To come up with a general definition on marketing, I first decided to cover what marketing is not. Therefore I started digging through various definitions from well-known authors and organizations. In my university Marketing textbook the authors gave short description of marketing as “meeting needs profitably” (Kotler & Keller, 2006). Others use more elaborate definitions. These are fractions of definitions out there that I picked for this topic:
- Marketing is a management process that identifies, anticipates and satisfies customer requirements profitably (Charter Institute of Marketing).
- An action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising (Google Dictionary).
- Marketing is a social and managerial process by which individuals and groups obtain what they need and want through creating and exchanging products and value with others (Kotler, Armstrong, Wong, and Saunders, 2008).
Although all definitions of marketing are valid in their own ways, they are incomplete and partial when trying to come up with a general description of marketing.
Kotler and Keller, and Koter, et al describe marketing as a process trying to meet human and social needs and simultaneously generating profit for the organization. They are absolutely right in distinguishing managerial from social marketing, but their definitions overlook various marketing fields- branding, advertising, etc.- when defining marketing. In branding, your immediate goal is not to meet customers’ goals, nor is it to generate profit. Kotler and Keller, focusing mainly on managerial concepts of marketing, surely overlooks other areas in marketing. For example, display advertisers’ flash ads for digital marketing are not designed to meet web surfers’ needs profitably. Companies’ team leaders, managers, or analytics teams determine the profitability of those display ads. What I’m trying to state is, marketing is not merely used by management, and generating profit is not its sole purpose as defined by Charter Institute of Marketing, and Koter and Keller. I agree with Kotler, et al description of value and product creation, however, it still overlooks other concepts (e.g. designing and A/B testing a website has more to do with having a presence and researching which design is optimal for desired response- conversion, time on site, etc.).
Charter Institute of Marketing identifies marketing as a process that is done by managers, and is for profit generation. Although I like the fact that Charter Institute recognizes identification and anticipation to satisfy certain needs, it overlooks certain marketing areas that are involved in managing relationships, designing, and raising awareness. Also, non-managers can also be involved in marketing, and not all marketing is done to generate profit.
It may help to look at another profession to understand where Google Dictionary definition went wrong, … Lets take practicing medicine as an example. If we asked various medical practitioners about what it means to practice medicine, we might get different answers. An Anesthesiologist might say that medicine is about taking away pain, while Psychiatrist might talk about the wellness of the mind. It doesn’t surprise me that Google is mainly focused on promoting and selling products (by using Google AdWords), research (by using Google Analytics), and advertising (by using AdSense). I’m sure customer relationship management, rebranding and bettering value hasn’t even cross their mind.
Mentioned definitions of marketing are correct, however they are specific, highly focused and specialized. There are many areas in marketing and one cannot ignore an area when defining marketing as whole. Various marketing professionals do specialized work to achieve marketing goals. Managers are not the only ones involved in marketing, but are part of a whole. There are various marketing professionals working together as whole for decision-making and reaching marketing goals. Generating profit could be a marketing goal, but not all marketing goals are focused on profit. Not all professionals use ads to reach customers, and not all customers are consumers. For example, memos can be used for internal marketing. Therefore, marketing doesn’t necessarily leads to advertising; it could be a research to find target markets, maintaining database, geomarketing to find just where to open a new brick and mortar store, or tagging a web page.
Now that we know what marketing is not, the next question to ask is, “what is marketing?” Read Lets Get Philosophical, Part 2, to find out.