Advertising, Sales Promotion, and Marketing: Understanding the Differences

advertising in business.

A business must promote its products and services to attract and retain customers. One of the ways that it can do that is through advertising, sales promotion, and marketing. While these three words are used interchangeably, they are usually different. This article will help you understand the three and how to leverage them to take your business campaigns to the next level.

What is Advertising?

Advertising is a strategy used by a business to send marketing messages to its customers.  It’s one of the steps in marketing used by a company to make its products known. Advertising methods can be divided into four categories. These are:

  • Media: Considered to be the traditional form of advertising, this method involves advertising through platforms such as TV, web banners, wall painting, and shopping carts.
  • Online advertising. In this method, companies advertise their products and services by using white spaces on a website or online videos.
  • TV advertising. This involves the use of TV commercials by businesses as a way of informing customers about the business products.
  • Covert advertising. This is an advertising method where you advertise your business in a not-so-open way. An example of this form of advertising is when a celebrity wears a clothing brand in a TV  interview.

Examples of Advertising

Advertising can include activities such as:

  • Paid social media ads on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Google SERPs.
  • Influencer marketing. Engaging someone popular on social media sites such as Instagram to promote your products.
  • Video advertising. This involves the use of popular video-creating platforms such as TikTok.
  • Native advertising. This involves blending website content with social media.
  • Programmatic advertising.Buying of ads using automated systems.

What is a Sales Promotion?

Sales promotion is a method by which a business encourages its customers to engage with it, often for a reward. In most cases, businesses use this method to send a message they had previously sent out through advertising channels. Promotion methods can be categorized into:

  • Direct marketing. Online marketing or digital marketing involves a company contacting a customer directly with its product and services. In other words, it uses methods such as social media, email marketing, and other digital methods.
  • Direct selling. This involves a company sales representative approaching a customer directly when trying to complete a sales transaction. The company salesperson often does this kind of promotion with the goal of closing a sale.
  • Public relations. PR aims to build a company image in the eyes of its customers or community.

You can read our guide on different sales promotion methods.

What is Marketing?

Marketing involves the whole process of satisfying a customer’s needs by creating, promoting, and distributing a product or service. It involves various activities that help build a good relationship with its customers. Some of the activities involved in marketing include:

  • Product development 
  • Market research
  • Pricing
  • Branding
  • Distribution
  • Pricing

There are four Ps of marketing. These are:

  • Product. This refers to the actual product that a company is offering for sale. This product should meet the needs of the business’s target audience. It should be developed using a unique sales proposition that will differentiate it from the competition.
  • Price. What is the cost of the product? Some of the factors that will affect pricing include the target audience, perceived value of the product, willingness to pay, and pricing strategies.
  • Place. This answers the question of where the product will be distributed or sold. The product manufacturers consider ways of making it available to the target audience.
  • Promotion. This is the method that a company uses to make its products known to its target customers.

Examples of marketing.

Difference Between Marketing And Advertising

Here are the key differences between marketing and advertising:


Marketing aims to enhance a business’s overall reach and make it more desirable to its customers. It involves creating a brand, analyzing trends and competition, customer analysis, and more. Advertising, on the other hand, seeks to make the product known to its customers. It can involve reaching out to them, putting ads on the most effective channel, and more.


While the main aim of advertising and marketing is to increase sales, revenue, and profitability, they differ in how they do this. The goal of marketing can be:

On the other hand, advertising aims to:

  • Create awareness of a product and increase brand recognition.
  • Encourage new customers to try the product.
  • Informing and reminding customers about the existence of the brand.
  • Maintaining a good brand image,
  • Ensuring that the brand remains in the minds of customers.
  • Encouraging repeat customers to keep on buying.

Methods used 

Marketing can be done through different methods, such as content creation, inbound marketing, SEO, affiliate marketing, email marketing, and more. On the other hand, advertising can be done through traditional means, billboards, mobile app ads, online ads, and more.


As we noted earlier, advertising is a method of marketing. Apart from organic social media advertising, most advertising methods require a budget. The advertising cost will depend on different factors, such as who you use to create your ad and the platform to use. Marketing, on the other hand, involves other activities such as branding, trends, and customer research. Therefore, it is likely to be more expensive.

Measuring success

Whether you are marketing or advertising, you need to measure the results of your campaigns. This will ensure that you can optimise campaigns that are working and do away with those that aren’t. In marketing, you can use success metrics such as:

  • Customer retention
  • Net promoter score
  • Customer lifetime value
  • Market share
  • Quarterly and annual sales revenue

You can measure the results of your advertising efforts through:

Social media advertising.

Final Thoughts

From the above, you can clearly see that advertising, sales promotion, and marketing have a lot in common. But at the same time, they aren’t the same thing. Following our guide makes it possible to get the most out of each and take your business to the next level.

Benjamin is a writer with over ten years of experience in the content writing field. He holds a Bachelor's degree in  Journalism from Strathmore University. He writes on various niches such as product reviews, self-improvement, and making mone online. You can find him curled on his couch with a self-improvement book when he is not blogging.