The Difference Between Marketing and Advertising


Are marketing and advertising the same?

The short answer is no, marketing is every customer-facing aspect of a business that is not transactional or the actual product – any steps a company takes to encourage/convince a consumer to purchase or invest in a product or service. However, marketing often impacts the overall perceived product or service value. Advertising is the act of openly sponsored paid promotion of a company, product, or service. So while all advertising is marketing, not all marketing is advertising. For instance, a marketing plan would typically include a plan for paid advertising, it may also include a plan for a synchronized public relations campaign, a cold-call sales strategy, or even an in-store interior redesign to suit the promotion.

To fully understand this let’s start by taking a look at what I mean by ‘marketing’. You can think of marketing – most simply – as the decisions companies and their directors make regrading every customer-facing aspect of their business, beyond the necessary infrastructure to run as a business. These are usually the aspects of the business that are most likely to influence your decision to purchase a product or invest in a service, or even the business itself. So a marketing decision could cover anything from the product name, to it’s advertising strategy, to the interior design of an office or store – right down to the company logo. Marketing as the term is very high-level and while it does encompass advertising it reaches into the phycology of companies far deeper than the words it chooses to show you on a screen.

Below are some common different marketing strategies. Often these strategies are used together in an overall marketing campaign. It’s important to note that each one of the below has a number of subcategories and moving parts that we won’t be covering in this article. If you find this article useful, let us know in the comments and we’ll write an extended article on each of the below marketing sub-sets.

Traditional Advertising

Traditional advertising is in your face. It’s intentional. It’s also expected to the point that traditional advertising becomes less and less effective with each passing day. When I say ‘traditional advertising’ I’m talking about what we most commonly think of as advertisements in newspapers, magazines, on billboards and on TV, in other words, advertising that takes place on traditional pre-digital mediums.

Digital Advertising

Digital advertising on the other hand puts a traditional advertising strategy like a video in front of a specific audience that is potentially in the market for the product in the ad. At least that’s what it is at the moment. The truth is digital advertising is just advertising that utilizes new technologies and refines how it’s defined all the time. This allows digital advertising to stay flexible and why it’s typically more cost-effective than traditional forms of advertising.

Design and Marketing

There’s a lot of different elements to design that companies utilize to further their marketing objectives. Brand design outlines a company’s logo, the way it’s used, the colours a company’s logos can be depicted on, the colours on the product packaging right up to the colour of paint in a retail location. The industrial design even plays a part in marketing – companies like Apple have proven this time and time again, a ‘cute’ or ‘sexy’ product makes a world of difference in any campaign.

Public Relations and Marketing

Public Relations is another important aspect of a marketing campaign and usually has very little to do with the companies advertising strategy apart from the timing. Public Relations is a different beast than advertising and while they work toward the same goals, and even play on the same field, the strategies are a world apart. Whereas advertising is very up-front with the transaction, Public Relations is far more implied. Public Relations in short is the way a company chooses to deal with the media – the public at large. This could include the announcing of business decisions that may reflect positively on the company and assure investors they made a good call; it could be announcing a new product that will revolutionize an industry; in a worst-case scenario, it’s a company’s official response to a scandal. The important thing to remember with Public Relations is that ultimately, the publication – a trusted source of information – gets the final say on the message, which is why it’s so valuable to companies.

Product and Transactional Decisions

Remember those two things I said at the beginning of this article that had nothing to do with marketing? Transactional stuff and the product itself? Well, that’s about 50% true. For the most part companies base pricing decisions on cost vs demand in the marketplace. In the same way, product decisions – materials, etc – are based on what is best for the product itself. That said, it’s very much in the realm of normal for a company to have a choice between suppliers and to choose a partner based on their brand recognizability and consumer trust. Hopefully not at the expense of the product. For instance, when Apple builds an iPhone, they use a Qualcomm cellular chip in the phone, rather than manufacture their own. This is because Qualcomm is a trusted mobile technology brand and has a proven product that works with Apple’s bottom line and allows them to internally invest money in other technologies.

Customer Feedback

We’ve touched Public Relations and we’ve touched on companies making decisions based on what they assume their clients or customers would like. One of the most important aspects of marketing is (preferably early) customers and potential customer feedback on what they like about the company, product or service, and what can be improved on. It’s fascinating to me that so many companies ignore the crucial step of asking their customers what they want.


All advertising is marketing, but not all marketing is advertising. Typically you know when you’re being advertised to, in fact, there are even laws in many places that state advertising has to be obvious – even labeled. Marketing on the other hand is happening all the time. It’s considered in any decision a company makes that you as a consumer are aware of. If you’re a business owner and you’re not considering your customer in every decision you’re making that affects the way they see you and your product, you’re not going to get into trouble, but you’re probably going to be ignored.

If you have questions about your marketing or advertising strategies, get in touch, we love to chat.






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