What is marketing exactly? This most basic of questions was fired at me by one of my blog readers the other day who posed the question in the context the massive changes wrought by digital marketing, branding, dissatisfaction with marketing teams and directors – so what is marketing today?
The guru of marketing Dr. 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. It pinpoints which segments the company is capable of serving best and it designs and promotes the appropriate products and services.”
This is a fine definition of marketing. For more definitions check this out.
But despite this there is no doubt that answering the question "what is marketing?" is more confusing today than ever before. Suddenly marketers can be responsible for a diverse set of functions from core marketing, sales, social media, brand, customer experience, advertising, proposition and product management. But what is at our core and still relevant today as we define marketing and it's role?
From Marketing Management to Guerrilla Marketing to All Marketers are Liars whatever text you read there is always commonality in answering the question of what is marketing for me I boil it down to:
What is marketing? Great marketing makes the connection between something somebody wants / needs and a product or service – and it does this profitably.
Let's break this answer to the "what is marketing' question a little further:
The Need or Want:
marketing owns uniquely the understanding of customer needs and desires
The Product or the Service:
marketing should contribute significantly to the development of the product and the offer to the customer that will tap into the need or desire
Make the connection between need/want and the product/service:
marketing by owning the communication of the product or service owns uniquely the process of mentally joining the dots for the consumer from want or need to the particular product or service
marketing needs to complete the identification, development and connection process so that a profit is left at the end – getting the numbers right is the key deliverable.
What is marketing? Identifying great examples of marketing practise
There are many, many examples of marketing that fulfills some of these criteria but there aren't many examples of marketing that does all four. When you manage it though marketing and business magic can be created – the iPhone is an exquisite example of clear consumer need, a fantastic product, great connections through amazing pitching and advertising of the product all coming together to deliver huge profitability. Keeping with technology, on the other hand, I am unconvinced by Windows 8 or the Surface Tablet. Whilst targeting an established need these products don't deliver unique value compellingly enough, the communications creating connections in peoples' minds are confused. I doubt either will be profitable in the medium to long term.
What is marketing? Analysis of technology examples.
So how do you create great marketing?
Marketing shouldn't be more complex than educated commonsense: to really understand your customer by listening and learning intently, then think and dream deeply about what they need now and in the future, work with colleagues from across the business to create a wonderful product and service that you can be really proud of, would recommend without fear, and can be delivered profitably, then finally go have some fun telling the story of how you went from consumer need to brilliant delivery. Monitor and analyse everything so that you can ensure that the system of capturing value from a consumer need is profitable for your business.
So in answering the question "What is marketing?" can we also split out the difference between marketing and sales? Yes I think so: sales is only concerned with the process of shifting as many units of a product or service as possible profitably – a vital process. But marketing helps a company move from ideation through to customer satisfaction profitably. Of course the best sales leaders will understand and influence the entire value creation process but they aren't responsible for it if there is a good marketing team delivering.
Over the coming weeks I'm going to be delving into more aspects of "What is Marketing?" so please sign up to this blog. And as ever if you have ideas, thoughts and comments please share.
What is your view on the question "what is marketing"?
Other resources for you to read about What is marketing?:
What is this thing called content? from this blog
A couple of good videos on What is marketing from The Chartered Institute of Marketing
If you are interested in enhancing your marketing career then check out my new training online course – currently 50% off: How to Become a Marketing Director