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The REAL Difference Between Marketing & Advertising

by Kimberly McCall  |  
June 25, 2002
  |  97,219 views

Marketing and advertising are fuzzy disciplines to begin with - ask 20 experts what the difference between the two is, and you'll get 20 diverse responses. Much of the business world stirs marketing and advertising together in one big bouillabaisse of methods to get products to prospects and clients. For professionals implementing marketing and advertising initiatives, however, it is important to understand that the terms are not synonymous.<

Advertising is just one component, or subset, of marketing. Public relations, media planning, product pricing and distribution, sales strategy, customer support, market research and community involvement are all parts of comprehensive marketing efforts. As you market your company and its products or services, keep in mind all the facets that work together to constitute marketing:

A simple concept by definition, if not execution, marketing is every way you touch a prospect or customer. That includes tools such as paid advertising, and it also includes dozens of smaller variables, everything from how your receptionist answers the phone, to how an order is fulfilled, to the positive or negative buzz about your product.

According to Kathleen Micken, assistant professor of marketing for the Gabelli School of Business at Roger Williams University, "Marketing might be defined as everything an organization does to facilitate an exchange between itself and its customers/clients. Advertising is just one of many marketing activities." Steven R. Jolly, owner of SRJ Marketing Communications, a marketing and design firm in Dallas, Texas adds, "Marketing is the sum total of all impressions and advertising is part of the impressions that must be managed. And, of course, advertising has a hard dollar cost associated."

Many marketing departments are, whether by choice or design, insulated from other business functions such as sales and customer support. It's this separation that causes a disconnect between a company's intended aim of getting new customers, and the actual follow through. For example, think of receiving an offer via direct mail for a new website that offers you the B2B solutions you've been looking to buy. The mail piece is well designed, clearly written, and you're ready to know more. So you dutifully check out the company's website, and send an email with your specifications for a vendor relationship. Then you wait. And wait. And wait. When you get no response, the company's expensive, well-targeted campaign has been wasted. This happens frequently, and it's indicative of just how interdependent all your marketing efforts truly are - and how much more there is to marketing than just creating your ads.


All marketing elements must work independently, as well as interdependently. One way to visualize this is to think of building your dream home: You need the right land, architect, general contractor, electrician, plumber and painter. All of the individuals must be able to stand on their own, as well as work together for the bigger goal of building the perfect home. If you think of public relations as your general contractor, market research as your electrician, and advertising as your painter, you'll see how necessary it is for all pieces to stand alone, and mesh for one unified purpose.

Advertising is the largest expense of most marketing plans, with public relations and market research rounding out the trinity of cash outlay. Advertising, according to Barron's Dictionary of Marketing Terms, is the "paid form of a nonpersonal message communicated through various media. [It] is persuasive and informational and is designed to influence the purchasing behavior and/or thought patterns of the audience."

According to Donna P. Anderson, APR, marketing and practice development director for Andrews & Kurth L.L.P, an international law firm, "Advertising is a tactic, or specific activity conducted to implement a strategic marketing or public relations plan. Advertising may be one of the tools used to meet a goal."


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Kimberly L. McCall (Kimberly@MarketingAngel.com) is president of McCall Media & Marketing, Inc., a business communications and writing company in Maine. She’s the author of Sell It, Baby! Marketing Angel’s 37 Down-to-Earth & Practical How-To’s on Marketing, Branding & Sales. Visit her at MarketingAngel.com.

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  • by Jill Brennan Wed May 3, 2017 via web

    I find that small businesses often confuse marketing and sales too, maybe because they usually have one person or a small team that does both. The way I distinguish between the two is that marketing is one to many and sales is one to one.

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