So, Does Marketing = Advertising?


One of the key ideas I share in my marketing MBA and undergrad courses is that marketing is much broader than advertising. Yes, we use a lot of examples of advertising to help key concepts come alive. And yes, there are a lot of marketers who basically spend their days creating advertising or marketing communications of some sort. And, probably if you ask a bunch of salespeople what marketers do, they’d say, “create ads.” But, I do like to stress that “Promotions” is just one of the aspects of marketing.

Okay, I realize that some people will disagree with me right from the start when I tell students there are 4Ps in Marketing – Promotions, Product, Price and Place (Distribution). Of course, I also tell them (although I might not repeat it enough to really stick) that not everyone agrees about the 4Ps. Actually, what I say is that one way to think about Marketing is via the 4Ps. We can argue whether there are 4, 5, 6, 7 or an infinite number of Ps. But, really what I want them to realize is that there are multiple dimensions to marketing that should work together to accomplish a brand’s positioning and market goals. I suspect they kind of feel beat over the head with this idea based on an email I received last week:

I was reading this article this morning and noticed that a PROFESSOR at George Washington said the goal of marketing is to create some sort of buzz, create memorable campaigns, something edgy. But I associated these comments more with advertising than marketing. I know advertising is a part of marketing, but I thought it was interesting that the quote sounded like she was substituting advertising for marketing.

Right away, I was proud of this student for asking a great question. But being curious like I am, I went ahead and clicked the link to see what had caused this brouhaha for a Kelley student. That’s when a bolt of lightning struck me – in some markets, maybe the domain of marketing is mostly that promotions “P”. The quote above was about a campaign for tourism to North Dakota that was quite controversial. Well, let’s put on our North Dakota Tourism Marketer’s hat: you have no control over Product (ND either has fun places to visit or not, you don’t create fun places), or Price (individual locations set their prices), and very little over Place (actually, New Zealand has done an awesome job of helping people buy their NZ destinations online). So, what the marketer really controls is how it is promoted. To this marketer, it is possible that marketing=advertising.

I contrast to one of our Kelley supporters up the road in Carmel, IN – Delta Faucet (click if you want to check them out). The marketing group at Delta Faucet not only recognizes the importance of all 4Ps, but product development and R&D report into the marketing function. Great, innovative products are a key component of their brand strategy. So, it makes sense that product development should be tightly aligned with the rest of the marketing team.

So, I guess my new advice to our students seeking marketing degrees is to understand what the real domain of marketing should be in your product category. If it really is primarily advertising, then do it really, really well. But, if there is any way to see marketing more broadly, try to manage that too. So, what’s the domain of marketing in your product/service category?