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The difference between marketing & advertising and how both work


Oct 19, 2017
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The terms marketing and advertising are often used interchangeably. In reality, though, they’re entirely different types of promotional strategies.

Learning the difference between marketing and advertising can help you sell more of your digital products because you’ll understand the subtleties of each practice. Furthermore, you won’t waste money, time, or effort on a strategy that might not produce any ROI for your business.

First, it’s important to understand that advertising is a subset of marketing. It’s just one avenue by which to reach potential consumers and move them through the sales funnel. Marketing has a much larger umbrella and includes numerous other strategies that entrepreneurs can use to grow their businesses.

In larger companies, marketing and advertising are often split into two departments. They often work independent of one another as well as from the sales department. This results in poor communication, confusing messaging, and other problems that can get businesses in hot water.

As an entrepreneur, however, you probably handle marketing and advertising yourself. This can actually give you an advantage because you’re trying to reach the same goals with both activities.

So let’s look more closely at marketing and advertising, compare them with one another, and check out a few examples of how companies use marketing and advertising to reach similar goals.

What Is Marketing? 

Marketing covers all activities in which you engage to bring customers to your business and convince them to convert. As we mentioned earlier, it’s a large umbrella.

The goal with your marketing efforts is to usher customers through the sales funnel. You want to convert visitors into leads and leads into customers. Sometimes it happens in a matter of minutes, and sometimes the conversion process takes weeks or months.

While it’s not a complete list, here are a few of the most common marketing strategies that you might use to sell courses online:

  • Email marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Content marketing
  • Influencer marketing
  • Advertising
  • Direct marketing
  • SEO and search engine marketing
  • Content marketing
  • Referral marketing
  • Loyalty and rewards programs
  • Agile marketing
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Inbound marketing
  • Outbound marketing

As you can see, you have plenty of options if you want to spread the word about your digital products and grow your business. However, you need the right strategy if you want to turn those coveted leads into customers.

To do this effectively, many marketers use the four P’s of marketing:

  • Product
  • Price
  • Placement
  • Promotion

Each step in the process guides customers toward a purchase decision and helps you position your products more attractively for consumers. We’ll look at each of the four P’s so you can master them for your business’s benefit.

1.  Product 

You can’t market anything until you have something to sell. It could be a product or service, but for now, we’ll focus on products.

In a retail environment, for instance, you might have products ranging from clothing and groceries to electronics and media. You can market products both online and off, depending on your user base and how you prefer to bring customers to your business.

When you’re creating and selling online courses, you need at least one course to start the marketing process — or, at the very least, a solid understanding of what your course will offer once you launch it. There’s nothing wrong with generating a little buzz in advance of the product’s release.

The important thing is to use marketing to focus on a product’s benefits rather than its features.

Features tell the customer what the product does or offers. Benefits tell the customer what advantages he or she will gain from the product.

See the distinction?

To see this in action, let’s look at two statements that you might put on your Kajabi landing pages or other pages on your website:

  • My course offers three 30-minute videos, four live webinars, a toolkit for you to use, and more than 30,000 words of content.
  • My course will teach you how to set realistic, achievable goals; improve your time-management skills, and create processes to make your professional life more efficient.

Which statement sounds more attractive?

The first statement is nonspecific and a little overwhelming. The second, meanwhile, conveys clear benefits to which the customer can relate.

When you’re marketing your products, you want to focus on connecting with your audience emotionally and psychologically.

We’ll dive a little deeper into promotion later on, but you need to know your product inside and out if you want to market it effectively.

2. Price 

The price at which you sell your product will determine whether or not you’re competitive in your industry. If you price your product too high, you’ll turn away prospects. Pricing your product too low, however, sends the message that it offers inferior quality. Plus, you won’t generate much revenue from your efforts.

Conduct considerable research into other digital products in your industry. What do your competitors sell their products for? How can you undercut them or otherwise strategically make your product more attractive to the consumer?

The price aspect of the four P’s of marketing also includes issues such as discounts, coupon codes, and payment plans. You might want to offer introductory or early-bird discounts, for example, or allow customers to pay in installments in exchange for a slight increase in the price.

Additionally, if you have more than one digital product, consider bundling them together at a slight discount. This is a great strategy for upselling your products and immersing your customers more deeply in your brand.

