Marketing or Advertising?

For many small businesses the difference between Marketing and Advertising is vague at best and they are interchangeable at worst. Does this matter?


First lets see what the differences actually are and then we can consider our main question of today; do you need to know the difference at all?


Marketing has been described by The American Marketing Association 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.”

Advertising is defined by the Collins English Dictionary as “the promotion of goods or services for sale through impersonal media, such as radio or television.”


As we can see from these definitions the difference is that Marketign is a process and set of tools that include advertising. Advertising is thus a subset of Marketing. Marketign in fact includes all the ways to communicate with a customer such as Public Relations, Advertising and even simply conversing. It is the system of communication.


Advertising is the direct message but only when presented in an impersonal media. Talking to your customer when they come into the shop is marketing but not advertising.

Large companies tend to have both marketing and advertising budgets. But this is not the case for small businesses. Does it matter?


I think the answer in most cases is no. For a small business the expense is in the advertising; press, flyers, signage etc. However it is important that you consider your advertising in the context of your overall marketing. Think of the image and values you are trying to convey; are you focused on fresh food? In that case just having newspaper adverts that scream about low price is not the message you want. Sure you can use this occasionally for a sale or to generate a spike in interest but it is not the continual message you want to advertise. And where you advertise will also play a role; Rolex do not advertise in your community paper – they choose high-end fashion and business magazines.

Before you begin to advertise then you need to have fixed your marketing message. And then each advert needs to be considered with this in place. After that you can just go about your business with periodic reviews of what advertising media fit into your marketing plans; press, tv or radio? paid online adverts or SEO?


But apart from that there is little point in a small business worrying about definitions.