I was recently having a chat with a client about advertising and marketing when it dawned on me that the difference between the two isn’t that obvious. So what is the difference between advertising & marketing? I often see non-profits working hard but finding very little reward from their advertising. This may be because they haven’t considered the answer to this question… or perhaps they didn’t even know that the question existed.
Let’s get real here. Why would they know the difference? They are focusing on what they do best; whether that’s helping families, changing the lives of young children, supporting the environment etc. I do marketing as my profession and I only know the difference because many years ago someone took the time to tell me.
Having a brief search on Google, I couldn’t find anything that I personally think gives the answer justice. So I wanted to write an article explaining what I, as a professional marketer with an advertising background, believe the difference to be. Hopefully, this will help you to avoid some of the problems that catch so many people out!
So first of all, let’s answer an easier question…
What Is Marketing?
Take a second to see if you can answer that yourself… Any luck? We use the word marketing so often but few truly understand what it encompasses. I’m not going to go into great detail here; let’s just keep it simple –
A good way to think of marketing is like a car. A car is a summary of its parts including wheels, an engine, seats and much more. Now we say ‘I’m travelling by car’ because it’s easier than saying – ‘I’m travelling by wheels propelled by an engine whilst I sit on top…’ This is the same with the word marketing; it is a simple term for describing a group of parts (often referred to as elements).
Marketing is the term used to describe all of the elements (there’s widely considered to be seven) of what’s known as the marketing mix. If you’re just offering a product you’ll likely focus on the elements – price, place, product and promotion. If you are providing a service you’ll also include people, process and physical environment.
Now one of the elements of the marketing mix that I’ve already mentioned is ‘promotion’. As we all know, a way that you can promote a product or service is through advertising. So advertising is actually just a small part (of a part) of marketing. It is a critical part, not to be overlooked – if we take the car analogy, then advertising is arguably as important as the engine (or even petrol). If your car has a bad engine (or if your marketing includes bad advertising), you are not getting anywhere!
What’s the difference between advertising and marketing? – Advertising is a part of marketing whereas marketing includes advertising as well as other elements.
Wait. Don’t leave just yet, there is a more important question to answer…
Why Is It Important to Understand the Difference Between Advertising & Marketing?
All too often I see not for profits wanting new volunteers, donors and service users say ‘What should I do? I know, let’s start advertising!’ They immediately buy magazine ads, 10,000 flyers, jump on social media, Google Ads and more. Sometimes they see results (if they’ve actually set any targets). From what I’ve seen they more often do not. The reason for this is that they should be taking care of their marketing as a whole (their marketing mix) and not just advertising.
You see, out of all of the elements in your marketing, promotion (and in turn advertising) will likely be one of the last elements you want to look at. At the least, you will want to carry out market research in order to inform your marketing (and thus your advertising). After all, how can you know what will appeal to your potential supporters if you don’t fully understand what they want? Your advertising must be appealing in order to be effective. So if you jump straight into your advertising, at the least it is going to be less effective than it could be. It may even cost more money than it needs to. As soon as we take into account other elements of the marketing mix such as people or place, you can see the flaw in an advertising first (or only) strategy.
Let’s say that your advertising is brilliant and potential supporters come flooding in… but your customer service isn’t as good as it could be and there are also problems with your location. Potential new and now dissatisfied supporters go elsewhere. Your advertising would be much more expensive. Had you gained those sales, your return on advertising investment would have been greater.
The key thing to remember is this – your marketing will effect your advertising (as advertising is an intertwined part of your marketing mix). Before you start advertising, it is well worth spending time looking at your marketing mix as a whole, ensuring that the decisions you make are informed by your market research.
Thanks for reading. I hope this will be of some help to you. Any questions, feel free to leave a comment or get in touch. I’d love to hear your thoughts.