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 people use these words interchangeably, referring to marketing as advertising and vice versa.

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

Knowing the difference is pretty much essential as a marketer. Besides making a clear distinction in your own mind, this knowledge will come in handy when you’re speaking to 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 how it differs from advertising, you can eventually create 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 and projects will be. Let’s start with some definitions.

What is Marketing? 

Marketing is the ongoing process of making sure your product or service is compelling to your potential market and buyers. Standing out in a competitive market, and acquiring and retaining customers, is a complex challenge. Because of this, marketing is a very involved process.

Marketing typically begins with the aim of getting your target audience aware of and familiar with your brand and offering. Then, marketing nurtures potential customers via online and offline marketing campaigns, until they become paying customers. Then, good marketing means providing effective after-sales nurturing and support.

Looking at it this way, you can see that marketing is a broader concept than advertising. In fact, you might even say that advertising is a subset of marketing, one of the most – if not the most – important tactics in marketing. 

After all, advertising – as we’ll see later on – includes 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, a world-renowned Harvard professor in marketing and advertising. According to Borden, 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 the 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 have expanded to the 7Ps, including more parameters that are particularly relevant for those businesses that provide services and not just products:

  • People: Who provides 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 customers receive as part of your service. For instance, if you are an advertising agency, the physical evidence might be the results your campaigns provide to your clients’ sales numbers. 

What is Advertising? 

Now let’s zoom in on advertising. As mentioned before, advertising can be considered a subset of marketing because all your advertising activities – including native ads, social media ads, search ads, YouTube ads, CTV ads, and even podcast ads – support your overall marketing goals.

Advertising comprises mostly paid forms of marketing. Although organic social media, for example, is a form of advertising, traditional advertising involves paying for the ad placement, whether it be on TV, in a newspaper, or more commonly today – on the internet.

There are a lot of ways that advertising can be used: to build brand image, to promote a product or collection, or to promote a sale or discount offer. With digital advertising, there is the critical advantage of being able to track ad clicks and conversions, collect customer data, and use it to create and optimize future ad campaigns.

Some other purposes of advertising include:

  • Brand building to boost your business’s reputation.
  • Making customers aware that they have unmet needs and desires that your business can provide.
  • Lead generation to build the customer pipeline.
  • Reaching relevant audiences using social media posts.
  • Highlighting your product or service benefits with storytelling tactics.

If marketing communicates the ‘bigger picture’ of the brand’s identity and message, advertising is the tool to actually get it in front of customers. Many creative activities make up the process of advertising, such as conceptual development, writing copy, creating visuals and videos, and more.

6 Key Differences Between Marketing and Advertising 

Now that we understand what exactly are marketing and advertising, and how they relate to one another, let’s explore the six key differences between them.

1. Responsibilities 


Because marketing aims to boost a business’s visibility and desirability to potential and existing customers, 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 determine if the business meets 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 must ensure that all departments understand and support your marketing activities, brand, and goals. 
  • Market research and strategy development: An ongoing responsibility of marketing teams is making sure the business is positioned for profitability. 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 that the investment in marketing is worthwhile.  


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 ad campaigns moving forward and developing advertising 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.
  • 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. These include ad copy, images, videos, and audio elements.
  • Campaign management: Advertising teams are responsible for tracking and monitoring the performance of ad campaigns, and optimizing copy and images as needed to get the highest ROAS (return on ad spend).
  • 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 marketing and advertising share the ultimate goal of boosting sales and profitability, they tend to deviate in the ways they accomplish this. Here is a breakdown of the purpose and goals of marketing vs advertising:


  • 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


  • Building brand awareness
  • Boosting brand recognition
  • Attracting first-time buyers to purchase
  • Informing or reminding customers about the existence of your brand
  • Compelling customers to purchase through ads 
  • Increasing brand loyalty
  • Keeping the brand’s image strong 
  • Establishing the 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 on the Outbrain blog – it educates affiliate marketers about the best affiliate programs and draws them to Outbrain’s site at the same time.
  • Content marketing: Content marketing uses all types of content – landing pages, blogs, social posts, YouTube videos, and more – to attract audiences online and generate interest in a business or brand. 
  • Search engine optimization: By getting your business ranked higher on Google, you gain visibility and draw traffic to your website.
  • 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. 
  • Digital advertising, e.g. social media ads, video marketing, content syndication, guest posting, etc. 
  • Native advertising, promoting ads that match the look and feel of the webpage where they appear. This makes the ad less intrusive to the viewer, so they are more likely to engage with it. 
  • Billboard ads
  • Mobile ads in apps 

4. Investment required 

Besides organic social advertising, most advertising formats require a budget, making advertising 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 build a team that includes media buyers, copywriters, video editors, and the like. 

And finally, a key investment in advertising is of course your actual ad spend. Each advertising platform, from TV to native 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, marketing automation platforms, or research companies to conduct detailed customer research and reporting.

5. Success measurements 

In both marketing and advertising, your business needs to stay on top of performance and make sure your tactics are successful. By optimizing and consolidating successful campaigns, and discarding tactics that are not working among your target audience, you can maintain the efficiency of your marketing and advertising investments and ensure the business is as profitable as possible.

Here are examples of different success metrics for both marketing and advertising that should be tracked, monitored, and optimized:


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


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.

For advertising campaigns, you need to consider the campaign duration to monitor results. For example, if you run a month-long campaign, then you’ll want to see the results generated after said month. You can also recheck a couple of months after to see if it has had a longer-term impact. 

Meanwhile, with marketing, you’ll want to look at this as a lifelong process. Your business and brand will evolve as will your customers and market trends. However, it is critical to monitor the effects of marketing campaigns in the shorter term, so you can understand the status of your brand health, what resonates with audiences, and where to go from here.


Just because advertising and marketing have a lot in common 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.

Launch your Campaign!

Create full funnel campaigns that drive real business results.

Start Now