This Place Has Rats. But They Will Be Gone Soon!

I know for a fact that for at least 30 years now, market textbooks and classes have made the distinction between marketing and advertising/promotion the first definition provided.  That has pretty much been a useless effort because people generally think of the terms as synonymous.

I don’t expect to move that needle much at all today, but I thought I would share a recent post Seth Godin made on the topic to get readers thinking about their own practices.

If an exterminator puts signs and banners in front of a fancy house when they’re inside killing rats, that’s promotion. But it’s not good marketing.

Marketing is creating the conditions for a story to spread so you can help people get to where they hope to go. Marketing is work that matters for people who care, a chance to create products and services that lead to change.


If you have to interrupt, trick or coerce people to get the word out, you might be doing too much promotion and not enough marketing.

I especially like this first illustration he uses. While it isn’t a universally applicable example of the difference, it does make the point that what is good promotion doesn’t necessarily create an environment that is in everyone’s interests.

In the same way, a message of “come see this show” is different from “this is a place that provides an opportunity to share experiences with family and friends.” The latter is part of a narrative about attaining what people aspire to rather than selling a single specific product.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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