Staff Leverage

Marketing and Advertising: What’s the Difference

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
What I’ll learn from this article: What’s marketing and advertising and key points to differentiate them.


Words are power; or so they say. But in the sales world, it does make a difference when it comes to goals, process and results. That’s why it’s fundamental that you know that while some words might seem similar, they have their particular quirks that make them valuable and above all, fundamental in their own way.

That’s why we’re going to dive into what exactly makes marketing and advertising so different and how, knowing each of them, you can create a difference in your sales and business strategies, as using them without knowing their real meaning hurts your brand.

It often translates to wasted effort, team confusion and ineffective practices that take out money out of your pocket, instead of putting it in. So, are you ready to get a grip in just what these terms mean and what they imply for brand and business and for your sales process? Then let’s check it out.

What is marketing?

If you want to dive into business, then knowing what marketing is is fundamental, as we often have a general grasp of what’s this field comprises. But, marketing is much more than what most people tend to think. In fact, is so large that there are subdivisions that work in unique ways to reach the same goal: to fulfil a need.

By strict definition, marketing is nothing more than the conglomerate of actions leading to promotion and sales of a product or service. And that, funny enough, includes strategies such as advertising!

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, marketing is, as a whole, a group of actions with a definitive target, that in the long run, leads to more than sales: there’s brand recognition, engagement and many other aspects of a business that can be achieved through marketing.

Want more specific definitions of what marketing is? Here are experts opinions that can help you understand and apply it to your business endeavours:

“Marketing is 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.”

From the American Marketing Association.

“Marketing is creating irresistible experiences that connect with people personally and create the desire to share with others.”

From Saul Colt - Department head at Fresh Books.

“Marketing is the umbrella term covering research, branding, PR, advertising, direct response, promotions, loyalty, demand generation, etc.”

From Anne Holland, Publisher.

The seven keys to marketing

These keys, while important individually, work as a whole to impulse all the work and efforts of campaigns launched by ventures and brands. These are not only basic for your operational stages, but they guide you into the science of purchase behavior that will, in turn, boost your success.

These are some elements that you can find in any business effort that is universally identified as the 7 P’s of marketing.

Marketing and Advertising: What's the difference? | Staff Leverage Blog
7 P's of Marketing


  • Product: what are you offering to your audience? Investigate and try using different approaches to identify why they need what you’ll be offering. The product itself it perhaps the most important aspect of any marketing campaign, so you’d have to ensure that you’re offering something unique and valuable for your audience.  
  • Price: what’s the objective value of your product? It’s fundamental to narrow it down before the sales process to be able to make an effective budget. You’ll also need to consider that the potential customer will be placing an intangible value to your product or service, that will contrast with the cost of making the product and the final value that you’ll give it once you’re ready to sell.
  • Promotion: these are awareness and identity efforts in the marketing process for your product or service. It involves the creation of content focused on endorsing your offer, this means the name of the product to be marketed, brand aspect (graphic and physical design), copywriting, social media, advertising and so on.
  • Place: where would you product be sold? That’s a fundamental aspect of your marketing campaign. Think of direct sales process or third party sales, that applies to physical sales, online sales, distributors, or subscriptions. Whichever you choose, and even if you pick a combination of some of them, are part of your marketing plan and should be selected according to what you’re offering and the audience you’d like to sale to.
  • Packaging: an image says more than a thousand words, or so they say. That’s why the packaging of a product needs to be powerful enough to convey the message of your offer. How can you make it stand out in the market? What’s the identity of your product in colors, fonts, and so on? And, if you’re offering a service, what does the user see or how do you offer it?
  • Positioning: if you’re selling a product, you’d like it to be in a place that’s perfect for your intended audience to reach it. Positioning means just that, is part of a sales strategy to showcase the offer in a place works for your sales strategy. For example, you could sell fitness gloves on the counter of a gym, as that would be the most likely place for potential buyers to be.
  • People: marketing is made for humans, but some brands rarely consider that these are made by humans. A brand will only be as successful as the collective effort of people creating and delivering all the results of the line of production. The process of hiring, selecting and guiding these professionals is often strenuous, but can make all the difference when you're in the process of creating and selling.

Keep something in mind: regardless of how much effort you put into creating your 7 P’s ands sticking to them, over time, the product, the audience and the market will change, so you’d have to reevaluate your marketing strategy strategically.

That is to fit the market that’s experiencing an evolution, because to stay relevant, you have to go through these. It’s worth noting that while yes, they are effective, rarely any list of fundamentals in marketing stays relevant over time, we’re in a fast consumer-evolution era, and to succeed you’d have to adapt to it.

What is advertising?

Where marketing is a conglomerate of efforts, advertising is a straight line towards the goal. In this case, through campaigns created to elicit a reaction (often a purchase impulse) from the audience to an specific point for the service, product or alliance you’re offering, all this by paying for the ad to show under preselected conditions.

It’s very straightforward: you’re paying for your brand to show. And that involves an effort to not only create the advertising, but to make it impactful. It implies studying your target group, ensuring that you’re using their preferred media and above all, that you’re creating something appealing.

