Mass Marketing vs. Differentiated Marketing

  •             Apple is a marketing pioneer - with its highly visual, yet simple, advertisements, the products have dominated the wish lists of younger generations while attracting the tech-savvy older generation as well. The secret of this company’s success is no secret at all – Apple spends $400+ million on conventional media outlets each year.  Kunur Patel of Ad Age details the breakdown of Apple’s 2010 advertising budget in his article “How Steve Jobs' Apple married mass marketing with unabashed creativity”: $24 million went towards “measured internet media… primarily to high-end home page takeovers on [popular] newspaper sites”; billboard and other outside advertising was credited with $33 million; and almost 50% of the $420 million budget in 2010 was spent on television advertisements. Adding to the old-school argument, the powerhouse CEO, Steve Jobs, created a working relationship with one marketing agency during his reign. The image consistency that Apple was able to project to the consumers through established outlets has created brand awareness and popularized its products.

                Another well-known instance of mass marketing happens one day a year: the Super Bowl. For years, consumers have buzzed about which company would run an advertisement during the game’s commercial breaks, and discussed the best/worst broadcasts for days to come. According to USA Today, for this year’s Super Bowl, Fox Broadcasting Network sold out their $4 million time slots two months in advance (Horovitz). Although the companies purchasing these (roughly) 30 seconds of exposure have shifted their focus from selling to creating a buzz on social media, the importance that these firms have placed on obtaining air space still boasts the fact that mass marketing is alive and kicking.

                Kotler and Keller examine the role of mass marketing in their textbook, Marketing management. The traditional method of undifferentiated marketing proves cost-effective because of its ability to reach a large demographic and create a large potential market. In turn, expenses are reduced for advertising, market research, and development. However, consumers have started to value their individuality. Thus, companies that choose differentiated marketing value the personalization of the advertisement and/or product. For example, girls shop months in advance for the perfect prom dress that they believe to represent their style, and hope that their classmates do not somehow choose the same dress. In Chicago, there is a specialty dress store with a unique guarantee that they will not sell a girl’s chosen dress to anyone else at her school. This store’s pledge made it very popular for girls at my high school. However, the personalization that is associated with this type of marketing “increases the costs of doing business” (Kotler & Keller, p. 255). Companies that choose this technique can expect higher product and service sales, but also higher implementation costs. 

                So which of these is the best approach? Josh Gordon writes in his article “The changing role of mass marketing” that the tried-and-true strategy of mass marketing still lives on, but serves a different purpose. He theorizes that companies would be most successful by not choosing one method over another. Instead, a blend of direct marketing and undifferentiated marketing would lead to the highest number of sales. Apple’s “individualized care” at their retail stores illustrates the effectiveness of their combined approach. Consumers recognize the incredible advertisements produced, but they also value the customer care after they receive the product. Likewise, the Super Bowl commercials have been created with the intention of generating a buzz on social media instead of the actual selling of the product. By utilizing the combination approach, companies would be able to appease both sides of the market – those who value individuality and those who are appeased through mass communication.


    Horovitz, B. (2013, December 7). $4 Million for Super Bowl ad? Guess who’s buying. USA Today. Retrieved from

    Kotler, P., & Keller K. L. (2012). Marketing management (14th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

    Patel, K. (2011, August 29). How Steve Jobs’ Apple married mass marketing with unabashed creativity. Ad Age. Retrieved from

    Van Riper, T. (2010, January 13). Super Bowl ads: A whole new ballgame. Forbes. Retrieved from

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