Content Marketing

Marketing vs Advertising: 7 Key Differences You Need to Know

Kevin T Payne
Kevin T Payne

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. 
  • Budgeting and ROI (return on investment) tracking. A marketing team makes sure that they’re not overspending. Based on year after year data, the team plans out their marketing budget and makes sure all marketing activities fall within their budget. They do all this with awareness of their desired ROI to make sure the business stays afloat. 


On the other hand, let’s take a look at what advertising responsibilities include:

  • Customer analysis. Getting to know your existing customers and their relationship with your business can help your team create better campaigns moving forward and developing marketing strategies that can serve the brand as managed by your marketing team.
  • Pitching advertising strategies and plans. Whether you’re working with clients for their advertising needs or if you’re working with agencies yourself, the advertising team is responsible for pitching the strategy to market the business, including specific activations, processes, and budget required to enact an advertising strategy. 
  • Media buying. Advertising teams stay on top of the most effective marketing channels for the business based on sound data, including where customers for the business can be reached at the best value.
  • Researching and managing creative production. From TV commercials to short social media posts, advertising teams are responsible for planning, researching, creating, and distributing creative assets that apply the advertising plan.
  • Communication between stakeholders. Accounts managers of advertising agencies are responsible for keeping clients informed about progress while also maintaining their agency’s own creative team’s project slate.

2. Purpose 

While both marketing and advertising ultimately share the goal to make sure a business stays profitable through consistent sales, they tend to deviate in a few ways.


  • Lead generation
  • New customer acquisition
  • Customer retention
  • Maintaining consistent branding
  • Managing and creating upsell and cross-sell opportunities
  • Product development
  • Tracking the results of all marketing initiatives as a whole


  • Attracting first-time buyers to purchase
  • Informing or reminding customers about the existence of your brand
  • Compelling customers to purchase through ads 
  • Keeping customers happy and satisfied by increasing brand loyalty 
  • Keeping the brand’s image strong 
  • Establishing your business as the top-of-mind option among others in the market
  • Motivating existing customers to make repeat purchases

3. Techniques used 

Because marketing and advertising have different goals, it comes as no surprise that they use different techniques to meet said goals.


  • Inbound marketing. Using organic strategies to attract your customers to your business. Here’s an example of an inbound marketing blog post that educates customers about what a contact center is as a service.
  • Content marketing. Content marketing can be through social media posts like Instagram or YouTube to create compelling content that attracts attention and keeps customers interested. 
  • Search engine optimization. By getting your business ranked on Google, you’re able to attract customers to your business without spending unnecessarily.
  • Email marketing. Your business can stay in touch with customers through email campaigns, newsletters, and promotions.
  • Affiliate marketing. By partnering with the right affiliates who can reach more customers, you can leverage other trusted people to market your brand for you in exchange for a commission.


  • Traditional advertising, e.g. print, TV, or radio
  • Retail advertising, e.g. shelf marketing and in-store promotional material. Here’s an example of brilliant in-store advertising examples.
  • Digital advertising, e.g. social media ads, video marketing, content syndication, guest posting, etc. 
  • Native advertising, e.g. writing a native blog post like this one promoting the benefits of crowdfunding. This is less intrusive than a placed ad to match the usual customer experience on a certain platform or website.
  • Billboard ads
  • Mobile ads in apps 

4. Investment required 

Because advertising mostly has to do with paid ads, it’s expected to be one of the costlier marketing activities your company will invest in. 

This cost can also depend on who you work with to implement your advertising plans, including any freelancers and contractors as well as agencies who create, plan, and report on their campaigns with you.

If you plan to advertise using internal talent, you might find that you’ll need to allow for people like strategists, media buyers, copywriters, video editors, and the like. 

And finally, an important investment that goes to advertising is of course your actual ad spend. Each advertising platform, from TV to social media, has its own cost to put your ads on their platform. 

Because marketing activities include other things like branding and customer and trend research, marketing costs as a whole may cover different positions and tools that are required to support these marketing goals. 

Examples include hiring product managers, brand managers, sales managers, or research analysts who can make sure that each marketing activity for your business is taken care of.

If your business is planning a rebrand in the future, then a big chunk of your marketing budget may have to go to the research and development for the rebranding, together with subsequent expenses to make sure the market is aware of your rebranding efforts.

And finally, marketing investments can also include the different software and tools you need to support other marketing activities. This might include email marketing providers, referral marketing software, or research companies to conduct detailed customer research and reporting.

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5. Success measurements 

In both marketing and advertising, your business needs to stay on top of and manage your marketing analytics. Doing this ensures profitability in the long run, even amid high costs.

Here are examples of different success metrics for both marketing and advertising.


  • Net Promoter Score
  • Customer Satisfaction
  • Customer Lifetime Value
  • Quarterly and Annual Sales Revenue
  • Market Share


  • Return on Ad Spend (ROAS)
  • Reach and Impressions
  • Engagement
  • Conversions

6. Generating results 

Finally, let’s look at how long it takes for each to generate results for your business. Remember that advertising is a part of marketing, so it should make sense that advertising is meant to have faster results and returns for your brand, while marketing activities are meant to be more long-term and build up your brand for the future.

Consider advertising campaigns as their own period to monitor results. So if you have a month-long campaign, then you’ll want to see the results generated after said month.

Meanwhile, with marketing, you’ll want to look at this as a lifelong process. Your business and brand will evolve as your customers and market trends do too, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never need to monitor the results of your marketing efforts. 

Make an effort to check in with your brand health, customer perception, and the sum of all your campaigns to truly see how well your ongoing marketing efforts are going.


Just because advertising and marketing seem like two sides of the same coin doesn’t mean they’re one and the same. This blog post should walk you through the fundamental differences between the two so you, your company, and your clients can make for more productive conversations when planning and monitoring either marketing or advertising efforts.

Kevin T Payne

Kevin T Payne

Kevin is a content marketing consultant who helps software companies build marketing funnels and implement content marketing campaigns to increase their inbound leads.