We’ve seen how marketing and advertising, at a first glance, appear similar enough to be indistinguishable but the differences are clear when looked at more closely, as we’ve discussed in previous blog posts on the Framework Marketing site.
When looked at too closely through a burning magnifying glass, the same distinctions could be made between marketing and propaganda, and if you’re open-minded enough you can start to begin to understand where people see these similarities.
As discussed, marketing is “the business of helping another business isolate the best possible way they can serve their client base and maximise revenue.” The reason why it invites familiarity with propaganda is that they are both widely communicated messages that support or focus on specific ideas and topics used in a persuasive manner. They both aim to shape perceptions and influence public opinion, both use mass media, and both are directed at specific audiences. They both aim to get these specific audiences to take some sort of action.
And that is pretty much where the bus stops in terms of similarity. In this Framework Marketing blog post, we’ll see what exactly propaganda is, what marketing and advertising is, and why they are so different.
As we’ve already touched on the definition of marketing in this blog post here, let’s start with the definition of propaganda to really understand what this elusive, oft-misunderstood (but by no means less dangerous) form of communication is.
It’s main distinction is that propaganda refers to communications surrounding information that is either exaggerated, spun, or entirely false for the sake of conveying a particular message or cause to a large group of people.
It is information disseminated in a biased or misleading nature used to promote a cause or point of view, often regarding politics.
Importantly, propaganda uses information in a way that only supports a single idea or cause. It could be argued that the information conveyed is not propaganda in and of itself but the way in which it is applied to make people believe something that isn’t entirely true. As mentioned, this sort of thing is common in politics in the way that politicians spin facts and share information in a way supports their cause solely and unobjectively.
A key objective in propaganda and the dissemination of falsehoods is to manipulate opinion, ideas and attitudes in certain groups that are more susceptible or vulnerable to manipulation so that these groups support a cause or political agenda.
The language used in propaganda is often extremely persuasive and has the ability to invoke irrational or emotional responses from people and make them think in a way that is vehemently opposed to those who think otherwise. This is because propaganda focuses solely on the righteousness of a topic whilst also distorting facts and suppressing criticisms and counterarguments to create a ‘you vs. them‘ scenario.
Propaganda, historically, has come in many forms; usually in the most popular medium of the time. During World War Two, the Nazi propaganda machine utilised the new and exciting art of cinema to create and commission propaganda movies that focused on the might of the German Army and the weakness of the Allied Forces.
Below is a short propaganda film from the German Third Reich in 1941 describing how English people are afflicted by rickets:
The radio waves were also utilised by propagandists of varying nationalities and political persuasions in the 20th century to spread falsities of their own choosing, especially during times of unrest and war like WWII and the Vietnam War of the 1960s.
Propaganda works best when it conveys symbolism and imagery that can be easily remembered and empathised with. This makes it easy pickings for creative mediums like artwork and music that people consume often and in a more relaxed state when they’re more susceptible to these sorts of messages.
2. Marketing and Advertising
Unlike propaganda, marketing describes the way in which institutions tailor their products and services to a certain sector of the market. It identifies what customers desire and then developing the product or service in a way that fulfils that need or desire based off an already present demand from the customer base.
The end result of marketing and advertising is essentially to increase the sales of a company and their market share and overall customer base.
Another major distinction of marketing is the relative openness of it compared to propaganda. It’s clear as to where the money is being spent on marketing campaigns and by whom, and if that information isn’t immediately clear, it is available to public knowledge by some means.
It’s also clear the intentions of a company surrounding marketing. Indeed, companies are trying to influence people but there is no secret that they are doing so to do anything other than increase their market share, their revenue and their value on the market.
Similarly, there are regulations and laws around marketing and advertising that deters businesses from including deceptive or misleading statements that equate closer to propaganda that advertising.
One easy way of looking at it is that advertising and marketing aims to sell a product or service, propaganda aims to spread thoughts and ideas.
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