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19. Marketing vs Communications vs Engagement

Although marketing as a concept has been around since the start of the 20th century, what we saw until the 1970s was pure advertising, which evolved into 'marketing' for the next couple of decades. With the start of the 21st century, we saw a shift happening from marketing to communications. And now we are on the cusp of another shift as the world will now move towards engagement from communication.


But how many people really know the difference between these terms/concepts? Usually, when we talk to businesses (medium and small ones), we observe that they believe these are just different terms used for the same thing. This is exactly why we are writing this article and we are running this series wherein we try and educate the market. So what are these terms?


Advertising is the process of promoting a company and its products or services through various paid channels. While marketing may be termed as the process of identifying the customer's needs and determining how best to meet those needs. So, in the grander scheme of things advertising is what you can call a component within marketing.


Some of you might remember seeing print ads or even video ads where you were directly being sold products. When was the last time you saw that? Now companies no longer directly 'sell' you things. Companies (Brands) these days tell a story and depict how their brand is creating value for people like you. And sometimes these 'stories' are not even forced on to you in the form of ads, it is blended within your day to day life without you even noticing them. This is communication. In the last decade or two, we have seen a transition from brands trying to sell you things to brands trying to talk to you. That is when the shift from marketing to communication happened. One important factor for this was also the technological advancement and the rise of social media.


Since the brands now own their own means of communication (their social media profiles), they have the power to communicate their message to their audience. But what has also happened due to this is that now the consumer controls what he consumes and hence it is impossible to force-feed him your message. Before the era of smartphones and the internet, the consumer had one TV screen that he looked at and he was forced to watch the advertisements that were fed to him between his desirable content. Today it is not the case anymore. The consumer has the power to choose what he watches and what he doesn't at his fingertips and hence it is necessary for brands to not 'sell' him their products rather create value for him.


But as we move forward, brands need to realise that it is the customer who is the king. They have the power at their hands and it's time brand start listening to what the customers want to say. So no longer is the relationship going to be one-way communication, we are moving into the era of engagement where the consumers speak and the brands act on it.


It is up to the brands to make the most of it. Companies that will adapt quickly will gain much more than those who will stay stuck to their ancient ways.