• Audio version available at bottom of the page. The confusion is understandable because many elements of content marketing and advertise overlap.
  • Content marketing requires time, because that’s how relationships and trust are built.
  • Content marketing facilitates the research prospects do on you before ever contacting you.
  • Advertising interrupts what users wanted to get. Content is the thing users came to get.

How is content marketing different from advertising? Don’t feel bad if you don’t know. It’s a tricky topic, because many elements of content marketing and advertising can and do overlap. Still, it’s important to know what differentiates them because they speak to two different goals. You’re probably quite familiar with advertising. Lord knows we all see enough of it every day. But how does content marketing stack up, side by side?


Advertising is trying to get people to buy stuff. Preferably right now.

Content marketing is trying to genuinely help or entertain people and get them to know, love and prefer you. This requires time, because that’s how genuine trust and relationships are built. Put another way, content marketing is a romantic courtship. Advertising is hoping you get lucky that night with a pickup line.


Advertising is about conveying the details and value of what you offer as succinctly as possible.

Content marketing is taking the time to tell stories that move people emotionally and/or give knowledge that helps and empowers the audience in some way.


Content marketing is about earning the right and credibility to suggest solutions.

Advertising is about using promotions and incentives to get people to do what the ad asks them to.

Content marketing, done well, also has a purpose and a call to action at the end of each asset. But that CTA is often to consume additional content that preps them to move further and more seriously into the funnel. Remember, most buyers have done 75% of their research before ever contacting the vendor. Content facilitates this and creates exactly what you want, more qualified prospects.


Advertising is about convincing people they have a problem, one they may not have even been thinking about, that you miraculously solve. “Gee, I didn’t know my fingernails grew too fast and I might need a drug for it until I saw that ad.”

Content marketing is about being one of the audience – already knowing what real challenges they face, and already being present and active in delivering value in all the places these challenges are discussed. It’s about earning the right and credibility to suggest solutions.


Advertising is about getting ads in front of the eyeballs of people who “might” be interested in them.

Content marketing…same! There’s no reason to waste ads or content on people that simply don’t care or have any use for the topic you’re covering. Although advertising is often more comfortable casting a really wide net…just in case someone out there might buy. Take a look at the “How to Make Sure Your Content Gets Seen” post of the Content Marketing for the Very Busy series.


Content marketing is what the user is trying to consume. It’s the think they want to see.

Advertising is about breaking people down through repeat exposure that the audience can’t stop or control.

Content marketing is on demand. It’s available where the consumer wants it, when they want it, and in the format in which they want it. It’s how the public increasingly consumes their entertainment, so it’s no great leap to think it’s also how they prefer to get brand information. They control the experience.


Advertising is about interrupting and inserting yourself where desired prospects are, getting in the way of the content they’re trying to consume. 

Content marketing is what the user is trying to consume. It is the thing they want to see.


Advertising is about using multiple channels to expose people to your ad message. TV, radio, web pages, podcasts, billboards, in apps, in YouTube videos, in newspapers, in direct mail, etc.

Content marketing…same! Valued, helpful, entertaining content can be presented in any format and on any channel. User’s preference.


The more you talk about yourself and try to push your product, the more you’re advertising and not doing content marketing.

Even given the above, you still might be confused. Can’t content be ads? Yes. In fact, far too many marketers make ads, call it “content,” and think they’re doing content marketing. Here’s the litmus test. The more you talk about yourself and try to push your product, the more you’re advertising and not doing content marketing. If you want to make ads, make ads. There’s nothing wrong with that.


Can’t ads be content? Yes, but that’s really hard to accomplish. You’ve still got an interruptive thing that’s trying to sell something, but if it’s creative enough or funny enough or sweet enough or visually interesting enough…that ad can jump the shark (in a good way) and become content. It can take on the positive aspects of content; meaning now people enjoy it and value it for its entertainment, they deliberately seek it out and play it on YouTube, they share it, they appreciate that you as a brand brought them a laugh or a tear. The GEICO caveman actually got his own TV sitcom. It failed, but still…





Once you’ve gone through the series and feel like you’re ready to talk about what sensible next steps can be taken, we’d love to talk shop with you, no commitment. Just fill out the easy form, or email Stiles, or we hear sometimes people still actually use the phone! Feel free to do that to.  







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