December 12, 2019 Marketing en_US Understanding the differences between marketing and advertising can help you decide on the most effective strategy for attracting more customers to your business. What's the difference between marketing and advertising?

What's the difference between marketing and advertising?

By Chris Scott December 12, 2019

Statistics show that 10% of small business owners don’t invest in any form of marketing and that nearly 50% of owners spend less than two hours per week on their efforts.

However, a well-constructed marketing strategy can help increase revenue and improve your brand. Whether you’re selling a good or service, marketing needs to be one of the primary issues you consider. So where do you begin?

Before you begin to craft a marketing campaign for your new product, one of the first things you need to understand is the difference between marketing and advertising.

Although the business industry tends to use these two terms synonymously, they are different and unique. Understanding the differences between marketing and advertising will put you in a better position to craft your strategy and grow your business.

What is marketing?

The American Marketing Association defines marketing as “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.” What exactly does this mean?

Essentially, marketing is an all-encompassing term that covers all of the activities you do to convert customers and bring them into your business. Activities that can make up your marketing efforts include:

  • Email marketing: The use of email to connect with and target potential customers.
  • Content marketing: The creation and distribution of online material, such as social media posts, blogs, and videos. Content marketing typically helps generate interest in your products or services.
  • Social media marketing: The use of social media to connect with your target audience. Popular social media platforms include Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
  • Influencer marketing: The use of social media influencers or those with a dedicated following to spread your message about a product or service.
  • Direct marketing:  is a promotional part of marketing that involves connecting with your target market directly, rather than through the use of an intermediary. Direct mail that you send to a customer is an example of this subset of marketing.
  • Search engine marketing is the use of Google and other search engines to promote your product. Companies can either pay for ad campaigns, which make their products rank highly in searches, or invest in search engine optimization for a more organic approach.
  • Agile marketing is a strategy that seeks to improve predictability, speed, transparency, and adaptability across marketing channels. It aims to streamline the marketing process across teams to better target the end-user.
  • Affiliate marketing is a marketing technique that involves a company paying commission to a third-party website for help in driving sales or web traffic.
  • Inbound marketing is a type of marketing that involves drawing customers in organically so they can find resolutions to their problems. Content marketing and search engine optimization would fall into this category.
  • Outbound marketing is a type of marketing that involves contacting customers to promote a product. Email campaigns, advertising, and promotions all fall into this category. Outbound marketing is otherwise known as interruption marketing, as it “interrupts” what the consumer was doing to spread a message.
  • Advertising is a subset of marketing that involves using money to reach a target audience. We’ll elaborate more on that in a bit.

How does marketing work?

Marketing involves identifying potential customers through market research, contacting your target market, and then getting them into your sales funnel.

The key to marketing is touchpoints. Touchpoints are how you come into contact with customers, which could range from an organic pageview on your website to them driving past a billboard that you put up on the highway.

To decide on their marketing strategy, many marketers consider the four Ps, which are:

  • Product
  • Price
  • Placement
  • Promotion

The four Ps provide a breakdown of what you need to consider when crafting a marketing strategy. Looking at the four Ps also allows you to see the all-encompassing nature of marketing as a whole.


The “product” is the good or service that you’re selling. Successful marketers tend to focus on a product’s benefits, rather than its features. The various elements of your product may be beneficial, but your job is to explain why.

Features merely tell the customer what the product is or what it does. Benefits, on the other hand, inform customers about what they gain by using the product. Marketers should focus on an emotional and psychological connection with customers.


Choosing a price for your product involves a bit more than just picking a random number. Your price point will determine how competitive your product will be and which people you’re going to target when marketing.

There are numerous pricing strategies you can choose from to determine your product’s price.

You will also likely need to conduct marketing research to decide what your competitors are selling their products for. Marketing, as a whole, involves a lot of research so that you can position your product for success.


“Placement” refers to where you’ll market your product. This can include things like social media platforms as well as advertising platforms like billboards and newspaper ads. Although there are numerous placement options available, you shouldn’t feel a need to use them all.

Your industry and product won’t align well with every channel. For instance, if you’ve designed a product for seniors, you may want to find a way to target assisted living facilities.

You’d likely be wasting your money if you implemented a social media campaign. Choose the placement channels that you feel will work best for your product.


