In this article, we’ll explore the difference between marketing and advertising, and explain how businesses like yours can use one or both methods to create brand awareness and attract new customers. We’ll also discuss the modern viewpoint that advertising isn’t necessary in the world of web marketing, and discuss some advantages that traditional advertising still has in the twenty-first century.
Let’s start by learning about the difference between advertising and marketing.
Traditional advertising methods and their effectiveness
Traditional “advertising,” as it’s now defined, refers to any paid method in which a consumer is informed about a brand and its products or services. The term “advertising” is typically used to refer to pre-Internet methods, including billboards, print advertisements, TV and radio commercials, direct mail, and flyers or handouts. It may also refer to online banner ads or pop-up ads.
Over time, traditional advertising has lost some of its effectiveness on consumers. People are now savvier, and their attention spans have been greatly reduced. The introduction of new forms of media, including the Internet, and the wide availability of information, has decreased the chances of advertising working as well as it once did.
For example, a consumer may now watch a commercial for a new kind of dish soap, and immediately go online to read reviews of the product, or visit the manufacturer’s website. From this they can form an almost immediate impression of the brand that allows them to make a snap judgment about their buying decision. This is great for consumers, but not so much for brands!
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How are marketing and advertising different?
“What’s the difference between marketing and advertising?” you may ask. “Ads and commercials all sound a lot like marketing.”
While it’s true that advertising and marketing are basically doing the same thing—informing a customer about your brand with the end goal of making a sale—there is a difference: advertising is one piece of the marketing process.
Look at it this way: marketing includes a lot of different activities that work together to form one cohesive plan. Advertising is just one of those activities—basically, the paid subset of activities.
About online marketing and how it works
Online marketing is another subset of marketing activities, referring specifically to the wide range of activities that can be performed solely on the Internet. This includes email marketing , content marketing (like blogging and ebooks), infographics, search engine optimization (SEO), and so on.
With online marketing, there is not typically much, if any outright cost, except for the cost of your own website and the salary of the employee or employees responsible for creating the marketing methods you choose to use. Also, typically, online marketing methods are combined together in a comprehensive, ongoing marketing plan that is enacted over a long period of time, rather than on a one-off basis like advertising might be.
The way online marketing is different than advertising is this: often, advertising is the way a consumer first hears about your brand. However, some online marketing methods are designed to increase the affinity a consumer has for your brand after they already know about it. For example, content marketing is meant to inform and help out those who have already visited your website. On the other hand, SEO is meant to improve your site’s ranking in search, which attracts more visitors, including new ones.
Another difference between online marketing and advertising is that online marketing is done on your own time and in your own space. While you have to rent a billboard for your ad or buy air time for your radio commercial, you can do online marketing on your own website without asking for permission or waiting for approval.
That's led to the creation of several different marketing approaches, including growth marketing and growth hacking.
Is marketing or advertising more effective?
As we’ve already mentioned, the widespread availability of the Internet has resulted in traditional advertising becoming somewhat less effective. Consumers no longer have to take the statements of brands at face value, because they can easily go online to read the opinions of others (or leave feedback themselves).
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that marketing is much more effective. Consumers are busy, and tend to be easily distracted. A well-crafted marketing message can be missed if your target audience is in the middle of another task, or simply isn’t in the mindset to shop for the product you’re selling them.
Generally speaking, modern forms of marketing that aim to solve problems and offer genuine assistance—like content marketing—are more effective than advertising. But that doesn’t mean that advertising doesn’t have its place, or that other forms of marketing shouldn’t be used.
Another reason modern, online marketing strategies are favored is because of how exact they can be.
Many types of traditional advertising are like throwing mud at a wall just to see what sticks. It’s no one’s fault – there’s just no reliable way of measuring things like user interaction, number of viewers, and so on when it comes to something like a billboard or radio advertisement.
It’s possible to get general numbers, but they pale in comparison to the data you have access to through more modern marketing.
Access to this data is incredibly important for two main reasons. First, it allows you to measure and adjust live marketing campaigns. This has always been difficult, if not impossible to do with traditional advertising. After all, once you put a billboard up, it’s going to be pretty static unless you tear it down and put a different one in its place.
Should you use only marketing to acquire new customers?
Because of all of the media we’re now exposed to on a daily basis—television, radio, commercials, websites, books, paid media, billboards, short videos, social media, and so on—it’s much easier for marketing and advertising messages to be “lost” in the flow of information. Also, because of this, consumers now tend to require multiple “touches” to make a buying decision about a product or service.
If you are using only marketing to attract and acquire new customers, you could be missing out. Even though marketing is generally more effective, and costs much less, advertising still has its advantages:
- It gets messages to many people at once
- It can be difficult to ignore
- If done well, it can also be difficult to forget (think about catchy jingles or funny commercials)
The role of advertising in the world of online marketing
Advertising works best as the first “touch” in your sales process. It should then be followed by more highly targeted marketing to convince those who enjoy the advertising—and are at least somewhat interested in your brand—to learn more about you, and to try your product or service.
For example, if we consider a commercial for a new dish soap, this is probably the first “touch” a consumer has with the brand. They might then get on their phone and search for the brand name. The brand could buy a pay-per-click (PPC) ad for their name, which is considered both marketing and advertising, which gets the consumer to visit the website. On the website, the consumer might read an informative blog post about the benefits of the soap, or be encouraged to subscribe to the brand’s email list for updates and coupons—both forms of marketing.
As you can see, advertising still has its place. It can be expensive, and it certainly isn’t for everyone. But it does allow you to both maximize your reach, and bring customers into your sales funnel that are then exposed to your marketing, and made more likely to convert.
If you aren’t sure that advertising is right for your business, it’s best to consult with a professional advertising agency or marketing company, like WebFX. We can evaluate your goals, target audience, and existing marketing methods, and tell you the best way to reach people and move them into your sales funnel. This may involve some traditional advertising, or it may not involve any at all.
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Need help with online marketing or advertising?
If you are looking to start an effective online marketing campaign, or need help transitioning from traditional advertising campaigns to modern online marketing ones, contact WebFX. We have extensive experience creating and carrying out effective marketing plans for businesses just like yours.
Whether you need a digital marketing strategy, an advertising strategy—or both—we can help you reach the right audience, grow your business, and get more out of the web. Contact us today to learn more about our web marketing services and how we can help you succeed. We can’t wait to hear from you!