At a holiday party this year, I had a wonderful conversation with a new acquaintance who’s working toward his Master’s Degree in Oceanography. As the conversation progressed, we eventually landed on marketing and advertising.
This prompted my new friend to ask a simple but important question: What’s the difference between marketing and advertising?
My holiday party answer was quick and to the point: Advertising is a small of the Marketing umbrella.
I didn’t try to bore the oceanographer with a detailed explanation, but there’s great value in digging deeper and understanding the nuances between these two disciplines.
How Do You Define Marketing?
If you ask a marketing guru like Seth Godin for a definition, he’ll break it down into its simplest terms: Marketing is the act of helping someone solve a problem.” We’ll push this a little further by saying marketing is a way of promoting a product or service to help someone solve a problem in their relationships, job, business, hobbies, or lifestyle.
With that, marketing can come in many forms:
Social Media Posts
As long as your promoting, you're marketing.
How Do You Define Advertising?
Advertising is a form of marketing where you place text, images, and videos (ads) that promote a product or service in front of people. In most cases, you pay a fee. Whether it’s on Google, Facebook, a little league ballpark banner, the local newspaper, or a billboard on your daily commute, you’ll have to pay money to a third-party to display ads on their turf.
This paid component is one of the biggest differentiators between marketing and advertising. Think about the last email blast you sent. Apart from the time you invested and the price of the email platform you may have a subscription to, you marketed to your audience for free.
If you decided you wanted to target those same individuals or people like them on social media, you would need to use social media ads, which would take you directly into advertising territory.
Why the Difference Matters
The simple answer: Time and budget.
Marketing is a long game that spreads a budget over an extended period of time. When a pizza delivery driver wears the company shirt, he’s marketing the company as he rushes around town. The shirt costs the pizza shop $10.00, but it creates brand awareness every time the driver steps outside in his uniform. Not a bad deal.
Advertising is a push for quick results by spending a budget over a shorter period of time. During the holiday season, many advertisers use a predetermined budget to show ads over specific channels to drive people to certain websites or brick and mortar stores. Unlike the pizza shop shirts, which may only need to be replaced when they wear out or when the pizzeria decides to refresh its logo (which may never happen), ads need to be regularly reevaluated and refreshed to retain their effectiveness.
You Can’t Win With Advertising Alone
If you’re running a one-time sale, you likely need advertising. If you need to make money over an extended period of time, you likely need marketing (which can include advertising).
In our experience, you can’t win with advertising alone. Remember: Advertising is a small piece of marketing. You can’t drive your car with just an engine, and you can’t grow your business with ads alone. You need other pieces of the marketing puzzle—great branding, means to purchase from you, and content that helps your target audience understand your value proposition—to grow.