The Difference Between Marketing and Advertising

difference between marketing and advertising

If you ask the person next to you about the difference between marketing and advertising, there’s a strong possibility you won’t get a clear answer. That’s because for many people, there’s only a subtle difference between marketing and advertising that’s often difficult to explain.

To be honest, advertising and marketing are closely related disciplines that have much in common. Yet they differ in many ways too. To see the differences and how each can benefit you as a small business owner, you must first understand the basics of both.

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The Difference Between Marketing and Advertising

What is Marketing?

Marketing, in simple terms, refers to the means of communication between a company and its target audience. The American Marketing Association defines it as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

Marketing involves techniques such as market segmentation, target group identification and market analysis to adopt the right strategy for customer engagement and product promotion.

Four primary elements that form the crux of marketing include Product, Price, Place and Promotion. These elements were introduced by marketer E. Jerome McCarthy. See the breakdown for each of these elements below.


A product is seen as an item that addresses a consumer demand/need. It could be a tangible good or an intangible service.


This is the amount customers pay for the product. Price determines the company’s profitability and thereby whether or not the company will succeed.


Products must be located at a place where consumers can access them. Place involves strategies such as selective distribution, franchising and exclusive distribution.


All means of communication that a company adopts to provide information about the product are considered promotion. Promotion may include elements such as public relations, advertising and sales promotion.

Let’s now try and understand what advertising means.

What is Advertising?

Advertising is defined as a form of marketing communication used by companies to promote or sell products and services. In essence, advertising is one of the components or subsets of marketing. In other words, if you think of marketing as a pie, then advertising will be an important slice of that pie.

The primary goal of advertising is to influence the buying behavior by promoting a product, service or company. To achieve this goal, advertising focuses on creative positioning and media. In doing so, advertising spreads awareness about what you have to offer.

According to the “Hierarchy of Effects” model  put forth by Robert J. Lavidge and Gary A. Steiner, a buyer moves through six stages when making a purchase. These are awareness, knowledge, liking, preference, conviction and purchase. These six stages are further divided into three categories: Awareness and Knowledge (Cognitive), Liking and Preference (Affective) and Conviction and Purchase (Conative).

These three categories are explored a bit further below.


At this stage, consumers process the information provided to them through the advertising communication. Advertising should, therefore, present information on the product benefit to pique the interest of the target audience.


When consumers are in the affective stage, they should be able to start associating with the brand. Advertising should, therefore, resonate with the audience’s emotional aspects.


The conative stage refers to a stage where buyers are either actually making a purchase or simply showing the intent to purchase. At this stage, advertising evolves into a method of expediting the purchasing process.

How Do Advertising and Marketing Differ?

Now the big question is how do marketing and advertising differ? As mentioned above, marketing presents the overall picture of how a company promotes, distributes and prices its products or services. Advertising is a component of this overall picture.

Apart from advertising, a marketing plan includes other components such as public relations, sales and distribution strategies. All these elements are expected to work both independently and interdependently. All must work together to support the same marketing goal.

What’s interesting to note is that advertising typically accounts for the largest expense in most marketing plans. It’s not difficult to understand why. A well-executed ad campaign is run on multiple channels and at a high frequency to create the desired impact.

It’s also worth mentioning that creating a marketing plan is typically more time-intensive than creating an advertising campaign. Since marketing involves various disciplines such as market analysis, marketing research, positioning and segmentation, it includes more strategizing than does advertising.

In other words, advertising supports marketing by creating the right buzz about a company’s product or service. It generates curiosity in the minds of the target audience, but ultimately works to support the overall marketing plan.

Blurring the Line Between Advertising and Marketing

In the digital era, the thin line that exists between marketing and advertising is getting increasingly blurred.

With search engine marketing (SEM) and display advertising, digital marketers are now working in the online ad space. And social networking is turning out to be the most preferred channel for most of these marketers who are pairing advertising with marketing to achieve best results.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good thing. Here’s why.

Many believe social media is a powerful marketing channel that should be used cautiously for advertising purposes.

Ted Rubin, Chief Social Marketing Officer at Collective Bias explains in a guest blog on, “Ads have their place, but too many brands try to “advertise” within their social communications to drive immediate action. Not a good scenario, because over time that misuse of the medium diminishes trust and efforts to build relationships.

To leverage social media in the most optimal way, marketers need to have the right strategy for advertising and marketing. To begin with, it’s important to understand what customers want. Do they use social media to be bombarded with adverts and gimmicks? Or are they looking for information presented in an interesting way?

Brands that have checked the pulse of their target audience know how social media can benefit their integrated marketing communications strategy. Keeping that in mind, they know how to leverage it without overusing it.

