Advertising 101: Part 1

In comments last week (in reference to analysis of a business plan pt.6) Andrea made a comment I thought was very insightful (the most salient point is in bold):

They didn’t bother to actually figure out how advertising works, either. Their marketing and PR is based on popular ideation and has little basis in consumer behavior. They are advertising to the end consumer first and hoping that a wholesale buyer will be influenced by consumer making demands. It is a roundabout expensive way to promote a company, not to mention highly ineffective. Advertising and PR for a start up clothing company (or any company) should be direct, concise and well researched. The bottom line with this company is that they are too caught up in their own hype with no substance to their plan. from a reader’s perspective it drives me nuts that people spend time on this stuff!!

Accordingly, since Andrea does advertising full-time, I asked her if she’d mind putting a small series of posts for all of you, to which she agreed. Today’s entry is her first. Please give big round of applause in welcome to Andrea!

The purpose of this first post is to identify the function of advertising. The function of it doesn’t change in any market. The second post will deal with budgets and how to allocate a budget…I will address the difference in budgets and the differences in goals. I really want to stay away from the “us with no money” and the “them with lots”. When it comes to marketing, if you do it well, you can do it for very little. I want to stress the importance of appropriateness and avoid money being the central sticking issue…just because you can advertise in a top tier fashion magazine doesn’t mean you should (which gets into what I wrote about doing things in a roundabout way). Another thought on context: the fashion industry doesn’t exist outside of the function of marketing and advertising. I want to make it really clear that advertising and marketing are like the laws of physics…the way that media is consumed remains the same across industries, it’s how we manipulate that media to get us the desired results and that can happen at any budget, in any category, in any market. This is such an in depth topic that I really want folks to understand the role of advertising before I get into placement.

Advertising 101: Part 1
There is only one purpose for advertising, and that is to result in a sale. I’m painting it with a broad stroke, but realize this: Advertising is the vehicle in which you send your message to your customers. Not your customer’s customer; your customer.

  1. It is not the vehicle in which you tell people about how cool you are
  2. It is not unnecessary
  3. It is not arbitrary
  4. It is not inexpensive

What Advertising is:

  1. It is the way you inform your customer, gain market share and otherwise let people know that they need to buy your product

I started with what may be considered negative statements because advertising, marketing and public relations are generally confused; while they are all intertwined, they can be distinctly different with different processes. My job with this series of posts is to demystify the process and the reasoning behind advertising and how it relates to these other activities.

Advertising is a budget function within your company. You have to do it just like you have to pay your accountant, put carpeting on the floor, or buy hang tags. You do it because it is really and truly the only thing regarding publicity that you can completely control (as opposed to elusive “good” press). You can control where you send your message, how it is conveyed and how often it gets put out.

There are 4 types of media, T.V., Radio, Print, and Online. Understanding how these media work is the first step to making an informed decision about your advertising campaign. In order to do a comprehensive campaign you also have to understand your customer. I know that this is confusing for a DE because we have the unique task of being expected to market to both the end consumer and the buyer. It’s tricky, but only inasmuch as you make it.

You need to analyze the following before you start any marketing activity:

  1. What geography does my customer exist, both your existing accounts and accounts you would like to close. You also have to consider which markets are most likely to buy your line. Is it a high end urban line for boutiques and upscale department stores, is it a children’s line that can be sold anywhere there are kids? Where are your existing accounts concentrated?
  2. The size of your company; how big are you really? Are you a small company doing small runs in limited quantities (we don’t want to outstrip our ability to fulfill orders), or are you a large company selling internationally? This information will be a determining factor as to how you market your company and place your advertising.
  3. Your company’s goals. This is probably THE most important aspect of any marketing activity you do. If you are a new company you have an extremely painstaking job of
    1. Letting people know you exist
    2. Showing them that they need your product
    3. Gaining market share (gaining market share is another way of saying that you intend to capture a portion of the dollars that people are spending in your product area; ie: there are x number of people buying socks right now, I am selling socks so I want to capture x % of that market)
    4. Educating your market: what your company does for the community, facts about your product line, philanthropic activities. Pretty much any activity that lets people in on what you do and how it affects them.

Even if you are not a new company, but need to revamp your advertising program you still need to have your goals in place and they will most likely be one of the afore mentioned (I will go into specific types of campaigns in a later post).

Once you have determined all of these factors, you can start looking at advertising. Now consider that advertising and PR are both marketing functions. Here is how it works:

Marketing is anything you do with your company that relates to the “market”. Sales, Advertising, PR and Branding are all marketing functions. They all relate in some way to your customer or potential customer.

Making a sale is the final step to any marketing function (someone sees your ad, goes to your event, reads about you in the news and makes the decision to buy your product).

PR is how you navigate the dissemination of information regarding your company. This includes anything relating to the press. Letting your media outlets know about what you are doing (it’s slightly more complicated than this but for the sake of the post, we won’t go into that now).

Advertising is a paid activity that directly speaks to your customer which is paid for and placed by your company.

Now that we have identified what advertising is and isn’t and what the different parts of marketing are, I urge you to answer questions 1, 2 and 3 and see what you find. Your answers might surprise you. In my next post I will talk about how to create a marketing budget with allocations. I will also go into the features and benefits of the different kind of media. At the end of this series I will post a sample marketing plan…any volunteers? You can email me with your ideas and submissions.

Get New Posts by Email


  1. Sherry says:

    Welcome, Andrea. Thanks for taking the time to write this series. The difference between advertising and marketing often confuse me. Your definitions were clear. Thanks.

  2. Amber M. says:

    Just a quick thanks for this post- looking forward to the series. I’m feeling bogged down in figuring all of this out – especially differentiating the messages we give our direct retail customers vs. the messages we give our wholesale customers. Agree nice to FINALLY know the difference between marketing and advertising too!!

  3. Megan says:

    Thank you so much for posting on this topic! This year has been my first attempt at advertising and I sort of just jumped in without a life jacket and I have no idea how to swim. :)~ I’ve tried a couple of different things and gotten a couple of sales, but not enough to recoup my expenses on the various ads.

    I look forward to your next post! :)

  4. Melissa says:

    Thank You so much!!! I’ve been interested in marketing, especially fashion marketing since my sophomore year in high school. Now I’m a senior considering Fashion merchandising or marketing at The Art Institutes. If you have any suggestions or word of advice I’d appreciate it. Thanks again for refreashing my memory and being concise.

Leave a Reply

You have to agree to the comment policy.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.