WHAT IS MARKETING?

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. 

what is marketing

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

Profitably:

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. 

What is marketing examples iPhone surface tablet acer netbook windows 8

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"?

Justin

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

WHAT ARE BANKS FOR?

This article was published first in the Financial Services Forum’s Argent Magazine – Autumn 2011.


What are Banks for, if not to feather their own nests?

If we truly want to address the trust issues in financial services, I believe we need to ask some deeper, more fundamental questions about the nature of trust and what we’re here to do, individually and collectively.

 

The first step, especially following the turbulence of the past few years, is to recognise how complex an entity trust is – easy to feel but difficult to understand. The brand and industry trackers show trust going up, down and sideways – there’s little consistency. In reality, while we haven’t seen people pulling their money en mass from banks or more switching from one brand to another, it feels as if the standing of financial services brands is at a low point.

 

To understand what’s going on means recognising the distinctive layers in the concept of trust:

 

Functional trust underscores how well an industry or product group works to deliver a functional benefit. Here, banking actually continues to score highly and trust levels have actually increased – even more so since the government proved it would stand behind the banks. We all trust that a bank will work to deliver core commodity functions reliably.

 

Affective trust is where financial services companies have a real problem. Very few people have affective trust in financial services brands and virtually no-one trusts the top bankers who serve as figureheads for our industry. They’re seen as defensive and self-serving. All the TV and newspaper advertising behind the message “We’re ordinary people working for you”, doesn’t move the needle, despite what a brand tracker might say. These messages are perceived to be superficial, actually creating more mistrust and frustration with our industry.

 

It’s galling for a consumer to hear these advertising messages while also hearing a CEO defend massive bonus payments or threaten to leave the country when taxes are discussed. People integrate these messages. In our hyper-connected and hyper-transparent age, consumers assess brands and business on a range of competing dimensions to get very near the truth.

 

The trust in business, and the banking industry especially, that people used to have and that gave a legitimacy to our commercial activities has been decreasing alarmingly in the West. Business leaders are now seen as “doing the right thing” by only 20% of the population.

 

And there’s now clear evidence that commanding deep trust is a hard business issue, not a soft, intangible matter to be addressed through superficial communications alone.  It’s already directly impacting balance sheets and business models – just look at the cost of compensating for this lack of trust through vastly increased capital requirements or the ring-fencing of retail operations suggested by the Vickers report. All because we as an industry are seen not to be worthy of trust.

 

Against that background, most “normal” people are asking: What are financial services and especially our banks here to do, if it’s not just to feather their own nests? This assumption of self-serving goes to the heart of our business – and we will continue to suffer as regulators become more aggressive, spurred on by an increasingly frustrated and angry public.

 

However, those brands that truly commit to both social and commercial good, that contribute to social capital through their activities and that mobilise their workforce locally and authentically to take this message out – for them, these are the most exciting of trust-building times. Authentic, real, connected trust has always been at the heart of the profitable customer-financial services relationship. That’s why it receives so much attention, and why building it continues to be the right thing to do.

 

Read more about creating a sustainably trusted and trustworthy business and brand in Why Should Anyone Buy From YOU? (FT-Prentice Hall) by Justin Basini. It’s Available on Amazon and in all good bookshops.