Monday, February 16, 2009

advertising and marketing

There has been much talk in the Yellowverse about advertising, marketing and how the two interrelate -- or not. Most of the people I know still seem to correlate the two, and (ironically) equate the attempts at making a distinction just marketing spin. To be honest, I was one of them until I had an epiphany today. Before we get into that, let's start with some definitions:
Marketing is defined by the American Marketing Association as 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. The term developed from the original meaning which referred literally to going to market, as in shopping, or going to a market to sell goods or services.

Advertising is a form of communication that typically attempts to persuade potential customers to purchase or to consume more of a particular brand of product or service.
Okay... that still sounds about the same, right? First, advertising is a subset of marketing. Therefore all advertising is marketing, but not all marketing is advertising. Second, the distinction lies in the intent. Marketing is about disseminating information; advertising is about persuasion.

Still not clear? Suppose you're at a farmer's market and you want tomatoes. You see someone with tomatoes displayed, and you go buy them. He doesn't have to tell you to buy them or announce their availability, him simply presenting them is all the marketing you need. It would be advertising if he were yelling out loud "Get your fresh tomatoes here!" since he is trying to influence you to purchase his tomatoes. The announcement would be marketing, the persuasion (via the command "get") is advertising.

So, circling back to where I started, what led me to finally grasp the distinction between advertising and marketing was a blog post by Seth Godin titled "which comes first, the product or the marketing". In it he points out that most of the time you actually need the marketing first since that will drive product creation. Once I read that I recalled a Facebook status update by Matt White and a blog post by Ben Langhinrichs illustrating how this has started happening. IdeaJam is marketing because a community is exchanging information in an attempt to achieve something of value to them. Some entrepreneurial types are taking this and capitalizing on it by delivering products to meet the market demand.


  1. M'kay.

    Now lets look at the Lotus Brand within IBM. Last global advertising campaign: 1999 - superhumansoftware.

    The brand is seen as dead, because if your not in the brand, you see NOTHING about notes in the mainstream media. Your brand awareness of Lotus is defined by the absence of marketing. Hence the 'Notes is dead'.

    There's a little of that 'three tier' snake oil marketing out there, where there's an IBM 'story' and notes fitted in precisely one of those ads. Hardly enough to leap out of the IBM portfolio, let alone complete with the MS marketing machine.

    For instance, MS here in the UK are running nice collaboration brand ads - talking about the benefit of collaboration, not the technology.

    And so Microsoft is placed firmly on message as being a leading collaboration provider here in the UK. Because even folks in IT believe notes to be dead.

    Myself, and various other Business Partners have tried pushing water uphill now since 2001, to no avail. It would appear that IBM's opinion is that:

    - Business Partners are there for the high-risk, low reward business of Selling Notes to the customers

    - IBM is in the low risk, high reward business of fulfilling licenses, and dealing with renewals from year two.

    Now this might seem incredibly unfair on poor old IBM, that multi-billion dollar computer giant, but why should my small company spend ALL of our marketing budget (and if we're lucky be subsidised by IBM a little) in order to tell the world about IBM product ?

    So Marketing is essential. Marketing where you reach beyond the little yellow bubble, or the Lotusphere comes to you - because thats just (as is Lotusphere) preaching to the choir. Spike the cool-aid with enough marketing spin ("Attendance at Lotusphere is up from last year", etc).

    And once the suspicion sets in that IBM is just spinning and not actually trying to sell their product to new customers - well, why should I bother ?

    There was a Business Partner meeting at Lotusphere I attended where 30=40 people in the room agreed with all this and demanded of the shocked IBM folks there that something happen. The IBM folks were shocked that we should suggest that IBM actually spend money on marketing.

    We also stated that actions speak louder than words.

    Here's hoping the new Marketing VP at Lotus is good at Actions.

    I for one am sick of defending IBM product and continually having to talk about how Notes is not dead, instead of talking about my product.

    ---* Bill

  2. Bill, I did not intend this to be another "IBM/Lotus marketing sucks" meme. I was genuinely excited to finally understand the subtle difference between advertising and marketing, and I thought my observations may help others see the distinction as well. :-)

    I am a little puzzled by your indignation, though. If you create a product that is an add-on to another you only have two options: sell the dependent products as well as your own, or only target existing customers of the base product. You should know that before you created your product so it should come as no surprise.

    As a corollary, if the product you're building your add-on around has insufficient marketing or advertising from the parent company to create a user base to support your add-on, you have two options: build that customer base yourself or pick a different product to enhance.

    I understand your frustration, I can appreciate that IBM has asked a lot of all BP's and not given much back, and you're rightfully ticked off about it. I can't figure out why anyone is shocked, though. IBM's draconian treatment of BP's is almost as well-known as their utter lack of marketing ability.

    As the joke goes, if you want to get rid of drugs hire IBM to market them. If IBM's products weren't engineered so well they wouldn't sell at all. Small comfort, I know, but that's the best you can hope for without a transformation of mentality from the top down.

    There is a small glimmer of hope with the recent changes in Lotus management and the focus on UI design, but like you I have been through a few changes of the guards and been fed the promises that never materialized. I finally reached the point that I just don't care what IBM or Lotus does anymore.

  3. Charles,
    IBM's marketing doesn't suck, nor do I think that Bill is saying that.
    IBM is marketing what it wants to market quite well.
    What IS true is that IBM's marketing is not interesting in selling Notes or Domino. This is true from marketing down to the sales folks. Got a Connections, Portal, or Forms lead? They're all over it. N/D? Well, good luck bud.
    What is, is. The question is how long from now am I 100% focued on Echange and Sharepoint rollouts and upgrades? The percentage has been creeping up dramatically lately, and I have .not. been trying to make it creep up.
    When a company won't even push it's OWN product, why should I care?

  4. OK, Bill is actually saying that.