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What Is Marketing?

Matt Grant of the Aquent Talent Blog gives me the honor of using one of my posts to inspire his article, "of Guerrilla Marketing, Ethics and Mooninites," he mentions how I quoted from the AMA's code of ethics in a recent post, and that formed the basis for the focus of Matt's post, he said:

"The particular passage of that code which he cites begins, "Marketers must foster trust in the marketing system."

Why don't people trust the marketing system? Because they understand that the purpose of marketing is to influence their behavior. Given that, can any kind of marketing that goes beyond the straight-forward communication of unbiased and objective information about the benefits and risks of particular products and services ever be entirely trustworthy?

To put it another way, would it be unreasonable to amend the AMA's code slightly to read in the following way? "Marketers must foster trust in the marketing system by simultaneously fostering a healthy skepticism towards all marketing efforts.""

I am not sure I agree that the purpose of the marketing system is to influence people's behavior. Yes, I would like you to buy my products and services. But marketing at its core is the process of understanding the needs and wants of customers in order to satisfy them efficiently and profitably. That means in some respects the idea of marketing is to change a company's behavior to fit what the customer wants as long as the company can also make a profit at the same time. Matt, I would suggest the model you are looking for is the sales model, as that model seeks to convince the buyer to buy what the seller has for sale, listening is not really part of the deal.

Advertising is also a one-way form of communication; many marketing departments are set up to follow the sales model rather than the marketing model. The reason for this behavior is a lack of understanding on the part of senior management as to what marketing is all about. Perhaps that’s one reason why so few companies invest in market research, and pay attention to the results. The word marketing has come to mean in many people’s dictionary, sales, or advertising, when it is not, those disciplines are part of marketing.

In addition, success in marketing is sometimes less about promotion, and more about product and delivery, making the product your customers want or providing a product when or where they could not get it before. McDonalds is I believe the largest seller of coffee in the U.S. in the face the growth in demand for specialty coffees the company now sells them. And Cranium is famous for selling its product to its target customers through an alternative distribution chain, Starbucks coffee houses.

Blogging and other forms of conversational marketing are actually the best hope for marketing. Conversational marketing is a two-way process, companies and customers talk with one another, and there is feedback and listening. To me that is what the concept and opportunity of marketing is all about.