Marketing vs Advertising: 7 Key Differences You Need to Know


Pop quiz: when you hear the words “marketing” and “advertising,” do you think they’re the same? Some marketers use these words interchangeably, referring to marketing as advertising and vice versa.

However, the truth is, these two concepts are quite different. Related, but different.

Knowing the difference might not be the single most important thing you need to be aware of as a marketer, but this knowledge will come in handy when you’re speaking to your clients or cross-department managers who may assume these two separate terms mean the same thing.

By being able to clearly define what marketing is, and also in effect its difference with advertising, you can eventually make for more productive conversations around the topics. The clearer everyone is on what exactly makes advertising and marketing different, the more accurate and effective your meetings can go.

Let’s start with some definitions.

What is Marketing? 

In essence, marketing is the ongoing process of making sure your product or service is compelling to your potential market and buyers. Because of this, marketing is a very involved process.

It may involve relationship marketing, for instance, where you have to nurture your working relationship with clients and customers. You may need to focus on doubling down on your customer satisfaction scores, keeping your customers loyal to your brand, and being able to provide effective after-sales nurturing and support.

One might even say that marketing is the broader term between the two, and advertising is a subset of marketing. 

After all, advertising — as we’ll see later on — contains many different activities that ultimately support the core goal of marketing, that is, to make your business more visible and appealing to customers to grow your revenue.

But before you can consider doing anything on the advertising side, you’ll need to cover  a lot of marketing activities, such as branding, market research, positioning, pricing, and the like. 

The marketing mix

Because marketing is the broader term, it may point to some of the most fundamental aspects of building and growing a business. Enter the “marketing mix”, first coined by Neil Borden. According to Borden, an advertising professor, the marketing mix is a decision-making matrix for making marketing decisions in any business. 

At first, the marketing mix was divided into the  4Ps:

  • Product. The service or the product that your business offers that addresses specific needs and desires of your ideal customers.
  • Price. How much money customers will pay your business in order to receive your product or service. Price also helps dictate how profitable your business will be.
  • Place. Where and how your customers are able to find and access your products and services, including retail or resellers, distribution, franchising, and others. 
  • Promotion. How your business communicates the benefits and uses of your product or service. This is where advertising comes in. 

Through the years, however, the 4Ps has expanded to the 7Ps, particularly for those businesses that provide services and not just products:

  • People. Who is providing the service of your business. Every business needs to rely on qualified, competent people to deliver services to their customers.
  • Process. The standard operating procedure that your people follow to show customers exactly what they receive when they purchase your service. 
  • Physical evidence. What tangible benefit your customer receives as part of your service. For instance, if you were an advertising agency, the physical evidence might be the results your campaigns gave for your customers’ sales numbers. 

What is Advertising? 

Now let’s zoom in on advertising. Like we mentioned before, advertising can be considered a subset of marketing because all your advertising activities — like native ads, Facebook ads, LinkedIn sponsored posts, YouTube pre-roll ads, etc. — support your marketing goals overall.

You might have noticed from our examples that advertising comprises mostly paid forms of marketing

These ads are specifically for promoting your business’s offers through paid content, but advertising can very much include activities like creating new creative campaigns for seasonal collections, figuring out where to put your ads, and collecting information and data about your customers and prospects.

Some other advertising activities include:

  • Brand building to boost your business’s reputation.
  • Making customers aware that they have unmet needs and desires that your business can provide.
  • Generating more leads and sales with new campaigns.
  • Reaching more people using social media posts.
  • Highlighting your product or service benefits using storytelling.

If marketing tells us what is the brand message via such elements as a positioning statement or vision, advertising makes that message come to life by actually getting it in front of consumers.

Many creative activities also fall under advertising, such as creating campaigns, copy, visuals, videos, and the like.

6 Key Differences Between Marketing and Advertising 

Now that we understand the basic differences between marketing and advertising, let’s put them together into these six key differences. By the end of this article, you’ll be able to clearly understand how these two related terms are truly different.

1. Responsibilities 


Because marketing teams aim to make sure a business is profitable from start to end, it has the following responsibilities: 

  • Branding. Your brand is who you are in the market: it is a culmination of how you act, communicate, and invite prospects into your business that makes you different from other companies in the same space. Your brand is what will last in the minds of consumers.
  • Trend analysis and competitor tracking. Marketing teams have to know where your brand sits compared to your current competition, and this also includes getting to know trends in the market. They’ll be watching out for their competitors’ campaigns, trending topics in their industry, and what customers are saying about them and their competition. 
  • Customer relationship management. Marketing teams can use surveys and interviews among other feedback collection tools and activities to find out if the business is meeting their customers’ expectations. 
  • Cross-department alignment. Your marketing team is not the only team in a business. Because many departments work together to keep a business running smoothly, your marketing team is likely in charge of making sure all departments understand your marketing activities, your brand, and your goals. 
  • Market research and strategy development. An ongoing responsibility of marketing teams is making sure the business stays profitable. They have to see what’s hot in the market, stay on top of effective marketing tools and strategies, and manage new software and programs that might help the business run smoother in support of its other roles, like customer management and after-sales support. 

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