What is Marketing?

Many people have an interest or a desire to know more about marketing. We all participate in it in some way every day, regardless of whether we realize it or not. Let’s take a closer look at this business sector to see where we all fit in.

Dr. Philip Kotler, S.C. Johnson & Son Distinguished Professor of International Marketing at the Northwestern University Kellogg Graduate School of Management in Chicago, 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.”

Marketing is all about choices. We as consumers are making decisions about what products and services we want to buy many times a day. Which gas station should I choose? The one with the lowest price or the one with the kind attendant? Which gym membership do I purchase? Which facility should I use to ship a sweater to my son overseas? Where should I buy the new living room set that I need? Once I’m in the furniture store, which brand should I purchase?

Questions like these are what marketers answer FOR US! Marketers need to be and should always be one step ahead of the consumer. They are continuously influencing our decisions. This is not necessarily a bad thing because consumers aren’t always able to communicate what it is they want exactly, and it can even vary at times.

So how do marketers know what we want?

That really all depends. Some companies will begin by deciding what product or service it will offer, the inputs that are required, and finally end with ways to market that to the consumer.

However, many other customer-oriented companies will first begin with the consumer need and work its supply chain backward towards a solution. It looks like this:

Customer Need (Problem)

Inputs Required 

Product/Service (Solution)


Today, companies understand that it is not enough to simply have great products and services. Businesses must be focused on the customer relationship and provide a VALUE that exceeds that of the competition. A successful company is determined to find a problem or need and offer the best solution.

Value is often referred to as:

                       Value = Benefit/Cost

If I were in a bookstore with a friend and she picked up a $5 book entitled “How to Run 25 Miles with Ease Even if You Are Out of Shape”, she may be ecstatic if she is planning to run a marathon in the future. This is because the information inside the book would be very beneficial to her, especially at such a low cost.

However, I do not plan on running in any type of competition, so the book would not be of value to me, even if it were free. There would be no benefit to me, hence no value.

Savvy marketers know that there is a certain target market that they must cater to, which we will talk about in a later lesson. It would benefit the bookstore to place this book in an “Active/Exercise” section as opposed to a general “Self-Help” section.

According to Russell S. Winer in Marketing Management (2007), “Customers do not inherently want to buy products. Products cost money and, for corporate buyers, reduce profits. Customers buy products for the benefit that the product features provide.”

Winer goes on to point out that companies manufacture cars, but consumers buy transportation and status. Likewise, consumers purchase clean clothes that smell nice while corporations sell laundry detergent. Banks sell mortgages, but families buy homes.

It is always wise to find out what your target market is seeking and “translate that into a product or service” then, ultimately word it into a benefit for the consumer.

Sometimes, we ourselves must be marketers. When was the last time you had to sit through a grueling job interview? As you were being questioned about how you would handle a given situation, you were undoubtedly trying to sell yourself.

You were explaining why you were the best candidate for the job. How you would benefit the company if hired. Maybe you were even convincing the interviewer of how your attention to detail and people skills “translate” into money – the bottom line.

You certainly knew that you had to outsell the competition by presenting the better package! This same concept applies to dating and networking, say, at a cocktail party.

The marketing world is ever-dynamic and very broad, to say the least. It focuses on making choices and the players are forever changing. Whether we are being marketed to or marketing ourselves, it is about influencing decisions over the competition and most importantly, it is value-based.

How has marketing impacted your life? What has your role primarily been? The marketer or the marketee?

Share your best and worst experience in the comments.