3. Placement 

At this stage, you need to identify the channels by which you’ll market your product. You have numerous options (refer to the list above), but you don’t have to use all of them. In fact, you shouldn’t.

Why? Because your particular industry and entrepreneurial culture won’t align well with every marketing channel.

For instance, if you’re working in the lifestyle space, you likely want to target visual social media channels, such as Pinterest and Instagram, rather than those that depend more heavily on text, such as Twitter. The same goes for other marketing channels. Pick and choose based on where you’ll find your audience — and where you can impress them.

4. Promotion 

Now we get to the hard work of actually promoting your products, which is the cornerstone of marketing. You want to make as many people as possible aware of what you offer, then convince them to buy your products with minimal cost to your business.

It’s harder than it sounds, but it’s also feasible. You just need a sound strategy.

Kajabi offers many promotional tools within the platform itself and through integrations with other platforms. You can develop an entire marketing plan through the Kajabi interface, which will help keep your marketing efforts more organized and accessible.

How Marketing Works 

Understanding the difference between marketing and advertising requires an in-depth tour of how marketing works. Otherwise, you can’t differentiate between the two.

Marketing is a process or system designed to attract customers to your business and guide them through the sales funnel.

It all starts with touchpoints. For marketing to work, you need consumers to make contact with your business in some way. It could be visiting your website, following you on social media, or some other touchpoint. Whatever the case, you want to create as many touchpoints as possible, then track the ones that prove most effective.

You might notice that frequent patterns emerge. For instance, if Twitter serves as the most frequent touchpoint, you might see a pattern that looks like this:

Of course, you might also find that, as your business grows, the patterns become less discernible. This typically means that you need to focus your attention on more touchpoints so you don’t lose potential customers.

Ideally, the marketing process results in a sale. The lead appreciates your content, identifies with your brand, and sees value in your product. You get money in exchange for the value you provide.

But marketing doesn’t stop there.

Your marketing strategy should also include a plan for customer retention. You want your existing customers to continue to buy from you. Otherwise, you’ll have to spend more money to attract new customers over and over again.

What Is Advertising? 

Now that we’ve covered marketing in detail, let’s look at advertising in particular. As mentioned above, it’s a subset of marketing.

In some ways, the difference between marketing and advertising is similar to the difference between inbound and outbound marketing.

Instead of attracting the customer to the business through organic means, advertising uses money to target specific consumers. Several different types of advertising exist:

  • Television
  • Radio
  • Newspaper
  • Magazine
  • Paid social
  • Paid search
  • Display advertising
  • Direct marketing
  • Product placement
  • Billboards

Each of these methods can help you reach more consumers, but they can also drain your budget quickly if you don’t have a strategic plan in place.

Understanding the different modes of advertising can help you pin down that strategy.


A cognitive advertising strategy involves directing messages at consumers’ abilities to reason logically through a problem and to recognize a solution. For instance, let’s say that you create online courses that teach people how to eat healthier. You could appeal to your audience by identifying with the problem (unhealthy eating) and demonstrating an alternative that can lead to quantifiable benefits.

You could address issues like obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other illnesses that impact people who eat unhealthy meals.

This type of advertising appeals to consumers because they feel respected and understood. It can also drive conversions by using hard facts and figures to convince consumers that you offer a product they can’t (or at least shouldn’t) miss.


Emotional or affective advertising targets consumers’ emotions instead of their minds. It inspires an emotional response through effective messaging, visuals, and other elements.

Let’s take the healthy-eating example from above. You could target consumers with affective advertising messages by appealing to their sense of frustration, their feelings of depression, and their worries that they won’t ever break poor habits.


If you decide to use conative advertising, you’re appealing to your prospects’ impulses. You want them to buy your product not because of a cognitive or affective response, but because they don’t want to miss out on an opportunity.

Coupons, sales, clearances, and point-of-purchase advertising are common examples of conative advertising. You’re asking consumers to make split-second decisions before they can react to your actual message.

However, you want an affective or cognitive response after the customer buys the product. Otherwise, disappointment can lead to a lost customer, poor online reviews, and other consequences.

How Advertising Works 

To set up an advertising strategy, you need to identify the channels through which you’ll advertise your products, then design copy and creative to meet your specific goals.

