics

  • How they’re similar: Marketing and advertising strategies focus on grabbing the attention of the customer and presenting them with enough information to create visibility, interest, and an incentive to purchase. They both try to identify what customers need and persuade them to invest in their brand using various emotional, psychological, and visually compelling elements. 
  • How they’re different: Marketing strategies and tactics involve more than just clever advertising campaigns. Marketing strategies include behind-the-scenes work as well,  such as prospect identification, lead generation, competition research, and product development. Advertising is only one aspect of marketing promotion aimed at quickly delivering a unique message across multiple platforms in the most impactful and cost-effective manner. Advertising strategies are the manifestation of all that behind-the-scenes marketing work. Some advertising tactics include ads playing before your favorite YouTube videos, street posters or billboards, or the ads that pop up in your feed as you scroll through TikTok. 

Research

  • How they’re similar: Advertising and market researchers use as much available data as possible to define their target audiences and figure out the best way to reach new and potential customers
  • How they’re different: “Marketing research” gathers the information that helps define a company’s overall marketing strategy (such as pricing and branding), as well as evaluates the effectiveness of their current marketing plan. Advertising is a specialized subset of marketing research that more narrowly defines the target market by observing trends, consumer behavior, and new product demand. This concentrated research delivers insights into what customers want and how they want to get it—an especially important tool for choosing and executing an effective advertising strategy that prompts customers to take action. 

Investment

  • How they’re similar: Both marketing and advertising cost money (and time) to execute effectively. 
  • How they’re different: A major difference between marketing and advertising investing is how that money gets spent. Advertising is notoriously expensive—projections cite that US companies will spend more than $65 billion on social media advertising alone in 2022. This funding mainly goes toward two segments: creative and distribution. Creative investments may include graphic designers, copywriters, or art directors. Distribution includes activities like securing ad platforms (TV, radio spots, and physical space) or outsourcing to advertising agencies (if your process is not in-house). General marketing expenses include the advertising budget along with a broader range of marketing-related expenses like marketing software and tools, customer research processes, channel specialists, and website development. 

Final thoughts

Marketing and advertising go hand in hand in the world of commercial business. Without the planning and strategizing of marketing, advertising campaigns could be aimless and a waste of money. Similarly, without advertising, marketing would be severely limited in its ability to reach large audiences and promote products or services. Marketing budgets generally take up a small percentage of revenue, and advertising an even smaller chunk of that, but combined can be a major expense—especially for a new or small business. Despite the fact that advertising is one facet of marketing activities, each department requires its own team of creative, administrative, and management specialists to coordinate strategies and execute effective campaigns.

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