OK I’m gunna say it: Advertising is NOT marketing. There.

Advertising is a subset of marketing. And it still amazes me that many businesses I encounter want to throw money at “advertising” instead of marketing. Perhaps it’s because advertising is the pointed end of the stick? “I know if I spend money here then people will hear about what I do and they will buy from me.” – if only it was this simple.

Marketing covers a whole variety of areas, one of which is advertising. And yes it can be important but it’s not the whole point of the exercise.

Fantastic analogy #5: If marketing is the cake, then advertising is the frilly icing. Don’t get me wrong, icing is great. Who doesn’t like icing? But you cannot have an entire cake made out of icing. Moreover, what if your icing is pink and in the shape of flowers and love hearts, it’s resting on a low-fat, gluten-free cake? … and it’s for the local football team (OK, I’ll admit my analogy is falling apart slightly, there’s nothing wrong with flowers being on a cake. Heck, nothing wrong with footballers liking flowers… but you get the idea). The icing has to suit the cake and it has to attract the right people to the cake. What if your market is diabetic-fitness-freaks who are allergic to sugar and anything in the shape of a flower? All of a sudden your cake is not so appealing.

Whenever a decline in sales arises, it can be easier to just throw money at problem and solve it with advertising, which can be a huge frustration to marketers. Product not selling? An increase in advertising spend might not necessarily be the right answer. Sure, if you have a never-ending budget, go ahead. But most of us don’t have that luxury and thus go with selective spending.

Fortunately, we are smart people and know that money is not the solution to all problems. Instead, we recommend going back to basics, to the four key areas of marketing, also known as the 4 P’s. (Interesting fact: this expression was first used by E. J. McCarthy in 1960 and even if it has been around for a while, it is still very useful. All marketing elements must work independently but they also must work together to achieve the goal of one unified marketing campaign with a common message. Generally, marketing is a process that takes time and can involve hours of research, strategic reasoning and execution to ensure the marketing plan is effective.)

Back to the 4 P’s, which stand for product, place, price and promotion and are the main areas in marketing. (FYI advertising is part of promotion, showing again that advertising is absolutely definitely not marketing) It continues to amaze me that most marketing content is focused on “promotion”. When was the last time you discussed pricing and product development with your marketing department? Or were they just responsible for internal communications and being the “brand custodians”, sending shitty emails to account managers who continue to use the wrong logo on their PowerPoint presentations?!

If you have a new product or service, you have to do your research and can use the 4 P’s as a guideline to develop your plan. Basically, you need put the right product in the right place, at the right price at the right time. If you just get one element wrong, things will go south.

Rather than having problems with the promotional part of the mix, consider your products and services, who they’re for, how they’re used and how they’re positioned against your competitors’ offering.

Reposition and reassess. Create a customer. Solve a problem. Don’t just advertise.