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  • Adam Margolin

Marketing vs. Advertising

Most people believe that marketing is the same as advertising.  In my humble opinion, it is not.  


Here are some dictionary.com definitions: 


  • Advertising: the act or practice of calling public attention to one's product, service,need,etc., especially by paid announcements in newspapers and magazines, over radio or television, on billboards, etc.

  • Marketing: the total of activities involved in the transfer of goods from the producer or seller to the consumer or buyer, including advertising,shipping, storing, and selling.

Whilst often the most expensive component, Advertising is still only a single part of the marketing process. It's the part that involves getting the word out concerning your business, product, or the services you are offering.


I am a bit of a nerd and so in my mind i like to compare marketing / advertising to the Marvel Universe.  (Stay with me!)  If this is too confusing... consider a cake or pie!  But i'm sticking with the super heroes... 


Marvel has a large universe of characters, films, comics etc. X-Men, Spiderman, Thor, Fantastic Four, Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man, Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy and so on.  All distinct stories and characters who sometimes come together, for example... in the Avengers. 


Marketing is the same.  Marketing has lots of distinct parts including market research, digital, PR, advertising, packaging, distribution, customer support, media planning, pricing, community engagement, point of sale and more.  All of these parts need to work independently but they often also need to work in unison towards a bigger business goal. Advertising is just one part, one 'character'. I was going to suggest like 'Ant-Man' but maybe its more like The Hulk! Hugely powerful and can make an enormous impact... but as proven... often both the Hulk and the world (or in this case the business)... needs The Avengers. (That's Marketing!) 


Moving away from super-heroes... I like to think of marketing as everything that an organisation does to facilitate an exchange between company and consumer.... it's not just advertising! 


This lack of understanding, means that for many people, advertising becomes the 'obvious' solution to most problems.  And people believe this means being on TV if it can be afforded! What people seem to gloss over / forget / not realise is that advertising should actually be the final thing on the to do list.  Don’t get me wrong, telling people about whatever it is you are selling is absolutely vital. However, you have to be telling them something that they might be interested in hearing and thus buying. 


Sir Allan Sugar said “at the end of the day packaging and marketing is all superficial if what’s in the box is a load of rubbish. And so the most important thing to make sure is, what you’ve got in the box offers value for money, and then all the glitz is added on afterwards.”  On the flip side, Barbra James said “you can have the best product in the world, but if you can’t market it, it is not going to matter to anyone but yourself”.   So you have to find the balance between too much sizzle, not enough steak and a delicious steak but not enough sizzle!


Ernest Rutherford once said ‘We had no money, so we were forced to think’.  This is the perfect place to start developing any marketing strategy.  You must start with a core insight which should help you understand at the start and throughout a project, why you are developing the product / business / service.  You need to understand the target customer and accept that whatever you are creating won’t be suitable for everyone. Once the product has been developed and packaged, then and only then should you look to advertise.


At that point you should consider a whole variety of options from classic big budget TV to the more innovative use of the labels on jeans (E.g. Howie’s Jeans give a manifesto on cotton which consumers can read prior to purchase).  It is important to note that consumers are receiving more messages, have more choice but have less time. The key is to find the absolute best way to talk to your target customer (or Brand Champion) and stay true to that belief.


The key is to stay focused.  Steve Jobs is quoted as saying ‘I’m as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done’.  He goes on to say that ‘People think focus means saying yes to the project or commitment that it has already been decided to focus against. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the 100 other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully…’

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