However, there are certain elements that are quite common on all advertising spots:

  • One way communication: unlike the regular communication through social media, advertising is often one way chat. Think of commercials, giant posters, etc. These are not tools for the potential customer to interact with the brand, but to create awareness of an offer looking for a sale. However, it’s not entirely one way: most advertisers (agencies, for example) tend to measure the impact their campaigns have on their audience through analyzing purchase behaviors after their ads are public.
  • Cost: most (if not the entirety) of advertising is paid, whether for the owner of the brand or a third party sponsor. That’s often the case with televised events, or business alliances, as it requires payment for alloted spaces in networks, for example.
  • Promotion: advertising is not limited to brand awareness, like some marketing efforts tend to be. Advertising encourages reaction from the audience, and in ideal cases, a purchase or a lead generation. Promotion can also (non exclusively) involve a product, a new service or line, discounts, and so on; as these often provide the necessary “extra” that will make a difference in the purchase process.

What types of advertising you can find?

Advertising, as a whole, contains variants that separate it into subsections. These relate to how the message reach the audience, and how in turn, the intended audience should react to it. It’s value resides in the behavioral response: what happens when the message is sent directly, indirectly or using a combination of both to generate the desired response. That in turn, has an impact on how these are created, and why it’s essential for you to learn the differences between them.

There are 3 basic advertisement-consumer lines of communication:

Below the line: these are the ads that work directly from the brand to the consumer, in a direct manner to potential consumers. It’s among the three, the cheapest and often one of the most popular for small brands, as it allows them to get a high return of investment. Advertising below the line implies selecting and targeting content (billboards, commercials and such) to a predefined audience, expecting to create conversion that leads to sales.

Above the line: the ads that often work on broader audiences and that are not quite targeted to one, but a broader spectrum are the above the line advertising products. These are often more general, and apply to broader audiences in mediums that are mass consumed, such as tv or radio. It’s more akin to a rainshower of product, service or brand in a large list of potential consumers, trying to reach a percentage of them to turn them into leads or sales.  

Through the line: these are the combination of both techniques, and are often paired with extensive branding efforts. In general, most of the through-the-line efforts are made in the digital world, using a technique that creates brand awareness while looking for sales.

In general, a combination of below the line and above the line is better, as through the line has better results in a larger audience. That way you’re using multiplatform efforts, that in turn lead to a bigger chance of achieving results. However, tread it lightly: certain products or service perform better on one or the other, and you’d have to do extensive investigation on how to do it correctly for the desired results.

Advertising also varies in the method used to get the message across to people. In that regard, we’d have to mention how it differs depending on the advertising medium used to send the message across to the audience.

These are the most common mediums for advertising:

Marketing and Advertising: What's the difference?| Staff Leverage Blog
Common mediums for advertising

All in line with the general design of images and palette of this brand.

  • Digital: think of smartphones, tablets and other digital equipment that you could get your audiences through, that often offers an alternative of two-way communication. However, this last bit is quite uncommon.
  • Broadcast: ads that could be shown in broadcast systems, such as radio or Tv, or a combination of both. These are the second classical ad model that most people know.
  • Outdoors: think of big and small banners, flags, decorated structures and so on. These are the most popular ways to reach a large audience in a visual and cut-to-the-chase way.
  • Printing: all paper and other materials that are easy to have tactile access. Often implies newspapers, flyers, magazines and so on, but it’s not limited to that, as it can apply to pop materials like bags, and t-shirts, for example.

Why knowing the difference between marketing and advertising matters

I’m sure that now that you know what each of them are you know that you’ve seen at least one slip: somebody calling marketing efforts “advertising” or vice versa. Don’t fret, this always happens as these two are tightly woven together, but as colored threads in a blanket, they can be differentiated if you look closely enough.

Now, let’s talk about key differences in both of them to help you differentiate each of them in the long run:

  • Marketing as a whole is often a two-sided conversation, whereas advertising is most of the time just showcasing something to a potential audience.
  • Advertising is more focused on sales that brand awareness, unlike marketing that contains sales and brand recognition as fundamentals.
  • Marketing focuses on creating relationships with both the selected audience and potential allies, whereas advertising just shows products or services to one portion of the audience, that being a potential buyer or a potential sponsor, rarely both.
  • Advertising doesn’t try to actively reach customers, as is more focused on general placement; marketing is however, focused on reaching an audience, so it could include techniques like email marketing, that are more one-on-one with the customer.
  • Marketing does a larger reach for audiences across-platforms, whereas advertising often focuses on one medium per ad and an specific public.
  • Advertising focus on emotionality to create a purchase-inducing reaction, that could be achieved through the right copy and even the color scheme; whereas most marketing focuses on jumping the potential customer from one point to another in the buyer’s journey.

Knowing the definitions and the difference between these two client-reaching efforts is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to working within the sales business. All efforts, whether online, offline, targeted or general come for a reason; you want to showcase your brand or product and make it successful.

But there’s more to that than marketing: it all comes down to business culture and how, with small changes and the right assistance, you can transform all your efforts into returns of investment. It’s important that you work with experts in the field; people that are not only qualified to assist you, but that are as committed as you to your brand and goals.

Marketing and advertising are not just two terms, they are trampolines to launch a business. Now that you know about it, share it! Let’s change how the marketing world is perceived, one article at the time. Would you like us to talk about a specific topic? Then contact us and let us know!  

By John Mackenzie – Founder & CEO of Staff Leverage, NT Digital and JohnMac Digital

Do you want to be successful? We know how you can be. For more information on the previous topics and deeper insight into the intricacies of efficient business, see the following articles:


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John Founder CEO

Hello There, I’m John Mackenzie! CEO at Staff Leverage. An Australian visionary committed to change businesses all over the world.

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