Decoding the Battle: Marketing vs Advertising – Unraveling the Key Differences and Effective Strategies

Decoding the Battle: Marketing vs Advertising – Unraveling the Key Differences and Effective Strategies

Decoding the Battle: Marketing vs Advertising – Unraveling the Key Differences and Effective Strategies banner

Considering a career in marketing or advertising? If you think the two concepts are interchangeable, think again. While the terms “marketing” and “advertising” are sometimes used synonymously, the reality is that they are two different concepts. If you plan to work in either field, you’ll need to understand the differences (and overlaps) between the two and how they apply to your work.

So, what exactly is marketing and how is it similar to (and different from) advertising? Simply put, marketing is identifying customer needs and how to meet them. It’s the overall strategy for promoting services or products.  Advertising employs paid and targeted strategies to achieve marketing goals – all advertising is part of marketing.

 We’re diving into this in more detail, as well as some predictions about the future of these industries, below. With the right information about marketing vs. advertising, you’ll be able to make a more informed decision regarding your future career.

What Is Marketing?

According to the American Marketing Association, 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.”

Marketing Mix

Companies of all sizes use marketing to reach their target audiences and promote their products and services. Some of the most essential components of a marketing strategy (also known as a marketing mix) include:

  • Product – This refers to the exact product (or service, in some cases) that the company is offering to meet the needs or resolve the pain points of a specific set of target customers.
  • Price – This refers to how much the target customer is expected to pay in order to receive the product or service. This aspect is especially important because a price that is too high will drive potential customers away, whereas a price that is too low will not result in profits.
  • Place – This is how and where target customers can access the company’s products and services. Examples may include online (for an e-commerce product), at a brick-and-mortar store, in a franchise, or through a distributor.
  • Promotion – This part of the marketing mix refers to how a business advertises and promotes a product or service in the hopes of selling it to more target customers. Advertising is a significant part of the promotion process, so we’ll circle back to this in our discussion of advertising later.
  • People – This is less about the end customer and more about the professionals who are providing the product or service, maintaining strict quality control standards, and making sure that the product or service is of the highest possible quality.
  • Process – This is the series of steps, such as quality control or other procedures, that employees must follow to ensure that the customer receives an excellent product or service every time. Having the right process in place keeps the customer experience consistent and helps to build a stronger brand reputation.
  • Physical Evidence – This refers to the tangible results or benefits that an end customer enjoys when they use a company’s product or service.

Types of Marketing

In addition to the different components of marketing, there are also several types of marketing to be aware of. If you plan to pursue a career as a professional marketer, you may choose to specialize in one of these areas of marketing or work as a jack of all trades.

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – SEO is entirely focused on a company’s rankings on search engines (primarily Google). The higher a company’s website or web pages rank for certain keywords, the more traffic and potential customers the site will bring in. Search engine optimization is an essential aspect of any marketing strategy, especially in today’s competitive world.
  • Social Media – Businesses can also find a great deal of success when they use social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, to reach their target audiences and boost sales. A robust social media presence can spread awareness about a brand while generating engagement and building a stronger brand identity—but social media marketing requires a solid understanding of many different social media platforms and how to use them well. This includes not just popular platforms like Facebook and Instagram but more specialized options like LinkedIn as well. Posting on these platforms includes free promotion but also the option of paid advertisements. 
  • Pay-Per-Click (PPC) – PPC is another marketing strategy that many businesses use to drum up more leads and web traffic. It is advertising within digital marketing. The idea behind PPC is that businesses pay to target specific keywords, but they only pay a small amount for each click (or site visit) generated by the campaign. This can be a cost-effective way to reach a larger target audience online without a huge marketing or advertising budget.
  • Email – Email marketing is one of the most effective and affordable marketing strategies, allowing businesses to reach customers with nothing more than an email address. Companies have successfully used promotional emails, newsletters, and other gated content to draw in email subscribers and boost sales, so it’s definitely one of many marketing strategies for companies of all sizes to consider.
  • Content – No marketing strategy is complete without content marketing, which focuses on the creation and publication of engaging, useful, and unique content to reach a target audience. Content marketing can be focused on many types of content, ranging from blogs and long-form articles to white papers, social media posts, and white papers.

What Is Advertising?

