The Big Marketing Confusion

The simple definition of marketing

When last have you spoken to someone about the definition of marketing?  The answers you get are mind-blowingly off-the-charts diverse and in my opinion unnecessarily confusing.   

Everyone wants to sound more unique by adding extra flavor, which in the end makes everything even more confusing.  Or maybe that is their strategy.  To make things so complicated that you end up using their services to decipher the mayhem?  

Confusing definitions of marketing

I recently came across an article with 72 definitions of marketing and have listed the first ten definitions below: 

  1. According to the American Marketing Association (AMA) Board of Directors, 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.
  2. 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.”
  3. Marketing is the messages and/or actions that cause messages and/or actions. Jay Baer – President, Convince & Convert. Author with Amber Naslund of The Now Revolution.
  4. Marketing is traditionally the means by which an organization communicates to, connects with, and engages its target audience to convey the value of and ultimately sell its products and services. However, since the emergence of digital media, in particular social media and technology innovations, it has increasingly become more about companies building deeper, more meaningful, and lasting relationships with the people that they want to buy their products and services. The ever-increasingly fragmented world of media complicates marketers’ ability to connect and, at the same, time presents an incredible opportunity to forge new territory. Julie Barile Vice President of eCommerce, Fairway Market
  5. Marketing includes research, targeting, communications (advertising and direct mail), and often public relations. Marketing is to sales as plowing is to planting for a farmer—it prepares an audience to receive a direct sales pitch. Mary Ellen Bianco  Director Marketing & Communications, Getzler Henrich & Associates LLC
  6. Marketing is an ongoing communications exchange with customers in a way that educates, informs and builds a relationship over time. The overtime part is important because only over time can trust be created. With trust, a community builds organically around products and services and those customers become as excited about the products as you are — they become advocates, loyal evangelists, repeat customers, and often, friends. Marketing is a really great way to identify what grabs people and gets them excited about your brand and give it to them, involve them in the process, and yeah, the best part, build great friendships in the process. Renee Blodgett – Chief Executive Officer/Founder, Magic Sauce Media
  7. Professor Philip Kotler explained that marketing was “meeting the needs of your customer at a profit.” For me, that definition extends beyond just communicating product features. Marketers are responsible for a 360-degree experience. For example, in the social media world, a customer’s Twitter needs may differ from her needs to “play with the brand” in terms of social game promotion. Every customer touchpoint from customer service to sales to accounting and more is part of the “new marketing.” Toby Bloomberg – Bloomberg Marketing/Diva Marketing
  8. Marketing when done well is (a) the strategy of the business – its value proposition, go-to-market strategy, and brand positioning and image to the world. Marketing when not done well is (b) an endless checklist of advertising and promotional to-dos that can never be completed. Marketing in the twenty-first century must be (c) largely, but not entirely, measurable and accountable around driving business goals. Marketing when done brilliantly is driven by (a) includes a small, disciplined subset of (b), and is steeped in a culture of (c). Matt Blumberg  Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Return Path
  9. Marketing is the process by which a firm profitably translates customer needs into revenue. Mark Burgess – Managing Partner, Blue Focus Marketing
  10. Intuitive by design, marketing matches the right message/cause to the right person. Finding someone who has a personal connection with your product, service, or cause in a way that is unobtrusive and inviting. Marketing can be as simple as networking at an event or as complex as a multi-million dollar global campaign that integrates print, digital, PR, social media, and broadcast delivering a specific message with one unified goal. Some of the best marketing outcomes come from the simplest initiatives. Keeping it simple is sometimes the best strategy. Lisa Buyer – President and Chief Executive Officer, The Buyer Group

If we were in a business coaching consultation, this would have been the part where I could say: “How does this make you feel?” 

I have been working in the marketing field for the last 30 odd years and this makes my head spin. Considering there are 62 more definitions of where this came from, it is just absolutely crazy.  People are making marketing way more complicated than it is supposed to be.

The origins of marketing

To understand what marketing is and should be I want to take you back to the beginning of time.

Back to the origins of marketing.

Imagine the market in the village where farmers and home crafters brought their apples to be sold.

If they did not bring the right apples that the village people needed, they would have to take all the stock back home with them.  Because the apples did not sell, they run the risk that the apples might be stolen on the way back.  Or the apples could fall off the wagon and damage.  Or it could just go rotten.

If the farmers took their apples to the village-of-carnivores instead of the village-of-herbivores, chances are they would be sitting with a whole lot of apples that would possibly also go rotten.

If the farmers decided that because of all the expenses of getting their apples to the market they are going to increase the price of their apples, chances are the villagers can’t afford the apples, and again they are going to sit with a whole lot of apples.

In its simplest form, marketing is knowing your customer so well that the product that you offer fits them perfectly and sells itself. 

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If you understand this concept, you can start breaking down all the various elements of marketing.  

Piece by piece.  

Until you end up with the perfect product (or service), delivered at the right marketplace at the right time at the right price which makes the challenge of the marketing communication department so simple, that they can go and sit in the pub and drink apple cider all day long.

The simple definition of marketing

Christél Rosslee-Venter is a business coach, marketing consultant, author, and speaker with almost 30 years of experience in the marketing and advertising industry.

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