Marketing vs. Advertising: Definitions and Examples

Mary Gormandy White
Marketing and business concepts

The terms marketing and advertising are sometimes used synonymously, but they are not actually the same thing. As BusinessDictionary points out, both involve "selling a product or service to the marketplace," which is likely why the misperception they are the same is fairly common. In reality, though, the two "are distinct concepts."

How Advertising and Marketing Differ

Advertising is a specific type of marketing, but marketing involves much more than just advertising.

Marketing Defined

Marketing is the process of "preparing a product for the marketplace," according to Concordia University. They describe marketing as "a process that involves design, creation, research and data mining about how to best align the idea of a product or service with the target audience." ManagementHelp.org indicates that marketing is "the wide range of activities involved in making sure that you're continuing to meet the needs of your customers and getting value in return."

Advertising Defined

Advertising is one type of marketing activity. According to BusinessDictionary, it is the aspect of marketing that focuses on "actually promoting your product or service to the marketplace." Advertising consists of the paid promotional activities a company would engage in to draw the attention of prospective or actual customers to a product. Concordia University describes advertising as ''the literal process of making a product and service known to an audience."

Examples of Marketing

Examples of marketing activities that do not represent advertising include:

  • Marketing research to identify potential opportunities for new products or to attract new customers
  • Customer analysis to identify the target market and develop an understanding of customer needs
  • Product or service development to ensure offerings appeal to customers
  • Defining the product or service's unique selling proposition
  • Building a company or product/service identity through branding
  • Developing a positioning statement to clarify key features and benefits
  • Pricing strategy to set the optimal price point
  • Analysis of big data, business intelligence, and data mining to identify trends
  • Using customer relationship management (CRM) technology to maximize opportunities
  • Digital strategy to determine optimal web presence
  • Creating synergy through developing brand partnerships with complementary, non-competing brands
  • Packaging to ensure the product is presented in a visually appealing and usable way
  • Sales strategy to determine how products will find their way to market (via salespeople, direct-to-customer, wholesale channels, etc.)
  • Distribution/logistics to ensure that products are readily available to customers in a way that meets demand
  • Influencer marketing in the form of identifying influencers to help promote the company's offerings
  • Public relations to facilitate media and digital coverage of products or services
  • Promotional strategy that guides strategic communication regarding products or services (advertising is a part of this)

Examples of Advertising

Of course, any list of marketing activities isn't complete without also including advertising. Example of advertising activities include things like:

  • Creating advertising slogans, taglines, and other content (copy) designed to promote the product or service to customers
  • Media panning and buying, including deciding where to place advertising messages and negotiating prices
  • Print, social media, or digital advertising messages, including content (copywriting) and visuals (art direction)
  • Radio, television, streaming, or web-based commercials, including content and audio or video production
  • Out-of-home media such as billboards, bathroom stall advertising, airplane banners, and more
  • Signage such as promotional posters, building signs, directional signage and more
  • Product placements, such as paying to feature products prominently in movies and TV shows
  • Point-of-sale advertising in the form of messages placed where potential customers are making other purchases, such near the cash register in a store or on a table in a restaurant

Summing Up the Differences

The key to understanding the difference between marketing and advertising lies with recognizing that all advertising is marketing, but not all marketing is advertising. Advertising focuses solely on promoting products or services, while marketing involves determining how to go about ensuring that products and services are in alignment with the needs of customers. In order to be effective, advertising has to be based on sound marketing. The combination of sound marketing and advertising ideas can be the difference between success and failure for any organization.

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Marketing vs. Advertising: Definitions and Examples