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What is marketing?

market, marketing, marketing activities, marketing mix, selling, promotion

Different people use the term ‘marketing’ in different ways. For this reason, it is important to disentangle these differences. Usually, there are three definitions of the term used by different people:
As a part of a company’s organization or in a person’s function or job title like the ‘marketing department’ or the ‘marketing director’;
To describe certain techniques within a company like advertising, market research, and sales or product development. These activities can be conveniently described by the collective term ‘marketing’ to distinguish them from other activities which fall under the heading of ‘production’, ‘finance’ and other similar subdivisions of a company;
To indicate a certain ‘marketing concept’ or ‘business philosophy’. This concept reflects a particular approach to business, or a management attitude, in relation to customers and their needs.
Most marketing textbooks widely use the third definition of marketing.

Marketing as an Organizational or Functional Term

In the last few decades, ‘marketing’ has become one of the more trendy management words. In other words, it is often used easily without too much consideration to its true meaning like changing a sales department into a ‘marketing department’ over-night with no change in its function or attitudes. The term is loosely used to describe such diverse activities like advertising, public relations, market research or merchandising. For an outsider it is sometimes wise to ask ‘What do you understand by marketing?’.

Marketing to Describe Certain Techniques

Many activities are especially related to a company’s relations with its customers like market research, public relations, customer enquiries, and advertising. These activities are usually grouped together under the collective term ‘marketing’. This might seem convenient and straightforward, it is also a dangerous habit. If marketing is looked at in its fullest sense, it is actually an activity which must motivate the whole company. It will concern the managing director, production people, accountants, keyboard operators with marketing. The saying ‘Marketing is too important an activity to be trusted to the marketing department’ contains a great deal of truth.

To put the marketing label on only some parts of the business can be interpreted as implicating them as the only ones concerned with marketing. This means that they are the only ones who are really concerned about the customers on which the business depends. A common solution to the problem is to label these specialist departments ‘Marketing services’.

However, it is usually a fact that within most company structures, a marketing department is usually set up along the following lines:
Marketing is one of the important divisions alongside production and finance in the typical industrial enterprise. Marketing starts with influencing the shape or form the product should take. This is necessary to secure maximum acceptance by the target market. In addition, marketing also influences the prices and the quantities of the products which should be offered in a certain period of time to generate the maximum possible return to the enterprise in the long term.

Marketing usually includes:

Market assessment and sales forecasting;
Formulation of marketing policy;
The planning and operation of the internal and external marketing organization necessary to achieve the desired level of sales and for dealing with customers;
Sales promotion in all its forms;
The costing and budgeting of marketing effort;
The measurement of results by analyzing internal data and the results of market research.
Marketing is a perfectly valid and worthwhile approach, as long as it does not obstruct the need for the whole company to be committed to the process of ‘identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements efficiently and profitably.
Published: 2007-04-14
Author: Martin Hahn

About the author or the publisher
Martin Hahn PhD has received his education and degrees in Europe in organizational/industrial sociology. He grew up in South-East Asia and moved to Europe to get his tertiary education and gain experience in the fields of scientific research, radio journalism, and management consulting.

After living in Europe for 12 years, he moved to South-East again and has worked for the last 12 years as a management consultant, university lecturer, corporate trainer, and international school administrator

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