What is a marketing campaign?

What is a marketing campaign? How does it differ from advertising and why is that distinction important?

It seems like a silly question, we all know a marketing campaign when we see one, can probably even name a few iconic campaigns, sing the jingle or pick the poster out of a line-up. But what springs to mind when we think marketing campaign is in reality, probably just the advertising.


Many people narrow marketing down to just advertising or promotional activity because this is what we’re likely to experience in our day to day lives. However, often the actions taken prior to and following the advertising are just as, if not more important than the advertising itself.

So where is the distinction between advertising and marketing?

Marketing, in its broadest form can be defined as;

“Any action taken to understand and engage a target audience with the aim to promote a brand, product or service.”

This can include activities such as product development, market research, product distribution, advertising, sales strategy, public relations, and customer support. Simply yelling to a passer-by “Hey, you! Buy Sneakers!” can be considered marketing. But we don’t recommend doing that, often.

A marketing campaign is; marketing activity that has a defined goal, budget, audience and message.

All marketing activity has a purpose but a marketing campaign will begin with a goal, set a budget and target a specific audience with a key message. Measuring results throughout and finishing with a review of how successful the campaign was or wasn’t.

Advertising is promoting your campaign through paid channels e.g. print media, social media, video, radio etc.

Advertising is important, it’s how we get our message out there, but it basically cannot exist without the marketing activities that sit either side of it.

For example, you want to sell sneakers. Great! What does that advertising look like?


Looks, lovely. Do you have a manufacturer? Stock, distribution channels, target audience? What’s your budget? Does that cover print and digital media? Does your target audience even consume print media? Very quickly you can see the problems.

Advertising is powerful but it’s just one piece of a larger picture, and it’s definitely not the place to start.

Where do you start when creating a marketing campaign?

Let’s go back to those key elements of a marketing campaign; Goals, Budget, Audience and Message.
Then add some friends Media, Measure and Review.

Step 1.
Define your goals

A successful marketing campaign begins with a goal. If you don’t have a goal in mind, why are you doing it? Be as specific as possible, research and data are your friend. If your goal is to increase conversions you need to know what your current conversion rate is. Research your industry, what are the average conversion rates among your competitors? Using that knowledge, figure out what percentage increase you’d like to achieve within your set budget.

Step 2.
Set a budget

This one is a bit of a drag, we get it but also, hugely important. Advertising isn’t free and even when it’s highly affordable there’s the often-overlooked cost of time, including yours and that of your team or contractors. It might cost you $2,000 to set-up Ad Words, but the graphics you need may cost an additional $7,000 in photography, editing and graphic design costs and then another $1,200 in hours spent setting up, monitoring and reviewing the ads. Estimating and preparing for the potential costs ahead of time will allow you to be prepared and make better strategic decisions throughout the rest of the campaign.

Step 3.
Determine target audience

Successful ads are targeted, that’s why the digital landscape is dedicated to knowing everything about us. Determining your target audience may require more market research. Know who you’re selling to, what are their needs, their likes, their wants? How can you most effectively communicate with them? What type of media do they consume? If your product is aimed at teen girls, you’ll be wasting your time advertising to males 18 – 50+.

Step 4.
Select your medias

This will tie in heavily with your audience and budget. A Billboard at Adelaide Oval sounds great but it’s not in the budget for everyone and may not reach your target audience. Think strategically, where will I most effectively reach my ideal audience while getting the best ROI for my ad spend?

Step 5.
Develop your messaging

You know, what you want to achieve, you know how much you’re willing to spend, you know your audience and you know where to find them. Now…what do you say? “Buy Sneakers!” is undoubtedly your message, but unless your market research is telling you your target audience resonates with quirky absurdism, you’ll probably want something a little more refined.

This is one element of your campaign that may be fluid. If you’ve chosen digital advertising as your preferred media format, you have the option of split testing headlines, graphics and copy to see what hits best with your audience. If you’re taking this route it’s best to factor that in to your budget and timeline.

Step 6.
Measure your results

You’ve put all this time and money into developing a great campaign you’re going to want to know if it’s successful or not! While almost all media platforms (including traditional media) will automatically offer you some kind of data throughout your campaign it’s important to take an intentional approach. Know exactly what metrics you want measured and ensure your platforms are capturing them appropriately and consistently. If they’re not take steps to ensure they will be.

Step 7.

You did it! You’ve produced a solid marketing campaign, made some sales, connected with your target audience, gathered handfuls of data and got some great feedback, but was it a success? Now we come full circle and go back to our goals. Did you achieve them? By how much? Did you stay within budget? What areas could be improved?

This stage may be initially dis-heartening as you might find you didn’t do as well as expected. Don’t dwell on it, this is a blessing in disguise! Now you’re armed with more data that can help you make informed decisions in your future campaigns. Marketing is all about making informed, strategic actions, the wrong actions take us one step closer to finding the right ones.

And if it was a complete success, fantastic! Set-yourself some new goals and start prepping your next successful campaign.

Tin Can Admin