Marketing Vs Propaganda: Is Propaganda Used In Advertising?

Illustration of a megaphone with the text "Marketing vs Propaganda" on an orange background

By Gareth Henry   |   Last Updated 10 May 2024

The terms “marketing” and “propaganda” are often used interchangeably, but they have distinct differences. Both aim to influence an audience, but their methods and intentions vary.

This article explores the similarities and differences between marketing and propaganda, where they intersect, and why marketing should focus on servicing a market rather than creating one.

How Marketing And Propaganda Are Similar

Purpose: Both aim to change how people think and act. Marketing persuades consumers to buy products or services, while propaganda shapes opinions towards a cause or ideology.

Techniques: They use persuasive language, emotional appeal, and repetition. Catchy slogans, compelling stories, and repeated messages make their points memorable and convincing.

Channels: Both utilise media, ads, and public relations to spread their messages. Whether through TV, radio, newspapers, or digital platforms, these channels ensure broad audience reach. Public relations efforts, such as press releases and media events, also play a significant role in both fields.

Where Marketing And Propaganda Meet

Manipulative Tactics: Both use tricks to change opinions. Techniques include fear, urgency, and social proof to influence behaviour. According to a report from the University of Oxford, every one of the 80+ countries surveyed found that political campaigns used organised social media manipulation [1].

Audience Targeting: Both focus on specific groups for maximum impact. By tailoring messages to demographics, psychographics, and behaviours, they ensure greater relevance and effectiveness. Dr. Robert Cialdini, author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, noted, “The principles of persuasion are universal”. So, they can be applied to many scenarios, from selling soap or an ideology.

Why Generating A Market Doesn’t Ultimately Succeed

Lack of Authentic Demand: Creating a market often fails because there is no genuine need or interest. For example, the Segway, marketed as the future of personal transport, failed due to lack of demand.

Consumer Trust Issues: Generative marketing can erode trust if consumers feel manipulated. According to a 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer survey [2], 56% of consumers believe too many brands use societal issues as a marketing ploy to sell more of their product.

Sustainability Problems: Markets created through hype often collapse once the excitement fades. The dot-com bubble of the late 1990s saw many internet companies fail because their markets were artificially inflated by speculation and hype.

Why Marketing Should Serve A Market

Customer-Centric Approach: Successful marketing focuses on identifying and meeting existing consumer needs. Research by Deloitte found that companies that prioritise customer needs have a 60% higher profitability [3].

Building Trust and Loyalty: Serving a market builds long-term trust and loyalty among consumers. Seth Godin, marketing expert, says, “Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but the stories you tell.”

Organic Growth: When marketing aligns with consumer needs, growth is sustainable and organic. Apple’s success with the iPhone is a result of understanding and serving the evolving needs of their market.


Marketing and propaganda may seem similar, but they are different in their goals and effects. Propaganda often uses tricks and false information to influence people. On the other hand, good marketing focuses on understanding and meeting real needs.

Like propaganda, generative marketing is based on weak foundations and usually fails because it’s not genuine. But marketing that serves a real need is more sustainable and trusted by people. The key to successful marketing is being honest and responsive to what people truly need.


[1] University of Oxford:

[2] Edelman:

[3] Deloitte:

Gareth Henry is the founder and Managing Director of AppSalon, a digital marketing agency in Sydney, Australia.

Gareth saw an important mission that needed doing in Australia - AppSalon's mission has been to provide world class, user centric design and SEO for websites, that assures small business success with client acquisition.

Gareth's marketing background is of an SEO specialist the last decade, with countless top 3 ranks for major commercial terms, such as skip bin hire, fish for sale, crystals for sale, and many more.

However, he realises not everything is SEO, and seeks mastery with website design, conversion optimisation, and content production, so a businesses brand and website can deliver beyond simply creating traffic.

This year has been a tremendous learning curve with AI and building web apps, and so now gen AI capabaility is part of the toolset Gareth delivers.

Gareth is considered an authority on creating websites and web apps that people adore, and is happy to provide insights to both established business owners and brand new hobbyists.


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