Marketing vs. Advertising: What’s the difference and how it affects your business?

If you asked the person next to you what the difference is between advertising and marketing, there’s a chance you wouldn’t get a clear answer. Many industry professionals assume there’s a subtle difference between the two, and the difference is often difficult to point out.

Marketing refers to the means a company uses to communicate with its target audience. The American Marketing Association describes marketing as the set of institutions, activities, and various processes used in developing, communicating, delivering, and exchanging submissions that do have a given value to the customers, partners, clients, and the society.

Admittedly, marketing and advertising are two closely related disciplines with quite a number of things in common. Still, they differ in a lot of ways too. To find out more about these differences and how each of them can benefit small business owners, it’s important to understand the basics of both.

Marketing typically involves techniques like market analysis, market segmentation, and target group identification to adopt the ideal strategy for product promotion and consumer engagement. There are four primary elements that form the core of marketing: price, product, promotion, and place.

marketing vs advertising


A product is generally an item that’s made to address a consumer need/demand. It can be an intangible service or a tangible good.



This is seen as the amount the consumer pays for a given product. The price of a product determines the company’s productivity, and therefore whether or not the company will succeed.



All products need to be located in places where consumers can access them. Place entails putting in place strategies like franchising, selective distribution, and exclusive distribution.



Promotion encompasses all means of communication that a company adopts to offer information about the product. This may include strategies like advertising, public relations, and sales promotion.

That said; let’s discuss what advertising means.


What’s Advertising?

Advertising refers to a form of marketing communication that’s used by companies to promote and sell their products. Essentially, advertising is a critical element or subset of marketing. If you’d take marketing as a pie, advertising is an important slice of the pie.

The main objective of advertising is influencing the buying behavior of customers by promoting a product or company. To achieve this, advertising focuses mainly on creatively positioning products and the media. By so doing, advertising spreads awareness about what a business has to offer.

Buyers typically move through six stages when making a purchase. These include: awareness, knowledge, preference, liking, conviction, and purchase. The stages are further divided into 3 categories: cognitive (awareness and knowledge), affective (liking and preference), and conative (conviction and purchase).


Cognitive Stage

Consumers process the information provided to them via advertising. Therefore, advertising should present information on the benefits of the product to pique the interest of the target audience.


Affective Stage

Consumers should start associating with the brand when they are in the affective stage. Therefore, advertising should resonate with the emotional aspects of the audience.


Conative Stage

This is a situation where buyers are actively making a purchase, or are just showing the intention to purchase. Here, advertising advances more into a way of furthering the process of making a purchase.


How Do Advertising and Marketing Differ?

As we’ve mentioned above, marketing presents an overall picture of how a company promotes, prices, and distributes its products. Advertising is an element of this general picture. Aside from advertising, most marketing plans usually include other important components like sales, public relations, as well as distribution strategies. All of these are expected to work interdependently and independently and all must work together to support the marketing goal.

It’s interesting to note that advertising usually accounts for the largest expense in most marketing plans, and it’s not difficult to understand why. When an ad campaign is well executed, it is run at high frequency and on multiple channels to create the desired impact. Creating a comprehensive marketing plan is more time intensive compared to creating an advertising campaign. Marketing works with multiple disciplines like market research, market analysis, segmentation, and positioning, and therefore involves a lot more strategizing than advertising.

This means that advertising supports marketing by creating the right kind of buzz about a product, service, or company. It serves to generate curiosity within the minds of the target audience, and it ultimately supports the overall marketing plan.


Blurring the Link between Marketing and Advertising

In the modern age, the line between advertising and marketing is getting thinner and increasingly blurred. With digital advertising and search engine marketing (SEM), digital marketers are now working in the online ad space. Social networking is turning out to be one of the most preferred channels among marketers, who are now pairing marketing with advertising to achieve the best results.

In order to leverage social media optimally, digital marketers need to improve their digital marketing strategies to advertise and market their products. For starters, it’s important to understand exactly what the customers want. Ask yourself; do they go to social media to be bombarded with gimmicks and ads? Or do they want information curated in an interesting way?

Checking the pulse of your target audience will let you know how social media can benefit your integrated marketing communications strategy. With that in mind, you’ll know how to leverage it while avoiding overusing it.

For businesses, the key is to understand how marketing and advertising work together to bring the right results.

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