Now that we’ve covered marketing in-depth, what exactly is advertising, and what does it entail? It can be helpful to look at advertising as a subset of marketing; various advertising strategies are often part of a broader marketing strategy.

Types of Advertising

Just as there are different types of marketing strategies, there are also different types of advertising. Some of the most common types of advertising include:

  • Traditional – This refers specifically to more “classic” forms of advertising that you probably think of when you hear the term. Some examples include television commercials, radio commercials, and billboards. These traditional methods of advertising can be very effective when crafted with the target audience in mind.
  • Retail – With retail advertising, you are focused more on an advertisement and its placement within a retail store. You might find ads, for example, on a shopping cart or even at a register.
  • Digital – In recent years, digital advertising has really taken the world by storm—and today, most ads have been digitized in some form. Specifically, digital advertising may refer to the use of banner ads and other advertising media on websites, search engines, promotion videos, and other content. These types of ads should be responsive, meaning they can be viewed properly on both desktop and mobile devices.

Differences Between Marketing and Advertising

It’s easy to see why the terms “marketing” and “advertising” are sometimes used interchangeably, even though they don’t refer to the exact same thing. They both play a vital part in spreading the word about a business and its services and products while building a sense of brand identity. However, advertising is generally just one part of a brand’s overall marketing strategy, with specific advertising techniques ranging from traditional to retail and online.

Marketing and advertising also differ in terms of responsibilities, cost, objectives, and scope.


Professional marketers and advertisers have very different day-to-day responsibilities on the job. A marketer, for example, will be responsible for such things as branding and developing customer relations, as well as keeping up with competitors and communicating with other departments on marketing goals. Marketers must also manage different aspects of strategy and be the creative force behind it.

Advertisers, on the other hand, tend to be more responsible for pitching specific advertising plans, conducting behavioral analysis of the target audience for a campaign, and purchasing specific media ads (like online ads or television commercials).


The cost or investment required to carry out a marketing strategy can differ significantly from one campaign to the next. Because there are so many strategies to choose from, the cost can range from practically free to very expensive. For example, some search engine optimization (SEO) strategies like keyword placement and backlinking can be done for little to no cost (other than the time investment required). On the other hand, some marketing strategies (like carrying out an extensive social media campaign) can be rather costly.

Advertising is similar, but the costs of an ad campaign are typically easier to predict and control. Advertising methods can range from very budget-friendly (such as PPC advertising) to costly (such as placing a television ad during a peak time).

While the costs associated with marketing strategies and advertising methods can vary greatly, businesses need to be able to predict and manage budgets for both in order to succeed.


Marketing and advertising campaigns also tend to have different objectives and success measurements. In marketing, for example, metrics to measure success may include:

  • Customer satisfaction
  • Net promoter score
  • Annual sales revenue

For an advertising campaign, on the other hand, objectives and their associated metrics tend to be narrower and may include:

  • Conversion rates
  • Return on ad spend
  • Engagement
  • Impressions
  • Reach
  • Open rates

Scope and Timeframe

Finally, marketing and advertising tend to differ in their overall scope and the timeframe required for each. Marketing campaigns tend to be more prolonged and drawn out with a larger scope that may include many individual techniques or methods. Advertising campaigns, on the other hand, are narrower in their scope and often have very specific start and end dates.

Synergy Between Marketing and Advertising

As different as marketing and advertising may be, there is an ongoing synergy and connection between these two concepts. Some might even argue that you can’t have one without the other. A marketing strategy is not effective without some advertising components included. At the same time, you cannot expect an advertising campaign to be successful entirely on its own; it requires the market research, context, and planning of a marketing team to maximize the results.

Future of Marketing and Advertising

Only time will tell what the future of marketing and advertising may hold, but we’ve seen some exciting developments in recent years. Specifically, artificial intelligence (AI) is now being used for everything from keyword research and ideation to content creation, email marketing, audience research, and everything in between.

Looking to kickstart your career in marketing or advertising? JWU is here to help with our online Bachelor of Science in Digital Marketing and Social Media program and our online BS in Marketing & Advertising program. We also offer a Master of Business Administration in Marketing for those who are looking to take their careers to the next level. Both programs are offered in a 100 percent career-focused online format to help you graduate and start using your new skills as soon as possible.

For more information about completing your degree online, complete the Request Info form, call 855-JWU-1881, or email [email protected].

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