“Promotion” is the cornerstone of marketing, as this is the stage where you actually sell your products. Promotion is, essentially, the stage where you put your plan into action. The goal of promotion is to raise awareness about your product and get as many people as possible to buy it while keeping your costs as low as possible.

Now that we understand how marketing works as a whole, let’s take a more in-depth look at what advertising is so we can distinguish between the two terms, which are often confused.

What is advertising?

As we alluded to earlier, advertising is one touchpoint of marketing. William Staton, in his book “Fundamentals of Marketing,”says, “Advertising consists of all activities involved in presenting to a group a non-personal, oral, or visual, openly sponsored identified message regarding a product, service, or idea.

The message, called an advertisement, is disseminated through one or more media and is paid for by the sponsor.”

How can we break this down into laymen’s terms? Advertising is the use of funds to target consumers in an “outbound” or “interrupting” fashion, making your company or product known to someone who may not have sought your information out organically. Examples of advertising include:

  • Radio commercials
  • Television commercials
  • Magazine ads
  • Newspaper ads
  • Paid search engine ads
  • Paid social media ads
  • Billboards
  • Product placement
  • Direct marketing

Much like with marketing, business owners need to figure out the most effective methods of advertising. However, advertising can also allow you to target customers in one broad sweep, potentially reaching a wider audience. Typically, marketers use advertising primarily for target acquisition.

How does advertising work?

Generally speaking, there are three different types of advertising that marketers tend to use.

1. Cognitive 

A cognitive advertisement encourages consumers to think through a problem logically and reach a solution. The ad allows consumers to see that your product or service can be a solution to their problems.

2. Affective

Whereas cognitive advertising targets a consumer’s logic, affective advertising targets emotions. The advertisement may appeal to their frustration, feelings of sadness, or desire to break bad habits.

3. Conative

Conative advertising doesn’t so much involve consumers’ logic or emotions. Instead, advertisers appeal to the consumer’s impulses, presenting them with an opportunity that they’re not going to want to miss out on. Advertisements for sales and clearances are examples of conative advertising.

Understanding the difference between marketing and advertising

As a small business owner with little prior knowledge of marketing, you may find all of these elements overwhelming, and rightfully so. Your time and attention are in high demand, and taking the time to dissect marketing down to its core may be impossible right now.

At the very least, you should have an understanding of the differences between advertising and marketing. Take time to figure out the primary touchpoints of these strategies and how they relate to your business.

Once you have a basic understanding of marketing and advertising, you can figure out the best course of action. So what can you do to boost your company’s marketing efforts?

Hire an expert

Marketing is more complicated than ever, especially when considering how important digital marketing has become. You can consider hiring an employee or looking for freelancers to help jump-start your campaign.

Make sure to establish a scope of work upfront so that you are effective in implementing your strategy

Take classes

Having a basic understanding of marketing communications could benefit any small business owner. Fortunately, when it comes to learning about types of advertising or marketing, you have many low-cost or free choices.

You can take an online class, a webinar from a company, or a class from a local university. Taking classes also gives you a chance to network and establish connections with other business people, which may prove very helpful down the line.

Start small

No matter what type of marketing campaign you come up with, you shouldn’t feel pressure to go over-the-top on day one. As a small business, you don’t need an overblown marketing campaign to launch.

In fact, sometimes, too much exposure can lead to an over-extension of resources that could sink your business from the start. Choose one or two things you want to focus on and go from there.

There is no reason to spend thousands of dollars on an advertising or marketing plan. As your business grows and income increases, you can focus on expanding your budget.

Marketing knowledge will help any small business owner

Trust us, we get it — as a small business owner, you have a role in many different areas of business, and marketing may not be your strong suit. However, you should take time to learn about basic principles, such as the differences between marketing and advertising.

Understanding the differences between advertising and marketing, especially with how they relate to your company’s products, will allow you to streamline the rest of your business practices.

You can implement a more efficient sales strategy and potentially increase profits as a result.

Take your time and make sure the choices you make are right for your small business. A well thought out, calculated plan will do wonders for your company.

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Chris Scott is a digital marketing consultant and freelance writer. He enjoys writing about personal finance and saving. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in Finance and currently resides in Boston, MA. Read more