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What IS Marketing, Anyway? A Working Definition

what is marketing

When I first started working in marketing, I thought that I’d be creating catchy slogans and colorful images to lure consumers into what shop I was working with at the time.

And while this is certainly a part of an overall marketing strategy, it is hardly what a marketing team or professional does on the day-to-day.

So, what is marketing, anyway?

Lots of things, really. Effective marketing begins during the branding stage of a company and follows all the way through after the sale. A marketing campaign follows the consumer through the entire sales cycle and, if done well, continues beyond that as well.

So to help my fellow budding marketing professionals out there, I thought I’d put together all of the information out there on the topic. From a bare-bones marketing definition to the different types of marketing, you’ll get a comprehensive view of what it takes to create your own marketing plan.

Let’s get started.

A Marketing Definition

Marketing is the deliberate communication of value, intended to influence consumer decisions. The entire marketing process begins with market research, identifying your target market, and understanding customer needs. Marketing operations include all aspects of the business, from developing the product concept to advertising. The goal of marketing is to get people interested in your product or service no matter where they are in the sales cycle.

What are the 5 marketing concepts?

While marketing professionals today don’t really study these five concepts before creating their marketing plan, it is important to understand how these concepts influence and inform business strategy. These concepts, or also referred to as ‘marketing management philosophies’, are helpful in understanding where the company and the potential customer meet.

And since that is the entire role of the marketer, to bring the brand and the customer together, it’s helpful to throw these concepts into the marketing mix.

Production Concept

The production-focused marketing concept first began when Capitalism took its hold on developed countries throughout the world. During this time, beginning with the Industrial Revolution, companies were focused primarily on production and manufacturing.

The competitive advantage was to be able to provide as many products as possible for as little cost as possible. Marketing professionals during that time only had to convince the potential customer that they had the cheapest products available. Since product prices went down when production went up, most companies opted for mass production when possible.

Modern marketing, on the other hand, doesn’t have it so easy.

Fair wages and general humanitarian issues have pushed many companies into a different direction that increases the price per product, forcing them to develop a marketing message that made the inherent value of the product worth the price tag.

Even so, dropshipping companies and major conglomerates alike still have a Production Concept mindset that works well for them (um hello, Amazon).

Product Concept

When companies use the Product Concept to develop their marketing strategy, they focus on quality over quantity. Rather than sacrificing quality for a low cost, businesses focus on improving the quality of their products to better meet customer needs.

Understanding your target audience will help you to identify what the customer value is in a particular product so that you can clearly articulate that in your marketing message.

You can most clearly see this in well-written product descriptions that highlight the product benefits and features. This is especially relevant in the tech industry, where new features develop faster than your production line can keep up with.

Selling Concept

Listen, no good marketing manager will focus solely on sales but some quick-and-dirty online shops still abide by the Selling Concept even in modern marketing.

Why?

Because that leads to more money, honey.

Businesses that focus primarily on sales will do whatever it takes to turn a profit. Most of the marketing effort, then, goes into paid ads, cheap discounts, and low-cost production.

Very little attention is paid to the consumer and, as a result, often leads to poor satisfaction. Considering that customer reviews weigh heavily on the decision-making process for consumers, though, the Selling Concept is a somewhat unsustainable way to run a marketing campaign.

Marketing Concept

Traditional marketing and modern marketing alike follow the Marketing Concept when developing an effective marketing plan. With this concept, the potential customer is the primary focus and everything, from product development to customer service, is focused on the consumer.

Some marketing programs focus on the consumer more than others. Relationship marketing, for example, aims to develop a lifelong relationship with the brand’s customer base so that it has customers for, well, the rest of its life. Content marketing, on the other hand, seeks to understand the potential customer simply to be able to produce content that they’ll like.

Societal Marketing Concept

With about 8 billion people on this planet, it makes sense that marketing activity would begin to focus on the wellbeing of people over profit.

Or, at least, alongside profit.

