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What is the difference between marketing and advertising?

Advertising is a subset of marketing. Learn more about this and the function of each.

There once was a time when the terms "marketing" and "advertising" were used interchangeably -- similar to how people may use "special" and "unique," even though they have different meanings.

But marketing and advertising serve two very different functions. Marketing is actually the umbrella term for bring a product or service to market, and advertising is a component of marketing. To execute successful marketing and advertising strategies, it's necessary to understand the differences and become familiar with today's uses of the words.

Also, while not necessarily being the most important thing to be aware of as a marketer, it will certainly help communications between different departments and clients. This will enable groups to have more productive conversations and make those discussions more effective toward hitting the intended goals and outcomes.

What is marketing?

According to the American Marketing Association, the agreed-upon definition of marketing is "the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large."

But put simply, marketing is the business practice that involves identifying, predicting and meeting customer demands. This information can be gleaned from ongoing market research a company would perform. Companies use this market research to develop overarching strategies that help identify how to best serve a client base, with a goal of increasing revenue at the same time.

Through market research, marketing departments are also responsible for understanding the competitive landscape, how to price goods or services so they are competitive and monitoring the efficacy of all related efforts. Within an organization, marketing is the team and process that supports all efforts to meet customers where they are and appeal to their needs -- including through advertising. Collectively, those efforts inform the marketing mix, which is a general phrase describing the process of bringing a product or service to market.

A synonym for the marketing mix -- and the area where strategic planning of marketing most comes into play -- is the 4 P's of marketing: product, price, place and promotion.

  • Product. Product refers to the goods or services that a company offers to its customers. The product should ideally fulfill an existing customer demand or be compelling enough that consumers believe they need to have it -- creating new demand. To be successful, marketers need to understand the full product lifecycle and have a plan deal with products at every stage of its life.
  • Price. Price is the cost of the product or service that a customer pays. Marketers set the price in a market competitively to display the product's real or perceived value. There is much to consider when setting a price, including supply costs, seasonality, competitive landscape and allowable discounts at any time -- if appropriate.
  • Place. Determining where to sell a product and how to deliver it to the market is how marketing teams determine place. The goal for business executives is to always have products and services in front of customers at the time they are most likely to buy. In some cases, this refers to placing a product in a certain store or looking for the right placement on relevant websites.
  • Promotion. The promotion of a product or service is where advertising comes into the marketing strategy. Promotion -- including public relations and advertising -- shares the goal of creating awareness to help customers understand why they need it and why they should pay a certain price for it. Placement and promotion are commonly tied together, as collectively they are used to meet a target audience with the right message where they are.

Marketing responsibilities

Marketing plays an important role in promoting a company's products and services to a market. Its job is to reach prospects, customers and other key stakeholders, creating a product image that appeals to buyers. While each company is different, the responsibilities of marketing reflect some of the following:

  • defining and managing the brand;
  • conducting marketing campaign management;
  • producing marketing and promotional collateral and content;
  • performance marketing and competitive research;
  • managing and monitoring social media channels;
  • producing internal communications;
  • acting as a liaison to media and press outlets; and
  • managing outside vendors or agencies.

Marketing techniques

There are many different marketing techniques at the disposal of marketing teams, and each type requires its own strategic approach to execute. The common types of marketing include the following:

  • Digital marketing. Digital marketing is widely prioritized today as a marketing engagement tactic. By communicating with prospects through website content, email campaigns, social media and advertising, businesses can reach and engage with prospects or customers in ways that are easily tracked for ROI.

Learn some digital marketing best practices here.

  • Traditional marketing. Along with digital marketing activities, traditional marketing uses other channels to get in front of the target consumers. Through print, radio, billboards and television, brands promote their messages to audiences.
  • Social media marketing. The most common type of social media marketing is organic social media, where posting to a page reaches the audience of followers. However, going further than that, social media marketing also involves being able to pay for targeted ad placement.
  • Global marketing. Global marketing strategies enable companies to deploy a unified approach to reach customers at local, regional, national and international levels.
  • Relationship marketing. Relationship marketing creates a 1-to-1 relationship with prospects, appealing to their individual needs to establish a loyal customer base.
  • Brand management. Brand management attempts to create a strong bond between the company and customer. It's important to evaluate the types of products or services offered, how they would appeal to the target audience and correlate the mission or the brand with the needs of the market.

What is advertising?

Advertising is the process of making a product or service known to an audience. It takes the overall marketing strategy developed by executives and addresses the "promotion" P of the 4 P's of marketing. Advertising involves developing the messaging that presents brand products, services and ideas to the world. In its simplest terms, advertising spreads the word about products, relying on timely offers, creative positioning and the right messaging to ensure a product will resonate with the target audiences.

Advertising campaigns use a mix of media channels to generate interest in a product, casting a wide net to meet customers where they are since every consumer engages differently with a brand. This establishes a one-way channel of communication, where companies can spread messaging to a general audience.

Advertising responsibilities

Advertising is a way to directly communicate with a target audience by putting marketing strategies in front of them. Often advertising is done through paid promotional strategies to get that method across. This advertising is targeted -- whether in digital display ads or a full-page ad in a magazine -- and there is a cost associated with promoting the marketing messaging.

Additional responsibilities of advertising include:

  • educating the customer on the products or services;
  • improving perception of a brand;
  • generating demand for products and services;
  • attracting new customers; and
  • retaining current customers.

Advertising techniques

Advertising -- as a single component of the marketing process -- is ensuring that word is getting out about the products and services offered. There are several types of advertising that can accomplish this, including the following:

  • Traditional advertising. This refers to ad placement in traditional media such as print, radio and television.
  • Retail advertising. Ad placements are positioned in retail locations to encourage purchase via eye-catching displays and appealing offers.
  • Online advertising. This refers to ad placement on the internet within owned media, such as a website. This category also includes several sub-categories, including the following:
    • Mobile advertising. This includes push notifications from apps and in-app advertising. But it could also be in the form of mobile-optimized banner ads and click-to-call ads.
    • Pay-per-click advertising. This is an online ad placement used to drive traffic to a specific campaign page or website. This can be done through search engine marketing, where a company pays for clicks on ads that show up in internet searches. It also uses display advertising on various websites to target users that have shown interest in the past.
    • Social media advertising. Similar to pay per click, social advertising enables the placement of ads on social media platforms where it would be highly targeted based on demographic or retargeting information.
  • Outdoor advertising. This can also be considered a form of traditional advertising since it includes billboards and other placements on structures within highly trafficked areas, but it also includes more experiential marketing. Experiential marketing is a concept that uses in-person ad placements to deeply engage and interact with an audience.

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