“Is marketing the same as advertising?” This question pops up fairly often. The purpose of this blog post is to clarify the differences between these two terms, because they are each very distinct and different words with different, yet related, meanings.
The primary purpose of a business is to make a profit through the sale of goods and services. The process of connecting a customer with your product and eventually convincing that customer to part with their money in exchange for a product or service is called marketing. Marketing is one of the most underappreciated and misunderstood elements of the business world. For example, there are many people who think marketing is the same thing as advertising. When in fact, advertising is just an aspect of the marketing process.
Advertising is the strategic messaging that is curated to draw customers to your business. With this in mind, there are some cases where advertising isn’t needed at all in the marketing process. An example of this would be an Australian grain farmer who has an annual contract to sell his barley to Anheuser Busch. For that farmer, the process of “marketing” his crop to a buyer (Anheuser Busch) is merely walking into the Anheuser Busch office and signing a document committing to deliver a certain volume of crop of a certain quality for a certain price by a certain date. No ads were required for that marketing. All that was required was an office visit and a signature. So, to say that marketing is advertising (or advertising is marketing) is simply incorrect.
Marketing: The overall process a company deploys to connect a buyer with goods and services and ultimately convince the buyer to exchange money for those goods and services. Marketing may or may not require advertising.
Advertising: The strategic communications plan deployed to bring customers to your marketplace. The purpose of advertising is to attract attention and bring traffic to the marketplace. Advertising is an (optional) element of the marketing process.
Words have meanings, and it’s important to understand precisely what each word means. Just as accounting as specific lingo that should never be interchanged or misplaced, the same is true with marketing. The science of marketing is as exact as the science of accounting. If you’re only interested in the creative and communications aspects of the marketing journey, then perhaps a career as an advertising specialist is just for you. On the other hand, if analytics and the the very strategic process of connecting customers with products in exchange for a net profit is of interest to you, then you should look into a career as a marketing strategist or marketing director.