For businesses, the key thing is to really understand how advertising and marketing work together to bring about the right results.

Read the complete Small Business Advertising Guide:

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Shubhomita Bose Shubhomita Bose is a Staff Writer for Small Business Trends. She covers key studies and surveys about the small business market, along with general small business news. She draws on 8 years of experience in copywriting, marketing and communications, having worked extensively on creating content for small and medium sized enterprises.

64 Reactions
  1. You should do a post explaining how sales fits into the picture as well.

  2. I’ll be honest. I often get this mixed up. But I guess advertising is a form of marketing and it does not encompass the whole marketing process. Is that right?

    • Yes, Aira. Advertising is a part of marketing, not the other way round.

      • … which is why I think you meant to write “with *other* marketing efforts” in your sentence: “And social networking is turning out to be the most preferred channel for most of these marketers who are pairing advertising with marketing to achieve best results.” 🙂

  3. “Marketing, in simple terms, refers to the means of communication between a company and its target audience.”

    This is incorrect. What you are describing is marketing communications, which is the “fourth P” of product, price, place and promotion. You’re perpetuating a very bad myth. Your AMA definition refers to “creating … offerings” not creating offers. The offering is the product or service – an offer allows the consumer to purchase.

    Marketing starts with a marketplace analysis, product development, USD creation, pricing analysis, distribution review and other non-marcom areas. Advertising is one subset (along with PR, social media, promotions) of the fourth P, marketing communications.

    Please correct or delete your badly erroneous post, which will hurt small business owners trying to understand the difference.


  4. Thanks for your comment.

    The four Ps are part of the Marketing Mix, which is integral to formulating the marketing strategy. The four Ps (as explained in the article) go beyond marcomm. Place, for example, is concerned with distribution. Of course, the four Ps play a major role in shaping marketing communications strategy, too. But that’s obvious isn’t it as how an organization communicates is influenced by price, product, place and promotion.

    Can I also ask you to please refer to the first paragraph under the How Do Advertising and Marketing Differ? section where I have specified that marketing is more than marcomm? Hope this helps.

  5. “Marketing, in simple terms, refers to the means of communication…”

    No, it doesn’t.

    No matter what you write before or after that, marketing is not a “means of communication.” That’s mar comm.

    Why is your first graf under the How Do Advertising and Marketing Differ? different than your lead definition. Make that your lead and make it clear from the start that marketing is not communications. Easy peasy. Don’t make people read graf after graf to get to a new definition and expect them to choose the correct one. You (should) know that people who use the Internet don’t read entire articles. They ask a question, look for it in the first graf or two, then often lead.

    Please don’t be so defensive. You’ve made an error. Please correct it. That’s how you grow and move into management and leadership positions. Just tweak your article instead of leaving an explanation in the notes section of what you really meant. Feel free to delete both of my posts once you’ve fixed your article.


  6. Thank you for the simple and clear explanation to a question that many small business owners get confused with. And the grammar police and nit pickers in the comments, if you have something of real value to say, maybe a great site like SBT will let you write for them.

  7. Nice article that make it clear it all.
    However, the more complicated issue here exists: difference between promotion policy and marketing communications policy (if it exist).

  8. This post is erroneous in the sense that it is not giving the clear explanation to differentiate between the two. The elements given are merely marketing mix.

  9. The difference between Marketing and Advertising is also the media and what tools are used. I enjoy email marketing. I like it because the gold is in the email list. It’s a perfect one on one advertising. If you use an email autoresponder your message can be delivered every week, day or month. You keep in contact with your customers and future customers are just an email away. I use a system called Power Lead System. I have all of the online marketing tools such as capture and landing pages, templates you can edit, autoresponder, hosting and training video with a complete arsenal of tools to market you product or service

  10. Great Article!
    I am looking forward to read something like this because we always get confused between marketing and advertising.
    Thanks for sharing this informative blog.

  11. Great post!

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  12. There is a very thin line between Advertising and Marketing but this article very well explains the difference between both.

    Thanks for sharing this information. Keep on sharing such articles

  13. Thank you for posting this article. Very helpful. Especially the last line: “For businesses, the key thing is to really understand how advertising and marketing work together to bring about the right results.” – This is spot on. Keep up 🙂

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  25. A very informative article. The difference laid down is to the point. Thanks for sharing!

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  37. Nice article that makes it clear it all.
    However, the more complicated issue here exists the difference between promotion policy and marketing communications policy.

  38. Hii Shubhomita

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    Thanks for sharing

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  40. this way of communication is not common you should post about digital marketing. and the tools of digital marketing

  41. Overall a great informative post but still there is a scope of improvement in this post. If we can represent difference b/w both via table form then it would be easy to ready key differences.

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