The Difference Between Marketing and Advertising.
Marketing is the reason why you end up at the Circus
There is a beautiful analogy about marketing which recites approximately like this: if the Circus were coming to Town, the act of finding a good location for the Big Top that would be Research. Putting up a big sign in front of a selected spot saying “Your Dream Will Come True in The Magic of the Circus. Saturday the 28th” would be Advertising. The process of hiring an elephant to march across the main street with a ribbon “Circus Crew” would be Promotion. If the News Paper were then writing an article about it, would be Publicity, but if that page made the mayor laugh it would become Public Relations! And finally, once people were curious enough to come over to have a closer look, the staff inside the ticket booths instructed to explain all about the benefits of attending the show, the discounts and all the amazing talent’s performances, it would be Sales.
Now, the intelligence who planned ahead for all of these to happen in an intended and controlled manner, that would be Marketing. The examples reported in this enjoyable analogy, are nothing more than old-school marketing strategies and, for as much still effective to a certain extent, they are not inclusive of all the other tools coming from the Digital Revolution. And yet, it is a good little story to effectively illustrate how all those words we keep hearing around, such as Branding, Advertising, Data Analysis and so on, are all tools of trades of this bigger Intelligence (from the Latin “intelligere” which literally means collect information and choose a strategy) called Marketing. My personal definition of it is the following: Marketing is the sum of all the strategies defined after thorough research and verified by data measurement, in order to create, establish and expand a business or a personal brand.
So, is Marketing is just good old selling?
Like when you go at the Market, and you hear the Fruit and Veggie store owners yelling “come and try our daily picked strawberry”. No. That is not Marketing. Marketing, as a matter of fact, does not even have to have the sales as the objective. In fact, politicians use marketing techniques to gain votes and actors, or other public figures use social media to gain more popularity. Your immediate goal, indeed, might not be directly linked to increased sales, but still, a business condiciones sine quibus non, it needs to be habitual and to grow. And Marketing is all that it is for. Obviously, selling is an intrinsic aspect of business and financial growth, and we all want to increase our sales, but the point of this paragraph is that even entities that do not have sales as a business model, needs to define a strategy.
A strategy is a plan of action designed to achieve a short or long-term aim and although it cannot predict success itself, Marketing consists in a back and forth of research and results measurement to solidify or rectify the plan. Whoever “sells” you only the strategy, without the analysis and without the data verification, is only applying the easy part of the Marketing field. And although it might still help, it would be more luck than a plan. Even if selling is all you are after, you must know that the role of Marketing is to maximise the success versus the investment in time and money spent to achieve that sale. It sounds better than leaving your sales to utter randomness, or does it not?
Marketing to survive the Digital Revolution.
Strategic thinking is not a new thing for Humankind. For those who know how old influential The Art of War is still today, knows what I am talking about. However, what has changed just very recently (like in the last millisecond of the whole Universe’s Calendar) is the immense help that software offers in collecting and reading data. Now, we can register and trace website visits, we can measure clicks on posts and even target our advertisement to specific profiles that sophisticated algorithms have discovered to be good prospects!
All of this is accessible to anyone with a very little budget, compared to say, a billboard hanging in the main highway. And yet, all this information is worth almost nothing, without a method. A method that is practiced by Formulating, Implementing and systematically keeping records of the results.
In the first paragraph of this article, we have seen how Advertising (such as an ad in a magazine or a sports video on television) is only a branch of the whole Marketing method. In the second paragraph, we saw how the purpose of Marketing is to create, establish and expand a business within the big picture – including but not limited to increasing sales. Here, we are instead underlining how radical is the change that the digitization of the whole economy has provoked not only in Marketing but also in our everyday way to conduct business. Would you have bet that we’d be counting on e-commerce more than a physical shop? And how many of you thought that having a website would have been enough to find customers? The Digital Revolution brought life to Software that on the surface are simple enough for anybody to handle, thanks to their intuitive interfaces (even your grandma can use Facebook, can she?), but the technology behind those is actually complex and constantly evolving. Indeed, to handle them, it requires a methodical approach. You are competing with potentially anyone in a World Economy that has just started to show its fragility and Marketing is your best counsellor.
I already have a Facebook page; do I really need it?
As it should be already quite clear by now, Marketing is not just one thing – such as handling social media. Should social media even be your main strategy for self-promotion? Maybe, if you own a Cafe. Maybe not, if you are a Solicitor. The point is, only a Marketing Plan based on thorough research could suggest that to you. There are no magic formulas true for everybody, but only hard work that a specialist can put together on a single case. However, I believe I can state that generally any business needs a Marketing Plan or a Marketing Study Review – even if it is already established. It is important, indeed, to keep tracking the trend of the business development and to clearly define both its direction and means. Even more generally, I can state that a good Marketing Plan should at least include a method for the following facets:
It is the identity, the core values, the promise, the products and the brand guidelines that communicate this information: from the colour palette to the font. Branding is not Decorative Art. It serves a purpose. No branding choices should be made without measuring carefully the intention, the psychology, the competitions and the perception of the public towards it. Branding it is a fine craft and nothing of it should be left to chance or “just because you like it”.
Just throwing money in advertising without measuring the Return on Investment is a luxury that only multibillion companies can afford. And still, they are not that silly. Knowing your numbers and working with them efficiently is a Marketing job indeed.
Without knowing your environment, you are like a small antelope lost in the Savannah. Demographics, product study, current sales and benchmark in the industry are precious pieces of information, just like where to find water and refuge for our little lost antelope.
Key Performance Indicators
KPI are numbers that you can use as reference, from the starting point (including the historical trends) to the improvements to the set targets to achieve. A marketing specialist knows how to find those numbers and how to represent them into a graph – so they can clearly prove if a strategy has worked or if it needs to be reformulated.
In conclusion, Marketing is a method to run your business effectively and with knowledge of the facts. But what if you are just a small business, do you still need it to find customers or is it just a “big company” thing? If you are the absolute best at what you do with no possible competition, you can certainly find customers even without a marketing plan. But if you are like everybody else, no matter what size your business is, Marketing can certainly help the right customers to find you.