Marketing vs Advertising and PR

Marketing is a difficult topic to bring up at the dinner table because, based on this generation’s standards, everything is marketing. My inclination is to object, and argue that we often simply fail to identify where marketing, advertising and public relations differ from each other. Why is
this important? More importantly, to whom do these differences really matter? Consumers don’t really care, although they probably enjoy a good Super Bowl commercial. For an entrepreneur trying to start a business, or any professional working in a related field, it is crucial to understand the differences.

The confusion starts with not knowing that advertising and public relations (PR) both fall under the marketing umbrella. However, the two branches encompass very different responsibilities, and being able to differentiate them will give you an incredible head start towards creating and managing a successful marketing campaign. So, let’s start with the basics – what are marketing, advertising, and PR?


Marketing is the process in which a businesses’ product (service or goods), are presented to your target market. In other words, marketing creates awareness of your business to your consumers. As a marketer you will do market research to know what will you offer (product),
what are consumers willing to pay for it (price), how you want to communicate to your audience (promotion), and where you will sell your product (place).

Once you have answered those questions you can begin creating your marketing plan. Now, within your marketing plan you’ll include:

  • Creating a website with useful and educational content about your product
  • What channels you will distribute your content on
  • Organize exhibitions and attend conferences
  • And come up with new strategies to get people to know and recognize your brand

However you plan to lay this all out, the key point to keep in mind is that this plan will dictate all steps that follow from this point forward.


Equipped with your new marketing plan, you’ll now want to add an advertising campaign into the mix. Your advertising campaign will be your means of persuasion to get your target market to
purchase your product. Your advertising team will now have to figure out what channels to utilize to reach your target market.

I’m sure you’ve seen advertisements through television, radio, flyers, online banners, billboards
and even the exterminator company that dresses their car as a mouse to attract attention on
the freeway. Advertisers keep finding new, innovative and engaging ways to get our attention.

Advertising campaigns have one goal. That goal is to turn consumers into customers by getting
them to purchase that product they keep seeing on the various channels I just told you about. Once they take that leap of faith and purchase your product, you have created a new customer. At this point is when we turn to PR in order to help retain those customers long term.

PR (Public Relations):

Now that you finally have a customer (or ideally, customers), you are past the advertising stage and need to retain them for the long run. You maintain a customer long term when you demonstrate that
your business has a good image in the eyes of the world. You want a PR team that knows how
to grab the media’s attention so they can write about your company’s good deeds.

Creating a good PR campaign means that you are not aggressively throwing ads at your
customers, but showing them with good actions that their business with you has a positive
impact on the world. This type of interaction makes your customers feel compelled and happy
to know that your business, for example Toms, gave a pair of shoes to someone in need with each customer purchase.

The Trifecta:

In summary, marketing refers to the study of the market to ensure that what your business is trying to sell will be successful. Advertising is the method used to attract customers into purchasing your product. And PR is your method of making sure you keep a good image in the eyes of your customers, so they keep doing business with you long term.

The next time your dinner table conversation turns to marketing, be it with a colleague or new business prospect, take comfort in your newfound understanding of what it takes to market your business properly.  A great product with terrible advertising may never be found by its target audience, and will struggle to generate revenue. Alternatively, a terrible product with great marketing may make it to customers initially, but will have feeble long term revenue growth due to poor customer retention.

A profitable product or service needs the support of this marketing trifecta in order to sustain a business. Understanding these three concepts is the first step to utilizing them properly as tools, and ultimately towards your very own success.

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