Sales & Marketing

What is the difference between marketing and advertising?

5 min read

19 September 2018

Deputy Editor, Real Business

If you're confused as to the difference between marketing and advertising, then you're not alone. Here we explain what the two terms mean – and why you need both to drive brand awareness.

As Kimberly McCall so aptly put in a 2002 blog, marketing and advertising are fuzzy disciplines – “ask 20 experts how they vary, and you’ll get 20 diverse responses. But much of the business world tends to stir marketing and advertising together into one big bouillabaisse of methods to get products to prospects and clients.”

While both help your company achieve the same goal, the terms “marketing” and “advertising” should not be used interchangeably. It’s crucial you learn the difference as you’ll require both to raise awareness of your brand.

Marketing: The massive mechanism that moves it all

Marketing should be seen as a series of actions designed to bring your product or service to the forefront of everyone’s minds. It’s a defined strategy – a step-by-step process – intended to create a mutually advantageous exchange between customer and business.

This encompasses everything from the way you answer calls to your unique selling proposition, all while acting as a theme for customers to engage with. Some experts have even deemed it “the sum of all impressions”.

It’s understandable then, that the marketing pie can be cut into numerous slices. Market research, customer support, press relations and, yes, even advertising – more on that in a bit. These slices work independently but come together to form one message.

Take, for example, the famous #LikeAGirl campaign. According to Always, 80% of girls feel that societal pressure to be perfect drives a fear of failure.

Realising that it lost touch with the younger scale of its audience as a result of this statistic, Always sought to raise awareness – and did so through a series of emotional chains. The message: To champion the girls who would become the future of the brand.

It involved providing access to its femcare products to everyone who needed it worldwide. A hashtag was devised to harness the all-massive power of social media. The brand also paired up with educators and experts to help inspire confidence in young females. All these individual elements made up its strategy to empower its audience.

One of the best-known elements of the campaign involved Always asking girls how did various activities “like a girl”.

And the above video – the result of their questions – is what we mean by advertising.

That tiny cog that helps a clock tick-tock

Advertising is but a sub-section of marketing – and you need both to drive brand awareness. But what exactly does advertising bring to the table? Let’s say it pulls consumers to your product or service.

It’s intended to inform your target audience of what you do and what your company is like. In a way, advertising serves two purposes: to persuade and to remind.

Persuade – The end-goal is to get customers to perform a certain task, whether that’s to think about a problem they didn’t know they had or to buy. Most importantly, you want to curry favour.

Remind – You’re reinforcing your brand message, telling existing customers why they should stick around.

Advertising can be placed in a range of mediums, including TV, newspapers, online and on billboards. And as the world of printing shrinks, advertising increasingly becomes a more creative endeavour. We now found ads on taxi signs, for example. Distinct personalities have come to the fore – and the proverbial gloves have come off (some brands have taken to ambushing others).

In Canada, Montreal, Apple had a billboard promoting the iPod nano, where the colour of the iPod would drip down at the bottom. Home improvement chain Rona saw a great opportunity and pulled off perhaps one of the greatest ambush stunts.

They placed a banner below Apple’s billboard so that it looked like the paint was falling into buckets. The text on their banner translated into: “We recycle leftover paint.”

To sum things up, advertising is when you call the attention of your target audience, setting the dye for what separates you from everyone else. This is but one element forming a marketing strategy – a continuous process of communication and exchanges that offer value to your customer.