For brands focusing on the Societal Marketing Concept, they will direct all marketing activity toward understanding improving the lives of not only their target market but also of society as a whole. You’ll most often see this when brands incorporate charity into their marketing campaign, much like TOMS Shoes paved the way for charity-based businesses in the 20th century.

What are the types of marketing?

Developing a marketing strategy fully depends on how well you understand your target market and where they spend most of their time online. Depending on your customer base, you may choose to use any (or all) of these types of marketing.

  • Blog Marketing – What started out as a creative outlet for writers and artists has since turned into an effective marketing strategy for businesses the world over. Most of content marketing today involves writing and publishing blog posts either on the brand’s website or other websites that share a similar target audience. The main goal is to increase your reach by making more content than just the products you sell available to your target audience.
  • Internet Marketing – Internet marketing, which largely overlaps with digital marketing, is the very idea of putting your business online simply to become more available to your customers. In 2020, the competitive advantage is not what you offer, but how available you are online.
  • Print Marketing – More traditional marketing still uses print media to reach their target audience by employing ull advertising campaigns and guest features in magazines and newspapers that the target audience reads.
  • Search Engine Optimization – Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a marketing process that focuses on boosting a website’s rankings on search engines, including Google, Yahoo! and Bing. The idea is to get a website in front of the eyes of a potential customer as they search for a product or service that you offer. When done well, it can keep your advertising campaign spend low and keep your sales high.
  • Social Media Marketing – With so many people using social media for hours each day, many businesses are turning to their favorite social media channels to reach their target audience. Besides developing your own marketing tactics on social media, influencer marketing is another powerful way to reach potential customers through social media marketing.
  • Video Marketing – Recent technological advances have made it easier than ever to produce quality videos for basically no money. Considering that almost 5 billion videos are watched on YouTube every day, it makes sense that some companies would want to put some marketing effort into videos as well.

Marketing and Advertising

marketing versus advertising

image source

Thanks to addictive shows like Mad Men, it’s easy to confuse marketing with advertising. The truth is that advertising is just one of many marketing efforts that help a business make a sale. Where advertising pertains strictly to the ads placed, marketing activity includes product development, market research, sales, customer support, public relations, and everything in between.

The 4 Ps of Marketing

4 ps of marketing

Nearly 60 years ago, E Jerome McCarthy developed the 4 Ps of marketing as a way to describe the different areas of a business that an effective marketing strategy is involved with.

Product

way to, well, market the product. They will do marketing research to determine who the target audience is and whether or not there is a demand for the product. They’ll determine the best marketing channels for connecting with the target audience and even provide insights on how to improve the product to better match the needs of the target audience.

Price

A marketing team will help you determine the best price points for your product by evaluating the current market to determine how much a customer is willing to pay.

Place

Marketing professionals help determine where the best place is to sell your products. If you’re selling to millennials, for example, then online shopping will be important for your customer base. If your target market is a bit older or international, then the marketing department can help determine the best place to sell to them as well.

Promotion

Of all of the marketing objectives, this is the one that most people think of when they think of a marketing department or team. Sales promotion, advertising, and PR campaigns designed to increase interest in your product are all covered by the marketing team.

Final Thoughts

There are many marketing definitions that exist today, but that’s mostly because there are many different types of marketing objectives for a single product. The ultimate goal is to establish an interest in your product and increase sales. Since the marketing process involves all aspects of a business, it’s important to get a comprehensive view of what marketing is, exactly. I hope this breakdown has done exactly that for you!

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in July 2013 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Marquis Matson

Marquis Matson

Marquis Matson is an SEO analyst, content marketer, and writer. She specializes in search engine optimization for ecommerce sites in the yoga and wellness niche. She lives as a digital nomad, spending time in Ecuador, California, Thailand, India, Australia, and more. You can find her on LinkedIn, Twitter, at marquismatson.com, or contact her directly at marquis@anafore.com.

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