For instance, maybe you want to design a display advertisement for space on a popular industry blog. You’ll need advertising copy (the text in the ad) as well as creative (the graphic or visual elements) to work in harmony. You also need a compelling offer or call to action that makes your ad too impressive to ignore.

You then track clicks on your ad to determine whether the return on investment is worth whatever you’re paying for display advertising.

The same goes for paid search, paid social, and print or broadcast advertising. Always have a metric goal in mind. If you don’t meet it, move on to something else that might provide better ROI.

Marketing Vs. Advertising: Comparison Chart 

You’re more familiar now with the difference between marketing and advertising, but a side-by-side comparison might help you decide what strategy to use as an entrepreneur.

Marketing Vs. Advertising: Examples 

Now let’s look at a few examples of advertising and marketing side by side.


It’s easiest to choose big companies because of their abundant examples of each. We’ll start with food and beverage company Coca-Cola.

The brand has produced some of the most memorable advertisements, such as those they have created for the SuperBowl.

As you can see, Coca-Cola is using effective advertising to stimulate its customers’ emotions. The message of inclusivity and American unity resonated with many people.

Let’s contrast that with some of Coca-Cola’s marketing efforts.

This is a recent post from Coca-Cola’s Instagram account. It’s a series of images that teaches its followers how to build a solar eclipse viewer.

You’ll notice that there’s not a single can of Coca-Cola in view. In the text part of the post, the company uses its “One great new experience deserves another” messaging to resonate with its fans.

This post generated significant social shares and 6,623 likes as of September 2017. That’s pretty impressive.

This is an example of marketing because it’s educational, informative, and brand-lite. It’s designed to bring people to the company’s Instagram account and encourage them to follow Coca-Cola.


This is another major brand that has consistently produced excellent examples of both marketing and advertising materials.

If you run a Google search for “men’s nike running shoes,” you’ll see several ads at the top of the SERPs.

This is an example of advertising. If you click on the link for Nike, you’re taken to a landing page for the Converse Thunderbolt shoe displayed in the ad.

You’ll notice, though, that other brands — including Kohl’s, JCPenney, and Academy — are competing for those clicks. JCPenney uses a Google Ad extension that advertises a 24 percent price drop on the shoe it’s advertising. There’s significant competition for a keyword like this, which drives up the price.

Nike also engages in significant marketing strategies. For instance, you can visit the Nike blog to view marketing content related to the brand.

Categories like “classic kicks,” “drop dates,” and “uniforms” help consumers find the content they want. You’ll see plenty of branded marketing content as well as more educational or entertaining content. The company has created an intriguing mix.

The blog is an example of marketing because it’s hosted by Nike and because its purpose isn’t necessarily to drive immediate sales, but instead to immerse customers into its brand.


The difference between marketing and advertising might seem slight, but as you can see from the descriptions and examples above, there are major differences. Marketing is a huge umbrella concept of which advertising represents just one option.

You might want to advertise your online courses if you think it will boost your ROI and bring in more customers. However, if you’re more conservative, you might stick to other marketing strategies that don’t require you to put up significant amounts of money.

Either way, knowing the difference between marketing and advertising can make a huge impact on your success as an entrepreneur.

Understand the four P’s of marketing and how they apply to your marketing strategy. Learn how marketing works, then apply what you’ve learned to your own digital products. Test different strategies until you find an effective way to reach your audience.

Get familiar with advertising, too, even if you never engage in it. Researching advertising can help you find ways to engage with customers on a cognitive and affective level. You can also learn how to inspire impulse purchases.

Marketing and advertising are both effective ways to sell online courses. Have you tried either of these strategies? What has worked for you in the past?  

Market & Advertise Inside of Kajabi!

Ready to be your own boss? Ready to monetize your knowledge? You need Kajabi - It’s a full-featured platform that allows professionals like you to create their own businesses from home.

You’ll get an online course builder, coaching platform, podcast tool, and membership management software. Plus, you'll get marketing tools like a website, CRM, email marketing, landing page templates, and helpful analytics to help you spread the word about your products and earn more revenue.

Fully explore what Kajabi has to offer and start building your business during a free trial. Start your free 14-day trial of Kajabi today!

Still researching? Check out Kajabi’s free downloadable ebook guides on launching and growing a knowledge commerce online business!

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