Advertising vs. marketing? What’s the difference?

07 Jul 2021  |  News
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At the ripe old age of 44, some 25 years into my career, I still get asked by family and friends, ‘What is it that you do for a living, again’? When I try to explain the disciplines and objectives of marketing in layman’s terms, I’m still asked in response, ‘So, it’s like advertising’? I’ve pretty much given up on explaining what marketing is to my friends and family, but when I was recently asked and met with this response by a friendly GP at my local surgery, it prompted me to write this blog post. I’m going to send it to my Mum, my brothers, and that GP in the hope that they’ll ‘get it’ after reading this!

The shortest definition of marketing I could find – actions taken to promote and sell products or services (which is so underselling it)! I’ll try and explain it better for you now.

The rule of thumb for a business that wants to grow, is to spend what is equal to between 3% and 5% of their turnover on marketing. That will include the marketing teams’ salaries, the cost of producing marketing materials, maintaining their website, creating content, buying advertising space, attending/hosting events to promote your business etc. etc. etc.

So, you see, advertising is just a small element of what marketing is. Not that I’m insulted by the suggestion that I work in advertising, but it’s like asking a stay-at-home Mum whether what she does is just play with her child all day! Actually, no, that’s a lot worse. Don’t ask any stay-at-home Mum that!

A rounded and full marketing team will include people with very different skillsets, because marketing as a function covers a wide range of activities. A marketing strategy (or very detailed plan) should include numerous different channels and activities to get the most exposure for the business. Most importantly, a marketing strategy should meet the objectives of the individual business. Marketing is not formulaic, it should be unique to each business, and your plan of attack (your marketing strategy) should also change and evolve with the business’ needs and the development of their target audience.

Marketing messages can be distributed in lots of different ways, and before those messages can be distributed, a lot of work goes into researching and monitoring the market you work within, your competition, your customers and understanding what makes those customers tick.

You then need to create content which could be written, visual content, audio or video and make sure it’s seen/heard by the right people, which means choosing the right places to put it after you’ve created it. One place to put it is on your website, which should also have lots of other content about your businesses’ products or services on it. Who created all that? Yep, someone in marketing. They may have designed and built the website themselves too, or they may have project managed someone else to do it for them, but then afterwards they would have to keep it up-to-date by amending and adding content.

There are countless options of places to put your content, and new ones are popping up all the time. A good marketeer needs to understand all of them, the pros and cons, and know how to get the best results from them. Just think of all the social media channels there are now, then add the press, other people’s websites, emails, actually, why am I trying to write a list? There are too many!

Then there’s the geek level stuff like search engine optimisation, to make sure your website is found, and Google ads to beat the competition to being found, and the specialist creators who develop technical content like CGI and interactive content like VR. They’re all ‘in marketing’.

When it comes to advertising, marketeers don’t create the ads, but we do brief the agencies who do, and we negotiate with the media owners to get them placed for the best price.

Then there’s the reporting. You need to prove all your efforts have been worth it, calculate the return on investment and justify the budget spent on getting the marketing messages ‘out there’. In fact, that’s my favourite part of what I do, seeing the results and proving that marketing works!

So Mum, my two brothers and my friendly GP, if you’ve read this, hopefully next time you can ask me, ‘So, what type of marketing do you specialise in’? Or maybe you’ll just never ask me about my career again for fear of me writing you another 750 word blog post to read 😉

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