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Marketing vs. Advertising: What’s the difference and which one is right for my business?

When you hear ‘marketing’ and ‘advertising,‘ do you think they’re the same? Some marketers use these terms interchangeably, referring to marketing and advertising as “advertising.”

However, the truth is that these two concepts are pretty different. Related, but different.

It doesn’t matter if you know the difference between organic and non-organic foods, but knowing the difference will come in handy when talking to clients or department heads who may assume these two words mean the same thing.

Defining what “marketing” is and, in essence, its difference from “advertising” will help you have more productive conversations around the topic. If everyone is clear on what makes advertising and marketing different, your meetings can be more accurate and effective.

Let’s start with some definitions

What is Marketing? 

Marketing is the ongoing process of ensuring your product or service appeals to your potential customers and buyers. Because of this, marketing is a very involved process.

Relationship marketing involves nurturing your relationships with clients and customers. For example, if you’re selling products online, you might need to develop good customer service practices. You may need to double down on your customer satisfaction ratings, keep your customers loyal to your business, and effectively provide after-sales nurturing support.

One might even say that marketing is the broader term between the two, and advertising is a subset of marketing. 

After all, advertising — as we’ll see later on — contains many different activities that ultimately support the core goal of marketing: to make your business more visible and appeal to customers to grow your revenue.

Before you can consider doing anything advertising-related, you’ll first need to cover many marketing activities, including branding, market research, position­ing, pricing, and the likes.

The marketing mix

Marketing is the broader term, so it may refer to some of the most fundamental aspects of building and growing any business. Enter the “marketing mix,” first coined by Neil Borden. According to a study, a marketing mix is a tool used by marketers to decide which marketing activities to use when trying to reach their desired goals.

At first, the marketing mix was divided into the 4Ps:

  • Product. The service or the product that your business offers addresses the specific needs and desires of your ideal customers.
  • Price. How much money will customers pay your business to receive your product or service? Price also helps dictate how profitable your business will be.
  • Place. Where and how your customers can find and access your products and services, including retail or resellers, distribution, franchising, and others. 
  • Promotion. How your business communicates the benefits and uses of your product or service.

Over time, the 4Ps has been expanded to include the 7Ps, especially for businesses that provide services rather than just products.

  • People. Who is providing the service of your business? Every business needs to rely on qualified, competent people to deliver services to their customers.
  • Process. Your people’s standard operating procedure is to show customers exactly what they receive when they purchase your service. 
  • Physical evidence. What tangible benefit your customer receives as part of your service. For instance, if you were an advertising agency, the physical evidence might be your campaigns’ results for your customers’ sales numbers. 

What is Advertising? 

Now let’s zoom in on advertising. We’ve already discussed how advertising can be considered a subcategory of marketing because all your ad activities — like native ads and Facebook ads — support your overall marketing goals.

From our examples, you might have noticed that advertising comprises paid chiefly forms of marketing. 

Paid content includes specific marketing activities designed to promote your business’s products or services. Advertising can include various activities, including creating new creative campaigns for seasonals, figuring out where to place your ads, and collecting customer information and data.

Some other advertising activities include:

  • Brand building to boost your business’s reputation.
  • Make customers aware that they have unmet needs and desires that your business can provide.
  • Generating more leads and sales with new campaigns.
  • Reaching more people using social media posts.
  • Highlighting your product or service benefits using storytelling.

Suppose marketing tells us what is the brand message via such elements as a positioning statement or vision. In that case, advertising makes that message come to life by getting it in front of consumers.

Many creative activities also fall under advertising, such as creating campaigns, copy, visuals, videos, etc.

6 Key Differences Between Marketing and Advertising 

Now that we understand the fundamental differences between marketing and advertising let’s put them into these six key differences. You’ll clearly understand how these two related terms are genuinely different by the end of this article.

1. Responsibilities 


Because marketing teams aim to make sure a business is profitable from start to end, it has the following responsibilities: 

  • Branding.  Your brand is who you are in the market: it is a culmination of how you act, communicate, and invite prospects into your business that makes you different from other companies in the same space. Your brand is what will last in the minds of consumers.
  • Trend analysis and competitor tracking. Marketing teams have to know where your brand sits compared to your current competition, including getting to know trends in the market. They’ll be watching out for their competitors’ campaigns, trending topics in their industry, and what customers are saying about them and their competition. 
  • Customer relationship management. Marketing teams can use surveys and interviews, among other feedback collection tools and activities, to determine if the business is meeting its customers’ expectations. 
  • Cross-department alignment. Your marketing team is not the only team in a business. Because many departments work together to keep a business running smoothly, your marketing team is likely in charge of making sure all departments understand your marketing activities, your brand, and your goals. 
  • Market research and strategy development. An ongoing responsibility of marketing teams is making sure the business stays profitable. They have to see what’s hot in the market, stay on top of practical marketing tools and strategies, and manage new software and programs that might help the business run smoother in support of its other roles, like customer management and after-sales support. 
  • Budgeting and ROI (return on investment) tracking. A marketing team makes sure that they’re not overspending. Based on year after year data, the team plans out their marketing budget and makes sure all marketing activities fall within their budget. They do all this with awareness of their desired ROI to ensure the business stays afloat. 


