Are Marketing and Advertising Synonymous?

All advertising is marketing, but not all marketing is advertising.

Confused? You aren’t the only one. To say that the difference between advertising and marketing is nebulous would be a gross understatement.

For a layperson, they’re virtually indistinguishable. To get a better understanding, let’s start with a definition of each term, before diving into the specifics of how they differ from one another.

What is Marketing?

To put it simply, marketing is everything your business does in the public eye. It’s raising brand awareness and building relationships with your target audience. It’s designing creative and writing copy on social media.

It’s managing and tracking product sales. It’s monitoring website traffic and optimizing your pages for search. It’s market research and advertising.

There, I imagine, is where a lot of the confusion lies.

What is Advertising?

Building on our previous definition, advertising is a subset of marketing that involves paid, targeted content. While the specific objective of each advertisement might differ, generally speaking, ads are purely promotional and do not involve two-way communication.

Some ads are meant to generate demand or create excitement. Others are meant to raise awareness or spread information. Still others are intended to increase sales and traffic.

What’s the Difference?

Marketing is your overall strategy, advertising is a specific tactic that fits into your strategy. The way you target your ads and where you place them are both informed by market research – another component of marketing. And generally speaking, an ad campaign is much shorter-term than a marketing campaign.

That’s the easiest way to differentiate marketing and advertising. The former encompasses the latter. Combined with the other components of marketing, advertising is part of a cohesive whole.

Even now, though, the line feels a bit blurred. The best analogy I’ve heard to describe it comes from Reader’s Digest, believe it or not. It goes like this:

“If the circus is coming to town and you paint a sign saying ‘Circus coming to the Fairground Saturday’, that’s advertising.  If you put the sign on the back of an elephant and walk it into town, that’s promotion. If the elephant walks through the mayor’s flower bed, that’s publicity. And if you get the mayor to laugh about it, that’s public relations. If you did all of this on purpose, that’s marketing.”

So, there you have it. All advertising is marketing, but not all marketing is advertising.

Last updated by at .