There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of different definitions for what marketing actually is – this variety in definitions does not differ from any business, technological, cultural, social or even religious practice in the world. We all have our own perspective and take on different practices, as well as, the inherent need to define concepts and so make sense of the world around us.
So how to determine what marketing is? Lets take guidance from two of the most brilliant minds in our times:
Fox Mulder of X-Files said, that there is a truth out there.
Will Ferrel tweeted, that When looking for something in Google, if it is not on the first page of search results then it doesn’t exist and my journey ends there.
I gather that the truth to what marketing is has to lie in those first page results of the Google search on ‘what is marketing’. And if not, I’ll always have my own experiences and thought to draw from.
What is Marketing According to Google?
So what is marketing according to Google search – the one source of all answers worth asking for and the Nr 1. creation of the company whose mission it is to organize the information in the world? A search on Google with ‘what is marketing’ gives 1.230.000.000 results. The 11 first hits give the following answers (and let’s not try to fool ourselves, most of us are just way too lazy to venture past the the first page of search results so, as Will Ferrel said, the universal truth has to lie in those first 11 results):
- “Noun: The action or business of promoting and selling products or services”. (http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&client=safari&rls=en&q=marketing&tbs=dfn:1&tbo=u&sa=X&ei=Y8SJTpPuL4TE0QXiq6DtDw&ved=0CB4QkQ4)
- Tutor2u.net (http://tutor2u.net/business/marketing/what_is_marketing.asp) gives the following definitions and explanations:
- “The all-embracing function that links the business with customer needs and wants in order to get the right product to the right place at the right time”
- “The achievement of corporate goals through meeting and exceeding customer needs better than the competition”
- “The management process that identifies, anticipates and supplies customer requirements efficiently and profitably”
- “Marketing may be defined as a set of human activities directed at facilitating and consummating exchanges”
- Which definition is right? In short, they all are. They all try to embody the essence of marketing: Marketing is about meeting the needs and wants of customers; Marketing is a business-wide function – it is not something that operates alone from other business activities; Marketing is about understanding customers and finding ways to provide products or services which customers demand”.
- From the Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marketing): Marketing is the process used to determine what products or services may be of interest to customers, and the strategy to use in sales, communications and business development. It generates the strategy that underlies sales techniques, business communication, and business developments. It is an integrated process through which companies build strong customer relationships and create value for their customers and for themselves.
- According to the marketingteacher.com (http://marketingteacher.com/lesson-store/lesson-what-is-marketing.html): “There are many definitions of marketing. The better definitions are focused upon customer orientation and satisfaction of customer needs.
- Marketing is the social process by which individuals and groups obtain what they need and want through creating and exchanging products and value with others. (Kotler)
- Marketing is the management process that identifies, anticipates and satisfies customer requirements profitably. (The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM)). The CIM definition (in common with Barwell’s definition of the marketing concept) looks not only at identifying customer needs, but also satisfying them (short-term) and anticipating them in the future (long-term retention).
- The right product, in the right place, at the right time, at the right price (Adcock)
- This is a snappy and realistic definition that uses McCarthy’s Four Ps: Marketing is essentially about marshaling the resources of an organization so that they meet the changing needs of the customer on whom the organization depends. (Palmer). This is a more recent and very realistic definition that looks at matching capabilities with needs.
- Marketing is the process whereby society, to supply its consumption needs, evolves distributive systems composed of participants, who, interacting under constraints – technical (economic) and ethical (social) – create the transactions or flows which resolve market separations and result in exchange and consumption. (Bartles). This definition considers the economic and social aspects of marketing.
- The tenonline.org gives a descriptive and easy to understand definition of marketing with especially entrepreneurs in mind (http://tenonline.org/art/mm1/9301.html). To cut it short the punch line is: “marketing is everything you do to place your product or service in the hands of potential customers”
- At number six on the search results is one description from about.com (http://inventors.about.com/od/fundinglicensingmarketing/f/Marketing.htm): “Marketing is an activity. Marketing activities and strategies result in making products available that satisfy customers while making profits for the companies that offer those products”.
- About.com occupies also the seventh position (http://marketing.about.com/od/smallbusinessmarketing/a/whatismarketing.htm), and on that they say: “Marketing is the process of teaching consumers why they should choose your product or service over your competitors; if you are not doing that you are not marketing. It’s really that simple! The key is finding the right method and defining the right message to use to educate and influence your consumers”.
- The first video on the list is at number eight. The philosophically toned, maybe a bit lengthy video from the ‘Gypsy Bandito’ discusses marketing from various angles. It starts by explaining the concept of the market and moves onwards to the concept of marketer, etc. before discussing the various aspects and perspectives of marketing itself.
- An Article at the MarketingProfs (http://www.marketingprofs.com/2/whatismarketing.asp) ends by defining marketing the following way: “Marketing is, in fact, the analysis of customers, competitors, and a company, combining this understanding into an overall understanding of what segments exist, deciding on targeting the most profitable segments, positioning your products, and then doing what’s necessary to deliver on that positioning”.
- Max Kalehoff at attentionmax.com (http://www.attentionmax.com/marketing) answers the question of what is marketing by: “Marketing is the art and science of creating, delighting and keeping customers, while making a profit and building enterprise value. Marketing integrates, formally or informally, many disciplines and every organizational function. Marketing should embrace the highest ethical standards, respect the environment, and strive to make the world a better place”.
- Last, but not least, the last entry on the first page search results, the davedolak.com uses the definition of the American Marketing Association from 2007: “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.”
I agree with many things said and described, even though the more theoretical takes by the likes of Bartles or Palmer don’t really get my support. Their definitions are just way too complicated to act as any kind of a guideline for any type of activity in any type of forum outside of the educational institution.
On a side note, a detail that is highlighted a bit differently in the article of Max Kalehoff, a seeminly normal guy like many of us, is that he emphasizes that an organization should always define what marketing means for it, in order for the marketing function and all the related functions to work effectively. I agree with that with 100%, even though it often means that the end result will not live up to the full potential of what the marketing as a practice can or should encompass.
What is Marketing. My Take.
As with any practice, marketing has a myriad of different theoretical takes on what it is and what it should be. Working with marketing the past decade in national and multinational companies has let me evidence the many different views the CEOs and companies have on it. The most common observation being that marketing is usually given the function of advertising or promotions. This is true even when the top executives would speak of the larger role of marketing. On theoretical level the larger role is spoken of, but in reality and in practice, advertising or the promotions part of Kotler’s 4P’s (or of the modern 7P’s) is more often than not the sole function the marketing department is given. That function and role is quite different to how I see marketing.
How I see what marketing is, is very close to the key definitions on the first page of Google search. I would also argue, that it is very close to how the leading customer focused marketing organizations are seeing it. As always, the meaning behind all the easy to understand, key definitions is the same, just the wording differs.
As there is always room for one more interpretation of the world around us, for one more definition for marketing, here is my take on it: Marketing is figuring out what needs to be done in order for You to sell more and then doing it.
You can always try to prove me wrong.