On the other hand, let’s take a look at what advertising responsibilities include:

  • Customer analysis. Getting to know your existing customers and their relationship with your business can help your team create better campaigns and develop marketing strategies that can serve the brand as managed by your marketing team.
  • Pitching advertising strategies and plans. Whether you’re working with clients for their ad agency needs or if you’re working with agencies yourself, your advertising team is responsible for pitching the strategy to market the brand, including specific activations and processes and the budget required for advertising strategy.
  • Media buying. Marketing teams stay on top of their most effective marketing channels based on sound data, including where customers for the business are reachable at the best value. The output is a paragraph summarizing the input. It must contain no more than 100 words.
  • Researching and managing creative production. Advertising agencies are responsible for planning, researching, creating, and distributing ads that apply to an ad campaign.
  • Communication between stakeholders. Advertising agencies’ account managers are responsible for keeping clients up to date about the status of their projects while also managing their agency’s own creative teams’ project slates.

2. Purpose 

Marketing and advertising differ in several ways but ultimately share the goal of ensuring a business remains profitable.


  • Lead generation
  • New customer acquisition
  • Customer retention
  • Maintaining consistent branding
  • Managing and creating upsell and cross-sell opportunities
  • Product development
  • Tracking the results of all marketing initiatives as a whole


  • Attracting first-time buyers to purchase
  • Informing or reminding customers about the existence of your brand
  • Compelling customers to purchase through ads 
  • Keeping customers happy and satisfied by increasing brand loyalty 
  • Keeping the brand’s image strong 
  • Establishing your business as the top-of-mind option among others in the market
  • Motivating existing customers to make repeat purchases

3. Techniques used 

As a result, marketing and advertising use different techniques to achieve their respective goals.


  • Inbound marketing. Use organic strategies to attract your customers to your business. Here’s an example of an inbound marketing blog post that educates customers about what a contact center is as a service.
  • Content marketing. Content marketing can be through social media posts like Instagram or YouTube to create compelling content that attracts attention and keeps customers interested. 
  • Search engine optimization. By getting your business ranked on Google, you can attract customers to your business without spending unnecessarily.
  • Email marketing. Your business can stay in touch with customers through email campaigns, newsletters, and promotions.
  • Affiliate marketing. By partnering with the right affiliates who can reach more customers, you can leverage other trusted people to market your brand in exchange for a commission.


  • Traditional advertising, e.g., print, TV, or radio
  • Retail advertising, e.g., shelf marketing and in-store promotional material. Here’s an example of brilliant in-store advertising examples.
  • Digital advertising, e.g., social media ads, video marketing, content syndication, guest posting, etc. 
  • Native advertising, e.g., writing a native blog post like this one promoting the benefits of crowdfunding. Less intrusive than a placed ad to match the everyday customer experience on a particular platform or website.
  • Billboard ads
  • Mobile ads in apps 

4. Investment required 

Advertising usually involves paying for ads. It’s therefore expected to be one of your most expensive marketing activities.

This cost can also vary depending on who you work with for implementation, including freelancers, contractors, and agencies.

If you plan to use internal talent to promote your content, you may need to consider hiring people like marketers, strategists, media buyers, and copywriters.

And finally, a significant investment that goes to advertising is, of course, your actual ad spend. There’s a cost associated with putting your ad on that platform for each advertising platform, from TV and social media to radio and billboards.

Marketing activities include other things like brand building and customer and trend research. As a result, marketing costs as a group may cover different positions and resources that are needed to support these marketing goals.

Examples include hiring product managers, brand managers, sales managers, or research analysts who can make sure that each marketing activity for your business is taken care of.

Suppose your business is planning a rebrand in the future. In that case, a big chunk of your marketing budget may have to go to the research and development for the rebranding, together with subsequent expenses to make sure the market is aware of your rebranding efforts.

And finally, marketing investments can also include the different software and tools you need to support other marketing activities. Include email marketing providers, referral marketing software, or research companies to conduct detailed customer research and reporting.

5. Success measurements 

You need to keep up with and manage your marketing analytics. Doing this ensures profitability over the long term, even amidst high costs.

Here are examples of different success metrics for both marketing and advertising.


  • Net Promoter Score
  • Customer Satisfaction
  • Customer Lifetime Value
  • Quarterly and Annual Sales Revenue
  • Market Share


  • Return on Ad Spend (ROAS)
  • Reach and Impressions
  • Engagement
  • Conversions

6. Generating results 

Let’s look at how long it will take each strategy to generate results for your company. Advertising is a part of marketing; therefore, it should make sense that advertisements are meant to have faster results than marketing activities.

Consider advertising campaigns as their period to monitor results. So if you have a month-long campaign, you’ll want to see the results generated after that month.

Meanwhile, with marketing, you’ll want to look at this not just as a one-time thing but as a long-term process. Your business and brand may change over time, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never need to monitor the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.

Make an effort to check in with your brand health, customer perception, and the sum of your campaigns to see how well your ongoing marketing efforts are going truly.


Just because advertising and promotion seem like two sides of one coin doesn’t necessarily mean they’re identical. This blog post will help you understand the fundamental differences between the different types of content marketing so you, your company, and your clients can plan and monitor both marketing and advertising efforts more effectively.

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