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Misused and Confused Words of Marketing and Advertising

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

marketing and advertisingEvery industry has it’s own, unique vocabulary. These are the specialized terms, buzz words, phrases and jargon that is peculiar to a particular business. I wouldn’t attempt the work-a-day words that a doctor-to-doctor conversation might include. There’s a strong prospect that I’d be lost (quickly) in a forest of multisyllabic medical terminology.

The word-world of marketing is written and spoken in far simpler terminology than healthcare. But “marketing” isn’t the same thing as “advertising,” and “public relations” is a different animal from “publicity.”

The seemingly familiar business terms are often confused and/or misused…even among Marcom and ad-biz professionals. MarketingProfs, one of the smartest resources in the industry characterized the confusion this way:

Marketing and advertising are fuzzy disciplines to begin with—ask 20 experts what the difference between the two is, and you'll get 20 diverse responses. Much of the business world stirs marketing and advertising together in one big bouillabaisse of methods to get products to prospects and clients. For professionals implementing marketing and advertising initiatives, however, it is important to understand that the terms are not synonymous.

To help sort out the various fish in this spicy stew, here are three of the most common, misused labels we hear regularly.

#1 - Marketing v. Advertising: Marketing is the big umbrella; the process of promoting goods and services. Advertising is one means or method in the bigger marketing toolbox. The American Marketing Association (slightly fussy) definition says: Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large. They say advertising is: “Any paid form of non-personal presentation and promotion of ideas, goods or services by an identified sponsor."

#2 - Marketing v. Sales: Again, marketing is the larger endeavor; that is, it’s the systematic business of identifying, reaching and connecting with prospective buyers (or sales leads or opportunities). Generally, the marketing process puts forward an offer that meets the needs of the consumer. Sales facilitates the transaction between the buyer (customer/consumer) and the seller (provider).

#3 - PR v. Publicity: These terms are commonly—but quite incorrectly—used interchangeably. PR (public relations) is the uber-term, with publicity being just one communications means. The highest authority, PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) says: “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

Admittedly, “publicity” is a broad (and often vague) term; commonly a channel to: “give out information about a product, person, or company for advertising or promotional purposes.” (A noteworthy distinction between publicity and advertising is that advertising is nearly always paid, while publicity is often free.)

For additional background, read The ABCs of Digital Marketing. This may seem like elementary information for some readers. Unfortunately, even marketing-savvy professionals mix-up these terms. If you know anyone who uses these terms interchangeably, please forward this article. And watch for additional installments in this series.

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