A quick thought for those who want a simple definition of marketing.

There are a number of definitions of marketing. Here are a few of the better ones:

  1. Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.  (American Marketing Association)
  2. The UK’s Chartered Institute of Marketing characterises marketing as ‘the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably’. 
  3. The Business Dictionary defines it as The management process through which goods and services move from concept to the customer. It includes the coordination of four elements called the 4 P’s of marketing…
  4. Philip Kotler defines marketing as “the science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit. Marketing identifies unfulfilled needs and desires. It defines, measures and quantifies the size of the identified market and the profit potential.

You will see that all these definitions are quite long and some, like Kotler’s are, in my view,  more of a description than a definition.  So, here’s my simple definition of marketing:

Marketing makes a company’s purpose as being to satisfy prospect and customer needs.

This has to be the absolute core of marketing. marketing puts the needs of the prospect and the customer at the very heart of the business and the business is then built and developed around those needs.

In addition, marketing makes sure that a product or service has better functionality than its competitors, or that it is more suitably priced than its competitors, or that is more readily available than competitor products.  In other words, marketing makes sure companies are giving consumers what they want.

Marketing as a business function

Marketing should bring customer representation to the boardroom. After all, how can any company function properly without representation from the people who buy its products and services and therefore produce almost all of its revenue?

Where does marketing go wrong?

The first place that marketing goes wrong is when companies and marketers assume that marketing is only about promotion. It is not and this is a fatal error for marketers. Good promotion will not sell a bad product but a good product will almost always sell itself.  Think Body Shop, Ferrari, Google, SnapChat, Ted Baker, Twitter, YouTube or WhatsApp. These are brands that hardly ever advertise and yet enjoy impressive brand awareness and attributes. These brands are examples of how great product, service, utility, functionality, people and distribution (online and offline) have helped to build a powerful consumer brand franchise. It is these “marketing mix” issues that marketing should really deal with. Promotion is just one of the areas covered by marketers.

The second reason follows directly from the first:  If marketers assume their job is primarily about promotion, they are not spending enough time thinking about these other vital elements in the marketing mix.  It is by excelling in these areas of marketing that the brands listed above are able to thrive as category leaders.

Here are some not so good definitions of marketing:

The Collins English Dictionary falls into the trap saying that marketing is basically about organising to sell products and services, “Marketing is the organisation of the sale of a product, for example, deciding on its price, the areas it should be supplied to, and how it should be advertised.” 

An example of the colloquial promotional activity based definition of  marketing is given in Investopedia.com, “Marketing refers to the activities of a company associated with buying and selling a product or service. It includes advertising, selling and delivering products to people. People who work in marketing departments of companies try to get the attention of target audiences by using slogans, packaging design, celebrity endorsements and general media exposure.”

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