Though the distinctions between Marketing and Sales have been clearly established for a good number of years, those between Marketing and Advertising continue to cause confusion in many circles. While certainly not the ultimate authority on those distinctions, I’d like to offer some suggestions that may explain which is what… along with the reasons why. The first suggestion – for obvious reasons – is this: Marketing, however you ultimately define it, should be a profit center, not a cost center.

Were you look up the words Marketing and Advertising in various dictionaries, where you’d expect to find the authoritative meaning of those words, here’s a sample of what you’ll discover for Marketing: “… the total of activities involved in the transfer of goods from producer or seller to consumer or buyer, including advertising, storing, shipping and selling.”

A typical definition for Advertising often refers to it as, “… the act or practice of calling public attention to a product or service, especially by paid announcements in newspapers and magazines, on radio or television, etc.”

Other than telling you that Marketing is a much more involved process of which Advertising is merely a part, dictionaries don’t seem to contribute much toward resolving our question, “Which is what and why?” Is there another acceptable authority we might turn to? What about Wikipedia? It has a reputation as the keeper of mankind’s collected knowledge, right?

When it comes to Marketing, here’s the gist of what Wikipedia has to say: “Marketing is the process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers. Marketing might sometimes be interpreted as the art of selling products, but sales is only one part of (the) marketing (process).”

As for Advertising, here’s an abbreviated version of Wikipedia’s definition: “… a form of communication for marketing… used to encourage, persuade, or manipulate an audience (viewers, readers or listeners… ) to continue or take some new action. Most commonly, the desired result is to drive consumer behavior with respect to a commercial offering.”

As you can see, Wikipedia adds some interesting dimensions to both activities, Marketing and Advertising, as well as relating Advertising to Sales.

What seems clear in dictionary definitions of Advertising is that Advertising is the process or practice of calling attention to a product or service through paid announcements using various media. There’s nothing new there, is there? That’s been the function of Advertising dating back decades.

When it comes to defining Marketing, however, most sources seem united on two points: First, they reinforce that fact that Sales – along with Selling – while not Marketing as such are commonly functions of Marketing, and second that Advertising – the calling of attention to a product or service – is a function of Marketing as a essential preliminary step to the transferring of goods from producer or seller to consumer or buyer.

The bottom line, it seems, is that while Advertising is not Marketing, Advertising is a function of Marketing in much the same way that Sales – along with Selling – are functions of Marketing. Long gone are the days when Marketing’s involvement with bringing a product or service to the buying public was limited to the 4Ps marketing mix defined by E. J. McCarthy’s 1960 – Product (or Service), Place, Price and Promotion. Marketing today involves those 4Ps plus a great deal more.

It’s worth noting that in many companies today, particularly in larger ones, the actual Sales and Selling functions are managed by a separate Sales organization rather than by anything directly connected to Marketing. The rationale for such a set-up is that their Selling is a specialized function best managed by people with specialized knowledge, skills and experience. Marketing’s contribution to Sales in such an organization is typically limited to suggesting and providing promotional materials for use by the Sales team.